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Crater Lake seeks feedback on trail plan

Photo by Lee Juillerat Hikers enjoy a view along a section of the loop trail around Crater Peak. Park officials are asking for input on a new trail plan that would add trails in the park

Public opinion is being accepted on Crater Lake National Park’s long-awaited Trail Management Plan.

Comments on the plan, which is intended to guide trail management, including the addition of up to more than 20 miles of new trails, are being taken through Oct. 21. A public meeting to discuss the plan is set for Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Because of the pandemic the meeting will be virtual.

“We would like to hear your thoughts on the alternatives presented in the plan, the analysis of their impacts and any other concerns you might have,” said Tom Gibney, project manager for the National Park Service’s Denver Service Center in Denver, Colorado.

The planning process began several years ago with a goal of developing a comprehensive trail plan that can be implemented over the next 25 years. Public meetings were held at several locations, including Klamath Falls and Medford.

Marsha McCabe, Crater Lake’s public information officer, said comments from those sessions were incorporated with plans considered by park staff and planners at the Denver office.

“We wanted to get input from staff and the public to determine which ideas are feasible and which are not,” McCabe said.

The TMP draft plan includes three alternatives. The No Action Alternative would make no changes in the park’s existing trail network, which covers 95 miles of summer and winter trails, including nearly 35 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Alternative 1, the NPS’s preferred alternative, would add about 20 miles of new summer trails and make changes to about 9 miles of existing trails. According to the plan, implementing the preferred alternative would disperse visitors to areas where few trails currently exist and would “relieve some of the visitor crowding along Rim Drive during the summer months. New trails would also be added at the lower elevations of the park to improve year-round visitor access to areas that receive less snowfall.”

Alternative 2 would add almost 23 miles of summer trails, largely in the eastern area of the park and again move the focus away from heavily used Rim Drive.

All alternatives include marking the existing 1.3-mile Lady of the Woods Trail for winter snowshoeing, walking, skiing and dog walking. In addition, the park’s North Entrance Road, where snowmobiling, skiing and hiking are currently allowed, would permit pets, dog sledding, skijoring and snow bikes. A summer trail, a new quarter-mile Chevron Trail, would connect existing employee areas and be open for hiking and dog walking.

Actions considered but “dismissed,” include closing East Rim Drive to motor vehicles; closing one lane of East Rim Drive to vehicles and converting it to a multiuse trail; expanding the use of snowmobiles, mountain bikes and other mechanized and motorized transit into backcountry areas; developing a second trail access to the lake; adding trails on and around Llao Rock; and developing trails near Cascade Springs.

The plan also includes cost estimates that include breakdowns for each trail. The total construction cost for Alternative 1 is estimated at $8.5 million along with an additional $165,000 in annual operation and maintenance costs. The costs for Alternative 2 are estimated at $4.2 million for construction and $49,000 for ongoing operation and maintenance.

As noted in the TMA, “There is no guarantee that the actions proposed in this plan would be funded. The park will continue to look for creative and diverse funding opportunities. … Budget restrictions, requirements for additional data or regulatory compliance, and competing national park system priorities may prevent implementation of some actions.”

Park officials previously emphasized the TMP is intended to establish an outline for possibly developing future trails and said no priorities have been set on which trails might be added.

The TMA also notes that surveys indicate that slightly more than third of park visitors, 37%, hiked during their visit. Along with summer hiking, backpacking and limited mountain biking and horseback riding, winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and limited snowmobiling.

The plan notes park officials are considering closing the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the park’s most used trail and one that provides the only access to the lake, for one or more summer seasons in the next few years. A closure is needed, park officials say, for extensive repairs, including trail reconstruction, rock scaling, installation of a new boat dock and other upgrades. The trail was closed earlier this year because of safety concerns and closed for a day earlier this month for other work.

An online “StoryMap” is available to provide an overview of the draft plan and the corresponding maps at https://go.usa.gov/xM9wS, and the complete draft plan can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xMX2W.

Comments can be submitted online at https://go.usa.gov/xMX2W, or by mail to: Tom Gibney, Project Manager, Denver Service Center – Planning, 12795 W. Alameda Pkwy, Lakewood, CO 80228

People with questions regarding the project or open comment period can call Tom Gibney at 303-969-2479. For more information about Crater Lake National Park call 541-594-3000 or visit the park sites on Facebook or Instagram, or the park website at www.nps.gov/crla.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.