Parking, trash still problems at Little Sweden

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By AMY LINDBLOM

People relieving themselves, illegal parking, wandering, jaywalking, the occasional drunk and mountains of trash.

An out-of-control rock concert?

Nope. These are the problems high-country travelers and law enforcement encounter each winter weekend as hundreds of sledders and snow players park along Highway 108 at Little Sweden, an area just east of Long Barn.

But because sledding on U.S. Forest Service land along the highway is legal and there are legal areas to park there, California Highway Patrol officers say they can do little to ease the congestion other than give out parking tickets to those who park in no-parking zones or violate pedestrian laws.

A section of the Little Sweden area is privately owned. The rest is Forest Service land and therefore public.

"It's a parking and pollution nightmare," said Karen Caldwell, who heads the Stanislaus National Forest's Summit Ranger District and must drive through the area to get to work.

Highway Patrol Officer Tom Wills said he and fellow officers have seen people dart out onto the road, walk along the side, leave car doors open in the lanes of traffic and even park in the highway median to have tailgate parties.

"There have been no vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents so far this year, but it is a topic of conversation that it is a distinct possibility," Wills said.

Wills said CHP officers have written up about 40 parking tickets during each of the last three weekends. Last year, officers handed out out seven to 10 a weekend.

"We drive through, announce over the PA system that all illegal cars will be ticketed and then, when they still don't move them, we start writing tickets," Wills said.

Some who receive tickets are belligerent, and others just don't seem to care, he said.

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