Public meeting set for road closure debate

Neighbors and recreation backers interested in the fate of Carson City-area Forest Service roads being closed to vehicular traffic will have a chance to voice their opinions in a public forum.

Carson Ranger district managers say a wave of public interest in Carson City on Forest Service roads in the Kings Canyon and Clear Creek areas motivated them to set a public meeting for April 12.

A location has not yet been designated.

Debate over the closures of Clear Creek Road and an offshoot of Kings Canyon Road came to a head when Kings Canyon resident Dave Gissen organized a meeting at his home two weeks ago.

Forest Service workers, civic leaders and neighbors came together to exchange information and ideas.

Acting Recreation Program Manager Larry Randall said the main motivator for the road closures is maintenance. "That road (Clear Creek) is washed out," he said. "Some of the landowners in the area even helped with the installation of the gate."

Gissen, who has spent time hiking and bicycling the damaged road, agreed. "It doesn't matter if there is a gate up the road is impassable, even by four-wheel drive."

The single-lane road that connects to Kings Canyon Road is slated for reopening in April when the weather is more agreeable.

The Clear Creek gate was installed several years ago to minimize further erosion, said manager Gary Schiff. Despite the installation of culverts to divert water, a long stretch of sandy base has disappeared into the canyon.

There are also concerns about the historic preservation of the road. Almost a century ago it was part of the Lincoln Highway, a connector between the eastern and western United States.

According to Forest Service research, the Nevada Department of Transportation ditched the road in the 1950s when Highway 50 West was built. The new highway sits above the old, part of the reason water runoff has been such an effective destroyer.

When the road was abandoned, the Department of Transportation gave it to public and private landowners that owned surrounding stretches. The road crosses several private parcels as well as Forest Service land on its way up to Spooner Summit.

Some of the landowners have agreements with the Forest Service to allowing them to cross federal land. Public agencies are prohibited by law from restricting private landowner access.

Several options for the road and gate are still open to debate, Randall said. "A 1992 district travel plan would have to be amended," he said. "That would require compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act."

Surveyors have already visited the area, plotting the location of the gate with global positioning satellite technology. One possible solution for recreationalists is to move the gate several hundred yards west to open up the base for parking.

Randall said the Forest Service would have to do public scope and environmental analysis before any legal change in the status of public access to the road could be made.

Tom Baker, rural area director for U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., took an interest in the area when public concern started mounting. He has met with Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Supervisor Bob Vaught to discuss plans for the two roads.

"The question comes down to finding an agreeable balance," he said. "How do we work this out to be to everyone's best benefit?"


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