Forest's blocked trails are opposed

September 26, 2002 12:00 am

By ERIC BURKETT

Was it a secret effort to expand the Emigrant Wilderness? A United Nations ploy?

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors heard testimony this week from Mi-Wuk Village resident Kenny Hill, who is angered by the recent closure of several road spurs near Chipmunk Flat in the Sonora Pass area.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed 14 short road spurs, totaling about 1.4 miles, off Highway 108, in order to implement part of a Summit Ranger District road project.

Angered by the closures, Hill requested a hearing of the Board of Supervisors to address the issue.

The closures have kept him from reaching an area he has enjoyed since 1935, Hill said. In his letter requesting a meeting with the supervisors, Hill suggested larger forces might be at work.

"Could this be part of the wild lands project or ... extension of the U.N. biospheres?" he asked.

Established through the U.N., biospheres are wild areas set aside so they can be preserved but still be used by people. According to Summit District Ranger Karen Caldwell, Chipmunk Flat is not a U.N. biosphere. Nor is it part of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Still, Hill's concerns that a popular recreation area has been taken out of public use interested county supervisors, who agreed to have the matter studied further.

With the closure of the spurs, the public and particularly disabled people have no access, said Hill. "You cannot pull off and enjoy a picnic lunch, you can't take pictures, you can't go fishing," he said.

Others testified, as well.

Jim Howe of Twain Harte was concerned that safety on Highway 108 had been compromised. With the spurs closed, there are now fewer pullouts available for motorists in trouble, he said.

With no emergency services or communications available in the pass, said Howe, "there has to be some way to get that vehicle out of the way."