Recent article in the Register Guard as copied below also: http://savetheridersdunes.blogspot.c...c-article.html
This Saturday's meeting @ Florence possibly may be the last meeting open to public input....your attendence and letters mailed to [email protected] are necessary....
It is boiling down at these meeting discussions that ATV owners who think they need an excessively loud machine is where the blame is going to be put...and for good reason....Guys, PLEASE quiet those pipes down to help keep our trails and dunes open....STRD
Dune riders dread crackdown
As the Forest Service prepares to implement trail cuts made in 1994, off-highway-vehicle users brace for change
BY WINSTON ROSS
Appeared in print: Saturday, Jun 19, 2010
FLORENCE — For 16 years, off-highway-vehicle users in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area have enjoyed something of a free pass, at least where it concerns a spiderweb of de facto trails in certain stretches of the 60-mile-long expanse of sand between Florence and Coos Bay.
No longer. The U.S. Forest Service is finally getting around to outlining the areas of the dunes that were supposed to be off-limits in accordance with a 1994 management plan. But, because riders have grown accustomed to cruising these routes unmolested, the crackdown feels like a takeaway to some of the riders.
“We keep losing and losing,” said Scott Ryland, a member of the Northwest Sand Deuces and a Florence off-road enthusiast. “We have an exploding sport that brings a lot of tourist money to the coast — we’re talking millions of dollars annually that OHVers spend — and we’re trying to protect what little bit we’ve got left.”
Ryland sits on the 15-person group that’s tasked with making recommendations to the Forest Service about how best to implement the 1994 plan — a group that’s fully aware that areas of the dunes were supposed to be off-limits to the vehicles.
But Ryland and others acknowledge that the government’s slow implementation has everything to do with the way things are today.
The Forest Service split up the dunes into several different zones in 1994. Area “10c,” which makes up about 15 percent of the dunes’ 24,000 acres, permits OHV riding but only on designated trails.
Part of what’s tricky about trying to fix the problem is that there’s widespread agreement that some of the trails in use now are appropriate, even if they haven’t been designated. They’re natural ingress and egress points to open riding areas, or they afford critical access for emergency vehicles.
That’s why it’s hard to figure out just how much space OHV users stand to lose. At this point, Ryland said, they’re already restricted to about 40 percent of the recreational area’s total acreage. Because some trails will be reopened, and others will be converted to open riding area, a different classification, there’s no way of knowing until the end of the lengthy process how exactly things might change on the coast.
Official estimates aren’t available, but Ryland guesses OHV users will lose access to about 20 percent of the routes they now use.
“It’s a big chunk,” he said. “A lot of it is in the north dunes, up around the Florence area. There’s a moderate amount between Hauser and North Bend. Winchester Bay is probably the least impacted.”
It’s a frustration for OHV users and the businesses that rely on their tourism dollars, Ryland said, but as fellow committee member Adele Dawson puts it, “this is long in coming.”
OHV use affects sensitive riparian areas and wildlife, and the noise carries well beyond designated areas, Dawson said.
“The whole town of Florence is heavily affected by the noise,” she said. “The Forest Service has just been remiss in enforcing this. The riders don’t see it that way, but it’s the reality of the situation.”
The reason it’s taken so long to get to this issue, said Sharon Stewart, the Forest Service’s dispersed recreation supervisor, is that the 1994 plan contained some lofty objectives.
Forest service officials first worked through an alcohol ban on the dunes, then an environmental analysis to designate dispersed camping sites in the dunes, in correlation with a ban on open sand camping. Large areas of the dunes also were closed to off-highway use in that period.
“There’s only so much you can do in a given time,” Stewart said. “Sadly, this last piece was kind of the final implementation.”
The result is a difficult balancing act, said Ross Holloway, who is coordinating the OHV working group. Most of the members understand that there’ll need to be new restrictions and that all of the places that are technically off-limits right now can’t stay that way.
But the devil is in the details of the report the group needs to draft for the Forest Service by the year’s end.
“There’s a great deal of fear,” Holloway said. “The OHV community feels that most of the times these processes go on, they lose.”
Ryland said his fellow riders are working to literally clean up their image, by adopting sections of the coast where they pick up trash. He also said OHV users are lobbying the Legislature to lower the required limit on the amount of noise these vehicles are allowed to make to 96 decibels, from the current statewide limit of 99. That means OHV users are trying to make themselves quieter. But it’s also to change the Forest Service’s limit — 93 decibels — which riders want to see upped to 96, so there’s a consistent level enforced.
Ryland says he realizes no matter how much effort is put forth, the tension between riders and people who despise the activity is bound to continue.
“The environmental side is not going to be happy until we’re not there,” he said. “We’re not asking for more. We just want to hang on to what we’ve got. But the other side I don’t think is going to be happy until they’ve got it all.”
Winston Ross can be reached at 541-338-2366 or [email protected]
What: A meeting of the Off Highway Vehicle Designated Routes Working Group for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area
When: June 26, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Public comment period at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St. in Florence