Monday, August 1, 2011

First Post-Fire SWNSC Trail Update

Well, it’s probably about time to update the club and friends on the current state of affairs regarding the SWNSC trails and the prospects for the upcoming ski season. While I wish I had more to say and promise, I do have a few bits of news and items to discuss. I’ve been trying to get more updates and information from the available sources, probably just as most of you all have as well.

First of all, I would like to thank Lynn Bjorklund of the Santa Fe National Forest for the work she has done and for keeping me informed as best she can. She also has to work with other agencies on not only the SWNSC / Canada Bonita trails, but many others in the area. I’m going to keep working with her as much as possible to ensure trail accessibility, safety, and quality. Hopefully, we can get started on some trail work and/or have some things taken care of by the BAER team to get recovery efforts rolling.

The first and most major problem is that a pretty good chunk of the trail system burned VERY badly. When I say “VERY” badly, I mean it got completely scorched and looks like vertical charcoal out there. There is a bit of an unsafe situation with potential downfall and of burned (and still burning) “root hollows,” where the ground might collapse where root systems burned below ground.

The first major tasks will be getting the hazards removed, then controlling the erosion. We also want to work toward getting some shade structures in place for winter. Not only will that be good for skiing, but also to help preserve the snow so that it won’t melt so rapidly thus will be helpful for vegetation recovery along with placement of erosion control and seeding.

With all of that, I have put in a quick proposal for the installation of a structural fence for safety and erosion control along those portions of the trail that burned badly. It has to be considered by the BAER team authorities, so we’re waiting to hear back on that.

Beyond that, there are other recovery efforts that will likely fall in the hands of the club members. There are numerous trees that need to be mitigated along the trail system, and there is a LOT of grade problems with the loss of the lower side trail structure where the fire burned out the lower side structure logs. These logs served as grade structures (and even as trail width themselves) and are now burned and gone. The trail now has an abrupt drop-off on the lower side where these are missing. A couple of other areas had full ramp structures holding up a good portion of trail to keep a big hole from forming in the winter – these also burned.

We also lost about 60 of our good bamboo poles that were used as markers out in the meadow areas during winter grooming. We will need to get those replaced somehow. Additionally, some of the wind-break fencing (for the entrance/exits to the meadows at points L and M) was burned and needs to be replaced.

In addition to the approximately 1km of trail that was completely scorched, almost ALL of the newly completed snowshoe trail system was destroyed. I don’t really have an answer for that, other than we’ll have to be creative in the next few years to find some sort of good alternative. I have one idea, but we’ll have to see how our initial recovery efforts go before proposing it.

Luckily, we did not suffer any “high-stakes” equipment loss, i.e. our grooming machines or grooming implements. That would have been devastating for sure. Also, although almost all areas of the trail system received burn damage, most of it still looks good and is intact. In a few years’ time, it will look pretty good and will recover quite nicely. The big Canada Bonita meadow received significant burns, but is already turning green with the rain.

I hope that somehow out of all of this, there will be some opportunities to add some nice sections of trail and get those severely damaged areas on the road to recovery quickly.

As soon as I hear back from the “agencies of authority” regarding our getting out to work on the trails, you will all be the first to know. I’m thinking of which projects to prioritize to get this next season in shape. There’s no doubt that we’ll have to deal with some adversity and be more understanding and flexible if we want to have some quality winter recreation.

I hope to update you on things very soon.

SWNSC President
PS see the post below for a further trail update from Lynn Bjorklund of USFS who is also SWNSC member.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clay and Lynn,
Thanks for the updates.

Here are my questions/comments regarding the Canada Bonita Trails + a question about the reservoir road in Los Alamos Canyon.

1) Did the snowshoe spur trail that runs from the junction of the ski only/multi use trail to the base of the mother ski lift at Pajarito also burn? Would it be practical to use this route vs. the one we use now. I skied it once last season & it seemed steeper than the regular route and the exposure was no better (perhaps worse).
2) How far back does the burn damage go on the nordic trail system? The July 18 post on the club's facebook page talks about rerouting from pt. A to TJs. It sounds like the multi use portion of the trails got torched.
3) Is it practical or possible to do any tree planting on the areas that are vertical charcoal? It wouldn't provide much or any shade for next winter, but what about 3 years from now & beyond?
4) Is there fire damage on the reservoir road from West Road to the Los Alamos Reservoir? From Quemazon Nature Trail, I can see that the upper part of Los Alamos Canyon got hit hard. The portion between West Road and the Reservoir does not look to have been hit. This trail also provides good hiking and good skiing during or after big snowfalls + bitter cold temperatures.

Mike Engelhardt -resident die hard skier.