Snow play area no fun for CHP

January 14, 2003 11:00 pm
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Clamp answers questions about where people can park legally. (Jason Eck/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Clamp answers questions about where people can park legally. (Jason Eck/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By JASON ECK

Kids glide and tumble down the slopes as parents, some with small camps set up for the day, watch. Bumper-to-bumper, cars are parked for nearly a half mile along both sides of the highway, despite "No Parking" signs also lining the stretch. Parents periodically dart with children across the highway, timing their moves to avoid the traffic.

This scene plays out every winter weekend and holiday at Little Sweden, a popular snow-play area on a mix of private and public land next to busy Highway 108 between Long Barn and Pinecrest. The area is a magnet for masses of kids and adults who want to sled and inner tube down its slopes.

But California Highway Patrol officials say the mix of cars and people has set the stage for tragedy.

Officers are issuing warnings and parking tickets, slowing traffic and offering people alternatives, but say they can only do so much.

Limited enforcement

Officer Bob McColloch sees the big crowds every weekend. Saturday's crowd was just about as big as the one on New Year's Day.

Some 20 drivers were parked illegally before McColloch drove by about 2:30 p.m. and issued a collective warning over the speaker of his sport utility cruiser.

About half the drivers moved their cars while another officer issued one parking ticket.

McColloch said officers can't ticket everyone — it would take hours.

Despite regular patrols and tickets, cars line the highway every weekend.

People are either "getting lazy or just don't care," said CHP Officer Tom Wills.

Wills estimates officers write between seven and 10 parking tickets each weekend. He said they will also tow vehicles that stick out into the highway, but haven't yet.