Beetle kill projects close popular Fraser-area trails |

Beetle kill projects close popular Fraser-area trails

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
Stepanie Miller/Sky-Hi Daily News

After the snow melts away next summer along the Fraser Experimental Forest, some may no longer recognize their favorite trails, which are about to undergo heavy logging operations this winter because of beetle kill.

But letting users know which trails are closed for logging will be tricky at times, said Mike Ricketts of the U.S. Forest Service. When the snow falls, recreationalists will be swarming to the popular Flume, Creekside and Chainsaw trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and, in some areas, snowmobiling. Signing will be key, Ricketts said.

“Our signing is going to have to be the key part of helping people understand what’s going on. We’re not going to be able to keep up with how quickly things change sometimes,” Ricketts said.

For instance, logging was supposed to start on the Flume Trail about a week ago, but the logging company contracted by the Forest Service ” Intermountain Resources ” has changed the date for the end of this week. In the meantime, flagging hangs at both entrances of Flume warning users that logging is under way. One of the flaggings has already been torn down.

Ricketts realizes that when trails are closed for logging and operations are stalled, people start to believe closures are just “another false alarm.” But operations are expected to start soon, and signage and flagging should be taken seriously.

Users are strongly encouraged to use alternate routes, such as Creekside Trail, once logging on Flume begins. Flume is expected to be back open “as soon as possible,” Ricketts added, sometime this winter.

Logging will take place on the south end of Flume, which intersects with Leland Creek Road. Logging is also under way for the area across from Leland Creek Road.

Logging is expected to start on the west side of St. Louis Creek Road by the end of this week. Loggers are staging out of the St. Louis Creek Campground, and the gate will be locked. According to the U.S. Forest Service Web site, there should be enough snow on the left side of the road for snowmobiling.

Although roads are not expected to be impacted, users need to be cautious of logging trucks and other heavy equipment. Heavy truck traffic is expected to take place on St. Louis Creek Road, and County Roads 73, 50S, 50 and 5. Since private lands are also being logged, heavy traffic is will take place on Elk Meadows Trail and Elk Creek Road as well.

Ricketts reminded users to be informed before hitting the roads and trails ” and, most importantly, be patient. Once a heavy snowstorm comes through, he expects there will be a lot of plowing, and users who expect fresh snow may not get it.

“That’ll be an issue,” Ricketts admitted. “But I just keep telling everyone: Think of the worst case (scenario) and hope it’s better. It’s kind of ‘buyer beware’ when they go out there.”

The Forest Service will be working toward getting the most recent information out as soon as possible. Bigger signage may be needed in the future once heavy logging operations are ongoing.

“If there’s a pretty serious risk of someone getting hurt, we want to make sure they don’t miss a sign or closure,” he added.

Winter is a good time for logging because it helps protect resources, Ricketts explained. The ground is frozen, therefore causing less impact. Ricketts hopes a majority of the logging will be done this winter, but there will probably be logging in the summer too, he said.

“Hopefully we get a lot done this winter, and that’ll be a big help toward having trails open next summer.”

Logging along the Fraser Experimental Forest area is part of the Upper Fraser 1 phase of the Sulphur Ranger District bark beetle projects. The Sulphur Ranger District hopes to reduce the impacts of potential wildfire to communities and watersheds through these projects.

The district encompasses 442,000 acres “183,000 of which are lodgepole pines that are at-risk. Roughly 73,000 acres are potentially treatable acres.

To date, decisions to treat 11,000 acres have been completed, with 7,500 acres under contract and 3,500 acres treated.

– To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail

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