Forest Service to Urbanize Bagby Hot Springs Trail

 

From Dave Bybee:

URGENT - Bagby Hot Springs Trail

CONTRACT reported SIGNED 4/11/01 to REBUILD this natural Old
Growth trail into an industrial EXPRESSWAY!;  "begin after July 1,
2001... last for 150 days."  See attached image for a visual of the
Forest Service's (FS) plan.  If this concerns to you, your letter is
needed, immediately, to the Mt. Hood National Forest:
FSBAGTRAIL.jpg (18932 bytes)
Supervisor,
Mt. Hood National Forest
16400 Champion Way
Sandy, Oregon 97055

The above quotes are from a brief announcement in the most recent FS
issue of their "Sprouts" newsletter (Spring 2001), which may be
viewed at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood
(click Forest Publications, Sprouts, scroll to Clackamas River Ranger
district.)  Note there that this project has not been publicly announced
before in any Sprouts, nor any other public location found via an
exhaustive internet/web search.

More Detailed Scope:  The entire 1 1/2 mile length of Trail 544, from
the parking lot to the old Historic Cabin, is to be rebuilt.  A 4' path
width will be defined by 6" dia. wood rounds secured with 5/8" rebar
driven into the ground to contain 400+ yards of new gravel; "Good
enough for the blind to use."  The average industrial dump-truck holds
10 yards of gravel, = 40 truck loads.  Where the trail is currently
wider than 4', boulders are to be moved/installed to "Better channel
traffic".

"Geo-Cloth" will first be laid the entire length to better "float" the
gravel on muddy areas - between the existing "Lake Bagby" boardwalk
locations. This is the location to where the Forest Service moved this
portion of the original trail about 10 years ago from a relatively dry
hillside a short distance away.

The irony here is that this portion of the trail does indeed need some
work. After 10 years the boardwalks are staring to rot and fall apart.
Ron Coyle, major participant in the 1980s bathhouse construction days,
tells an interesting story about this section of the trail. After being
built
in the summer, when spring rains came, one whole section of board
walk was floated like a raft. When the water receded it had rotated 90*
crossways to the trail.  In any event, the plan is to rebuild the whole
trail. Fill new gravel between curbs to 2" depth, compact, add
additional 2" of gravel and compact; 4" final depth between the 6"
curbs.

If a helicopter can't clear the forest canopy with dump buckets,
motorized machinery is authorized.  (The July 1st start date is driven
by Spotted Owl prohibitions from March 1st to June 30th.)  All
existing culverts to be replaced with 21+ made of pressure treated
wood; "big enough to get your shoulders into for cleaning." 

Significant "trenching" is authorized, as is grading of adjacent
embankments and the construction of rock retaining walls.  Page 20 of
the bid proposal authorizes blasting.  It is understood that bidders will
be given latitude to define their own construction proposals, such as,
new/additional board walks with cement footing foundations. 

A formal request has been FAXed for a copy of the signed contract
defining final details.  The first page of the proposal states:  "Price
Range" of $100,000 to $250,000."  This does not include the needed
rebuild of the Nohorn bridge which is understood will be a separate
contract at a later date.

If you approve of this design, do nothing, and it will built this summer. 
If you disapprove, please courteously write your concerns to the Forest
Service (address above).  For your remarks to make a difference in the
public record, you must include your name and address.

The geographically cognizant entity of the Sierra Club, the Columbia
Group, has officially signed on as opposing these plans as excessive
and a detriment to the existing rustic nature of Bagby.

Points To Consider:

*  As a minimum, state that you believe the scope of this contract is far
greater than needed and request a one year delay for the Forest Service
to more fairly obtain and document public consensus, from as many as
possible of the 60,000 Bagby visitors/year - as the second most popular
trail on our entire Mt. Hood forest. 

*  Suggest that an on-going volunteer Adopt-A-Trail contract would be
a better alternative to contractors maintaining this trail.  Could you
commit to helping do it?

*  Express concern for a dubious trail construction while there is no
comprehensive plan to address escalating lawlessness on the forest;
documented by last August's arson of a Spring's outhouse, last
September's complete conflagration of the parking lot restrooms,
increasing car vandalism (On a Tuesday night last March all 9 cars in
the parking lot had their windows broken out - for an accumulated total
of 20 different parking spots containing piles of glass), and the
increasing, menacing, state of siege at the Springs, created by casual
ethnic groups threatening the peace and safety by brandishing and
discharging firearms, including semi-automatic types - one group
reported to identify themselves as the "Young Russian Mafia." 

*  The trail's current 'natural' condition is stable, as has been
documented for decades - as "One of the most beautiful trails to any
hot spring in North America."  The newly arrived district ranger
observed in April, just before the contract was signed while he was out
of town, that, after he reviewed the proposal in the field, it seamed
"Over designed.  All that is needed is some repair of existing details."

*  Mountain Bikes are not permitted on this trail, as a gateway into the
Bull of the Woods Wilderness.  But from lack of enforcement, bikers
still use it at day and night times.  This new construction will
encourage more bikes, creating a hazard for families with small
children on foot confined by 4' wide curbs.

*  Without monitoring for hard data, the Forest Service has only
guessed night-time (dark) trail use at 10%.  Estimates of Bagby Cabin
Volunteers and others range as high as 40%.  The official Cabin Log
Sheet for last March's moonless night records 13 flashlights provided
to visitors to see their way home.  How many may become injured by
stumbling off the new construction's mile and a half curb?

*  How appropriate are the visual qualities of this design?  Consider
that the trail is through a LSR (Late Successional Reserve) of Old
Growth Forest to an RNA (Research Natural Area) that surrounds the
Bagby site.  The Forest Service says their design adheres to the
bureaucratic designation of a RN (Roaded Natural) area as opposed to a
Primitive Area.  The fact remains that the Bagby trail is a gateway into
the Bull of the Woods designated Wilderness.

*  Is this design consistent with why you seek the rustic volunteer hewn
Bagby bath houses and tubs - "A world class example of the Wood
Butcher's Art?"

*  There are no recorded environmental concerns driving this
construction. 

*  The FS gave field tours to the Friends of Bagby management as far
back as 1998, but no details were communicated to the general public. 
This may be because, on 2/4/99, the Acting District Ranger signed a
Decision Memo stating, amongst other assertions, "No significant
effects to public health or safety have been identified.  _Appeal
Rights_:  This decision is not appealable and may be implemented
immediately (36 CFR 215), signed Christine M. Pazzula, Acting
District Ranger.  This document also orders a Categorical Exclusion
from NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirements, that
would otherwise provide for Public Scoping meetings (your voice) and
an AE (Environmental Assessment), or possibly a full blown EIS
(Environmental Impact Statement). 

*  Concerns were stated to the FS this past April before the contract
was signed.  Summary:  After four years of internal planning, this
project is too far along to make any changes now.

If you write, please send a email copy to this message's sender, or a
postal hard copy to:

Dave Bybee
Co-Author Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the US
Keeper of the Sierra Club's Hot Springs List

2600 NE Minnehaha St. B-18
Vancouver WA 98665-1300.
360-993-4247
HotSprings@CompuServe.com

As the recently resigned Friends of Bagby Vice President, if a grass-
roots opposition formed, I would make the time to help such a cause,
including a court action to cause the Forest Service to "Please listen
up!"

Peace be with you in the Old Growth....

Dave

For more information see BagbyTrail.com