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Mad River Country Threatened ‘Motorized’ improvements will damage pristine nature of wild region

A little south of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, the high divide
separating the broad glacier-carved valleys of the Entiat and
Chiwawa broadens into a plateau, which is drained by the Mad River.
Much of the Mad River drainage and adjoining wild lands form the
70,000 acre Entiat Roadless Area.

Every September, I eagerly pack up and trek into the upper Mad
River country for a multi-day comune with Nature. Unlike most
Wilderness areas, exploring this area doesn’t requre vicious
elevation gains or white-knuckled scrambles. The terrain here
is gently rolling, with wild forests punctuated by small meadows,
a few overlooks from high ridges and countless tiny streams lined
with lush subalpine greenery.

glacier peak wilderness
Let’s preserve this pristine beauty for hikers

Bright green meadows sprinkled with colorful flowers in summer,
deep blue buds of the late-blooming gentian amidst fading leaves
of gold, brown and crimson in autumn, encounters with deer, elk,
bear, grouse, hawks, owls, frogs, fish and coyotes – enrich my
hiking experiences and fill my memories of this place.

In the evenings, I hear nothing but the wind, some owls, maybe
a coyote. Why no other campers, you wonder? All of the over 100
miles of trail in this area are National Forest ‘Multiple
Use’ and open to motorcycles!

Shutting out Hikers

Over the years, trails originally built for the feet of people
and horses were ‘improved’ for motorbikes with concrete
blocks to harden corners and wet spots. The grossly unfair IAC/NOVA
funding from our state gas tax has paid for the majority of these
conversions from bootpaths to ORV raceways. As trails were converted,
motorcycle use increased and hiking use declined.

Why do I continue to hike on these trails? I certainly don’t
enjoy having my peaceful Nature experience shattered by the noise
and smell of motor vehicles in the wilds. Nor do I enjoy seeing
the tire tracks and dipping my boots in deep wheel ruts. Although I seldom have encountered the throngs described Spring and Manning’s
100 Hikes series of books, motorcycle encounters are common.

This beautiful place has much to offer that can’t be found
elsewhere. ORV encounters aren1t quite as bad as I imagined, and
I adjust my behavior to avoid them, if possible.

But it is about to get worse. The Wenatchee National Forest has
at least three projects in the works to ‘improve’
more trails for wheels and create more loop trail connections
for ORVs.

I certainly won’t enjoy seeing scenes like this on my beloved trails, regardless of how profitable they may be for some:

ONSLAUGHT OF NEW ORV TRAIL PROJECTS

A little over a year ago, the Lake Wenatchee District approved
the paperwork to contruct the Goose/Maverick Tie Trail and connect
an ORV campground to the Mad River Trail system. In Twentyfive
Mile Creek near Lake Chelan, at the other end of the 200+ mile
ORV trail system, the Chelan Ranger District is planning ORV campground
improvements and a new ORV loop trail in the Ramona Park project.
One of the purposes of this project is to connect ORV trails from
Lake Wenatchee to Lake Chelan.

In between these two projects, the Entiat District has plans for
new ORV trail loops and improvements in the Three Creeks project
in the upper Entiat River. All of these projects will enhance
ORV recreation opportunities within several large inventoried
Roadless Areas, which have potential for future Wilderness and
provide important habitat for wildlife.

THREE CREEKS ORV TRAIL PROJECT

This project would reconstruct the Shetipo trail to motorbike
standards and build a new trail to avoid Cottonwood campground,
routing wheeled users south to a new crossing of the Entiat River,
and then connect to Lake Creek and Tommy Creek trails.

The abandoned Three Creek trail would be reconstructed for hiker/horse
use. Where the trail ties into the north end of the Mad River
Trail, new trails would be constructed to connect to Mad Lake,
creating a non-motorized route from the Entiat River to Mad Lake.
this route would be about 11 miles long and climb 4,000 ft., as
compared to the hike from Maverick Saddle, of 8.5 miles and 1,600
ft.

Comments needed on Three Creeks Project

The Forest Service needs to hear from hikers! Please send a letter
commenting on the Three Creeks Trail Project EA.

Include the following in your comments: Explain why you do or
do not hike in the Mad River area and how you feel about hiking
on ORV trails.

The Forest Service should recognize that the majority of trail
users in this state are hikers and prioritize trail projects accordingly.
As it now stands, according to SGMA (Sporting Good Manufacturers
Association–an industry group that represents all outdoor
recreation businesses) and the Washington Interagency Committee
for Outdoor Recreation (IAC), there are 1.6 million hikers in
Washington state and about 200,000 motorcyclists who ride off-road.

That is, hikers outnumber trailbikers 8 to 1, but in Washington
state, the US Forest Service has a total of about 7,200 miles
of trails. More than 2,200 of those are motorcycle trails, leaving
just 5,000 motor-free miles for hikers. That is, the ratio of
hiker trails to motorcycle trails is 2 to 1. So while hikers outnumber
motorcyclists 8 to 1, motorcycles get one mile of trail for every
two provided for hikers.

All trails in the entire Mad River Trail system should be analyzed,
not just a small portion, in order to adequately consider all
options for various trail users, as well as impacts to fish/wildlife.

Creating new ORV loops will significantly increase the attractiveness
to and use by motorbikers, as will reconstruction of the Shetipo
Trail.

The Forest Service must analyze the cumulative effects of all
new trail/campground improvements and new trail loops on the attractiveness
of this trail system to ORV users and increased use.

The Alternatives in the EA should include some that don’t
create new ORV loops, and that do reduce ORV trail mileage and
reduce wildlife disturbance.

Before committing hundreds of thousands of dollars to build even
more motorbike trails, the Forest Service should consider the
need for additional Wilderness in this area. Our National Parks
and Wilderness Areas become more popular and crowded every year.

Existing trails in this area should be maintained so that they
are suitable for all users, not just motorbikes. Motorbike wheels
strip soil from the trails, leaving ditches that are difficult
for hikers and horses, and deeper than the waterbars intended
to drain off water. Concrete grates are difficult and unpleasant
to hike on. No money should be spent on new trails or for attracting
even more ORV use until all these problems are dealt with.

Send comments to Karin Whitehall, District Ranger,
Entiat Ranger District, PO Box 476, Entiat, WA 98822, so they
will arrive by February 10. Also send copies to State Representatives
Adam Kline, Ken Jacobsen and Dino Rossi, and to Senator Karen
Fraser at PO Box 40482, Olympia, WA 98504-0482 or kline_ad@leg.wa.gov,
rossi_di@leg.wa.gov, jacobsen_ke@leg.wa.gov, fraser_ka@leg.wa.gov.

To get a copy of the EA, call Randy McLandress at 509/784-1511.

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