Stanislaus National Forest Under Impact Ahead Of The July Fourth Holiday
Sonora, CA – With Stanislaus National Forest facilities experiencing perhaps triple the number of visitors they normally get this time of year, officials have a big ask: come prepared to clean up after yourself.
With the July Fourth holiday coming up this the weekend, Clarke Broadcasting reached out to Forest officials who frankly say they need the public’s help to keep the Forest from getting trashed.
Along with the approaching holiday – a popular time for folks to recreate on the Forest – the much higher usage of the facilities, COVID-19 protocol and restrictions that have resulted in a smaller number of available staff, has changed what visitors might normally expect into a situation where patience and cooperation are key.
Acting Public Services Manager Todd Newberger shares, “We do not have a great way of mathematically calculating all of the use but we are seeing anecdotally higher numbers everywhere across the Forest.” He attributes at least part of it to increased interest by those who are unable to get into Yosemite National Park, which has limited access to half its capacity,
Newberger stresses that folks should not expect a “normal visit” to the Forest. “Our ability to provide services is limited. We are taking care to keep employees safe and limit their exposure, and for example, we are seeing large amounts of trash that are being left behind. There are limits to our ability to really keep facilities up with high use and with the limits we are facing under the current situation.”
Continuing, “The ask is we are asking visitors to help us be stewards – take their trash out, try not to use our trashcans. Follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles during this difficult situation.”
Pinecrest Lake, normally a hot spot, has become so crowded since it reopened that the day-use parking lots are filling up before 7:30 a.m. The campgrounds, which require advance-reservations, have their own parking. Summit and Mi-Wok District Ranger Sarah LaPlante acknowledges issues with attempts to limit access to the day-use parking lots, which are now all fully available. It still is not enough to meet the demand.
Arrive Early Or Have A Plan B
“We are asking people to park where there is a designated legal spot. They were finding ‘creative’ spots that were doing resource damage, blocking emergency lanes, or [accessing] private parking areas,” she states. “We are asking people to abide by the rules and find a spot where they are allowed — or go somewhere else and try again on a day when it is less busy. There is some parking turnover…some folks are there for part of a day. If you are making plans to be out of doors and not planning to get there early, have a Plan B.”
LaPlante adds, “We want people to come to the Forest and help us continue to make this available…we want to provide recreational opportunities but it becomes difficult when there is a lot of natural resource damage, and impact to emergency services and personnel.” To that end, she says she hopes visitors will enjoy the resources gently, be a “good citizen,” and not engage in activities that could result in the need for rescue and other first responder services.
Currently, all day-use areas on the Forest are fully open as well as all the concession campgrounds. Some of the lower use Forest Service managed campgrounds are still closed. Restrooms are open in locations that are day-use areas and being cleaned following local and CDC guidelines, but the reduced staff and higher visitation may impact servicing. Where there is limited availability to clean restrooms some areas have added portable toilets onsite.
Forest spokesperson Diana Fredlund interjects, “We are advising visitors to be sure to bring your own hand sanitizer, toilet paper, drinking water, and other such necessary items — just because they might not be available.”
She stresses that staff will be wearing masks along with gloves when servicing facilities. They will also be telling visitors to honor the public health safety guidelines from the county and the state. “Be as safe as possible, keep that social distancing, and just be respectful of everyone else around you because everyone is just trying to have a good time, especially this holiday weekend… and help us safeguard our Forest.”
Fireworks are illegal on the Forest and across Tuolumne County for that matter. Except for in fire rings in the developed campgrounds, there are currently campfire restrictions at all elevations, including for dispersed campers and wilderness backpackers. That means outside of developed campgrounds the only fires allowable are gel or liquid-fueled camp stoves with an on and off button.
A new Forest order is expected to be issued ahead of the weekend. It will list the developed recreation sites that will remain closed through July 15 as well as identify more campgrounds that will open. To view the current order that remains in effect in the meantime, click here. To see the latest information available, click here.