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A "Daisy" Triggered Discussion
A few months ago I visited Signal Buttes, located near the Oregon Coast and the town of Gold Beach, Oregon. This area of Oregon is amazingly diverse, with unusual plants, interesting geological formations, and great views, so long as the weather cooperates (it didn't for us). Unfortunately, the "road" that we hiked is suffering severe damage from its location on poor soils and steep slopes and a lack of maintenance, that is exacerbated by even the limited motorized use that the road receives. I hesitate to even mention lack of maintenance as a problem with this particular route, because it is hard to imagine any way in which this route could ever be sustainable, and how it will be anything other than a money pit vying for limited Forest Service maintenance dollars.
I lost track of the number of times that the route was actually acting as stream because it had altered the hydrology in the area and had cut into a high water table.
Now, the debate about this route has moved into the public eye because of a new rare plant, discovered by and named after a local botanist, Veva Stansell, that is found only in this and one other location.
This route traverses through meadow habitat, which is already being damaged by motorized use and which is specifically protected from such damage by the Siskiyou forest plan.
The above photo provides an illustration of how much damage can be done by motorized use in meadows. The trail is already experiencing severe braiding in multiple places throughout and leading up to the meadow because of individuals attempting to drive around areas impassable due to erosion and standing water. The remote nature of this trail will make it difficult, if not impossible, for any regular law enforcement presence in this area.
This is not about closing this area to public access (it would still be open to nonmotorized activities), but rather protecting a vulnerable ecosystem from motorized use where it is simply not appropriate. There is no way, even with complete reconstruction and continual maintenance and enforcement, that this route will not continue to cause environmental damage and to be a threat to rare and sensitive plants like Veva's erigeron.
The reality is that the Forest Service does not have enough money, and never will, to maintain its entire transportation system. Therefore, tough decisions need to be made about how best to prioritize those limited funds, and to ensure that the public still has access to the forest and its resources and beauty.
Is this really a place where that sort of money is best spent? Or would it be better to put those limited funds into an area where motorized use is more easily maintained and less inherently impactful?
This trail is for the most part fairly easy to hike, and makes for a very enjoyable trip that I look forward to making again soon when wildflowers such as Veva's erigeron are blooming. I hope the Forest Service can make the right choice and designate this trail and area for nonmotorized use, and concentrate on finding more appropriate areas for new motorized trails.