I live in the heart of the Sierra National Forest.
Our local citizenry is in a constant battle with the Forest Service. For the 5 years have lived here the locals have been trying to get an accounting of the River Access fees. These fees are to go back into the river access fund for local use. Yet we cannot get an accounting.
Areas with no services but classified as high use areas are on the list of areas to be charged for.
On the weekend of Oct. 17 and 18 of this year my youngest grandson and I camped at the lower Peppermint Campground on the Sierra National Forest. The daily rate went to $16.00 this year.
There were no door handles or locks on the pit toilets. The weeds were overgrown, fire pits were full of trash but the camp was full.
I have been going to this campground for 5 years and the FS has not done one thing to maintain it. Not once in the entire weekend did a FS employees come through the campground. I called the District Ranger and asked how they could justify doubling the rate while doing nothing to maintain or improve the campground. She had no answer.
I told her if she supplied a flat bed truck, 2 young strong guys with weed eaters and a chain saw I would go up there and have her a campground to be proud of in one day. She thanked me for volunteering and said she would call me and discuss when and were. It's been 3 months and she hasn't called.
I mentioned the lack of handles and locks on the pit toilets. She thanked me for volunteering and said she would get in touch with me.
The following weekend I camped there again and to my surprise there were no pay envelopes at the entrance and the campground was again full. That cost the FS about $1000.00. There were screen door eye and hook latches and handles on the toilet doors.
The people in the spot next to me had been camping there for the last 20 years. They told me this would be their last year at Peppermint Campground as it had just deteriorated to much. They said nothing had been done to maintain the campground in all the years they had been going there.
It has been years since they have graded the dirt roads into the dispersed camping areas. Roads that once could be driven in the family station wagon now are almost 4x4 roads.
With additional and ever rising fees and no maintenance of facilities or roads the FS is intentionally limiting our access.
I mentioned how the FS was beginning to limit our access into the forest earlier this year and some of you thought I was crazy.
Did you know that this year alone there have been another 11 Wilderness Areas created from California to Lake Superior. These were areas open to vehicles and dispersed camping in the past. Now you can only ride a horse or hike through them.
Some of you have camped on the Kern River and Lake Isabella. I bet you didn't realize there are 7 Wilderness Areas within 30 to 50 miles of here. Wilderness area's are no longer vast tracts of land far away from any civilization, they are now in your backyard.
The environmentalists with the aid of this administration is in the process of closing vast tracts of forest to recreational use with the use of a Wilderness Area designation.
I am not trying to be political, I am just stating facts as one that is fortunate enough to live in the middle of a beautiful National Forest.
I have been to many open meetings with the FS in the past years and all they have done is blow smoke.
If you would like to keep track of State and Federal legislation you might want to look into the Blue Ribbon Commission. It's an organization that is a coalition of campers, hikers, equestrians, boaters, off roaders, hunters, fishermen, atv and dirt bike riders and anyone else that enjoys the great outdoors.
You don't have to join to sign up for their alerts on pending legislation. You can sign up just for your state or all of the pending legislation. They have offices in Washington DC and keep up any and all legislation affecting anyone that enjoys the outdoors. They also have a battery
of attorneys that are always fighting for our rights.
sharetrails.org will get you to the Blue Ribbon Commission website.
I'm sorry this is so long. I want my grandchildren and yours to respect, love and enjoy the forests, mountains and deserts as much as I do.
Unless we do something very quickly we are going to lose most of most of our recreational areas.