Southwest Washington All Terrain

SWWAT was created in 2008 by local riders who, like most adventure seekers, love the outdoors. We have a vision to create a safe and fun outdoor experience for everyone. We created this club as a group of friend's that enjoy all facets of off-roading.
 
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 Traffic Jam in the Trees

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Jeremy1052
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Location : Vantucky
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PostSubject: Traffic Jam in the Trees   October 5th 2008, 8:08 pm

Traffic jam in the trees


Friday, October 3 | 11:47 a.m.
By ERIK ROBINSON
COLUMBIAN STAFF WRITER


Scott Koehler, chief of East County Fire and Rescue, never knows what he’s going to face on a sunny weekend.

“It’s a crapshoot,” he said. “You don’t know what the day’s going to hold.”

He knows one thing, though. Each weekend with decent weather is likely to draw hundreds of all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts to one of the most remote corners of the volunteer-dominated fire district, where they’ll bounce through the forest on almost 14 miles of designated loop trails and plenty of undesignated trails of their own.

The results aren’t surprising.

Several times a year, East County volunteers are called to rescue, treat or clean up the aftermath of trail runs gone awry. A little over a month ago, firefighters spent three hours hiking 1½ miles into the woods, where an ATV rider rolled off a trail and down a steep cliff. Extracting the man required a complicated rope-and-cable rescue that’s a challenge for trained professionals, much less the volunteers who comprise the bulk of the rural fire district.

East County Fire and Rescue, manned by four paid staff and a corps of 60 volunteers, has been called out to Jones Creek a dozen times so far this year.

“From a financial aspect, it’s a loser,” Koehler said. “Morally and ethically, the closest unit should go — and that’s us.”

With the number of all-terrain vehicles on the rise, users are finding an increasingly congested landscape at the only major off-road vehicle park in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. Maintaining safety becomes a problem as more quads and motorcycles squeeze onto the authorized trails — and spill into fresh terrain in the forest beyond.

Washington state registered 109,000 off-road vehicles in 2007, including 5,400 in Clark County alone.

The state Department of Natural Resources, which manages Jones Creek as part of the Yacolt Burn State Forest, acknowledges the heavy use. Brian Poehlein, the DNR’s recreation manager in Southwest Washington, said the area appears to draw people from well beyond Clark County; Oregon license plates adorn roughly half the vehicles in the parking area.

“You’re asking for an accident when you get that many people,” he said.
Although most riders manage the thrill of off-roading without seriously hurting or killing themselves, several nasty accidents have marred the landscape in recent years. At least two raised liability concerns for taxpayers.

A La Center man settled a lawsuit against the state for $2 million last year after becoming paralyzed when he careened into a trail closure called a tank trap in August 2004. Mark Burkman crashed into the pit, which DNR had created in an effort to block one of several unauthorized user-made trails in the Jones Creek area, according to his attorney, John Coletti of Portland.

“You have people with every level of sophistication riding these trails,” Coletti said. “Nobody should require (DNR) to sign all of the trails, but you should do something to warn people.”

Two years after Burkman’s crash, history repeated itself.

In August of 2006, Vancouver motorcyclist Jamie Frahm crashed into another tank trap near the parking lot at Jones Creek. Frahm, who narrowly avoided paralysis, told The Columbian in August 2006 that he hadn’t been riding off-road in a decade and didn’t recognize the dirt berm that fronted the pit as a trail closure.

State officials subsequently filled the 8-foot-deep ditch that ensnared Frahm, and they’re in the process of filling in other trail-closure­ pits statewide.

“Even though they’re a very common tool in the forest industry, and have been for decades and decades, we’ve changed our practice to make those barriers above ground rather than dug into the ground,” said Bonnie Bunning, the DNR’s executive director for policy and administration.

Yet, telltale tire tracks over Frahm’s berm show that off-roaders are making regular incursions into the old logging skid road the berm was intended to block.

Off-road groups are pushing for the DNR to remove some barriers altogether, figuring it will improve safety by spreading users across a larger landscape.

“Take a residential street and put I-5 traffic on it, you’re going to have what you have up here,” said Mike Ames, a vice president of the Jones Creek Trail Riders Association.

Members of the association volunteer hundreds of hours a year trying to maintain the heavily used trails. Poehlein acknowledged the DNR would be hard-pressed without the volunteers who routinely haul dirt, gravel and cinder blocks to rebuild and re-contour heavily used trails.

“The trails are a constant maintenance issue,” said Ames, who lives in Orchards. “The condition of the trails affects safety. The more the trails are maintained, and the better they’re maintained, the safer they are to ride.”

Ames said he’s watched use increase substantially over the 10 years that he’s recreated in the area. On some busy summer weekends, he said, trucks and trailers spill a half-mile or more beyond the parking lot.

Fellow club member Joe McLaughlin said that’s not surprising.

Unlike motorcyclists, who have 229 miles of two-wheel trails on the nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest, McLaughlin said quad riders in Portland-Vancouver have few choices when they want to take a spin in the woods.

“They’re outnumbering motorcycles as far as sales of off-road vehicles 9-to-1,” McLaughlin said. “They’re selling quads just like crazy.”

McLaughlin is one of 11 citizen members of an advisory group formulating a recreation plan for the western portion of the Yacolt Burn State Forest.

Other than Jones Creek, the closest area for quad users to the Portland-Vancouver area is the Sand Lake Recreation Area south of Tillamook on the Oregon coast. That’s why McLaughlin is pushing for the DNR to sanction some of the user-built trails already in use. Yet he acknowledged that the state agency scarcely has the money to maintain currently authorized trails, much less new ones.

“Money is a constant battle,” he said.

Former state parks director Cleve Pinnix, who served on a committee that in 2004 reviewed a series of off-road vehicle accidents on state land, suggests a surcharge on the sale of ATVs.

“Dealers and manufacturers out there are making good money selling these machines,” he said. “Is there some responsibility for the industry … to participate in making sure there’s some safe places where they can be used in this state?”

Koehler, the East County fire chief, isn’t holding his breath.

“As the population grows, we’re going to see increases in the call volume up there,” Koehler said. “Looking to the future, it’s an issue that’s not going to go away.”

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PostSubject: Re: Traffic Jam in the Trees   October 6th 2008, 1:52 am

What ever happen to Browns Camp? I love how he knows everything.
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PostSubject: Re: Traffic Jam in the Trees   October 6th 2008, 2:12 am

Everyone needs to signup on the Columbian and say what they think. And don't forget to say you are with SWWAT. Put your last name and SWWAT on the land name line.
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Jeremy1052
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PostSubject: Re: Traffic Jam in the Trees   October 6th 2008, 3:21 am

Did you read the comment thats on there???
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PostSubject: Re: Traffic Jam in the Trees   October 8th 2008, 4:29 am

http://columbian.com/article/20081005/NEWS02/810039973/-1/news

We all should have something to write back about.
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