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Park Service Proposes Whiskeytown Road Closures

If you’ve ever spent time in the backcountry of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, you’ve probably come across all sorts of service roads, old logging and mining roads, and features that look like they might have been roads or trails at some point in time.

I have hiked, run and cycled down many of these roads, former roads and potential roads over the years, usually in a vain attempt to link together real roads and trails. Invariably, I have to backtrack when the route ends at a utility tower or a fence, or when it simply peters out amid the manzanita and yerba santa.

National Park Service managers are now proposing to install gates on nine “administrative access roads” and to block some abandoned logging and mining roads with large boulders to deter illegal activity. No, mountain biking and hiking are not illegal activities. But growing marijuana and dumping trash on public lands are. The roads and former roads apparently serve as invitations for such activity.

In 2004, the park service installed gates on several dirt roads leading north from Highway 299 into the hills of Whiskeytown north of the lake. A few hunters complained that the park service was limiting access, but the real upshot was a reduction in marijuana cultivation and illegal dumping. Naturally, the bad guys found their way to other areas, so the park service needs to block off more roads.

“I doubt the public will notice any change with implementation of this plan from current recreational conditions,” Whiskeytown Superintendent Jim Milestone said.

Having studied the list of service roads that will be gated and knowing that most abandoned roads go nowhere fast, I think he’s right. But check it out for yourself. The “Manage Access to Enhance Security and Protect Park Resources Environmental Assessment” is available online, and it may be viewed at park headquarters or the Redding Library.

The park service and law enforcement officials have found marijuana cultivation sites this year along Crystal Creek, Whiskey Creek and in upper Clear Creek Valley near French Gulch. These gardens are not tiny patches of earth where hippies are growing a few plants for recreational dope consumption. According to authorities, heavily armed members of Mexican gangs operate these sites, diverting water from creeks, applying large doses of herbicides and insecticides, dumping trash and shooting wildlife. God forbid some innocent hiker or camper should encounter these people.

The public has until September 8 to comment on the park service plan.

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• Redding Mountain Biking club has started offering group rides for people who are new to the sport. People with no off-road riding skills and people with very low fitness levels are invited. Led by instructors Joe and Terry Arbuckle, the group meets at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Redding Senior Center on Benton Drive, next to the Sacramento River bike path. You do need to be a club member to participate, but membership only costs $20 for an individual or $25 for a family. Just show up. You’ll get good care.

• The Shasta College Community Concert Band is not seeking beginners. But if you know how to play a standard woodwind, brass or percussion instrument and are able to read music, you’re invited to an introductory meeting at 7 p.m. this Thursday, August 19, at Shasta College room 633. Rehearsals begin on the 26th. For details, contact conductor Larry Gandy at 242-2362.

Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and claims to know the Whiskeytown trails like the back of his hand. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at pauls.anewscafe@gmail.com.