A timeline of long-term goals for restoring Whiskeytown National Recreation Area has been pushed back after park staff learned damage from the 2018 Carr Fire was even greater than previously thought.
The change in plans follows a two-year, in-depth environmental assessment, the results of which said the park has more flood, landslide and dead-tree hazards than previously estimated.
New predictions show the park being repaired within three to five years, although some seldom-used areas may not be reopened at all.
“I had hoped we’d be farther along (by now),” Park Superintendent Josh Hoines said, but early predictions as to when the park would be fully restored were too optimistic.
That’s because damage was more than originally predicted during the months immediately following the Carr Fire, which burned from late July through August 2018.
A two-year environmental reassessment that started in 2019 is also taking longer than expected, Hoines said.
Deadlines for restoration and repair projects will depend greatly on the results of that assessment, which will be released to the public around June 1.
After the public responds to the assessment, the park service will draft a new plan that ensures wildlife and guests are protected, Hoines said. A revision of the repair timeline will probably be ready in late October.
Falling dead trees and hazards from destabilized soil — including landslides and debris flows from flooding — present serious danger to guests and wildlife, Hoines said. Since the fire, a lot of sediment flowed off the mountain into the creeks and Whiskeytown Lake. Plants need more time to grow so they stabilize the soil.
A monumental task for park staff is removing dead trees that are still standing so they don’t fall and injure people.
Park guests expressed hopes on social media that their favorite trails will open soon.
“Every time my kids (and I) visit, they ask if we can hike the Mill Creek Trail,” Palo Cedro resident Steven Towers posted in the Get Out NorCal Facebook group. That trail is still closed, according to Whiskeytown’s website.
There is good news, though.
Hoines said park staff hasn’t seen the hazardous debris flows that were anticipated, and plant life is growing over burn areas. “The situation is improving, but we’re not quite out of the woods,” he said.
Restoration and rebuilding at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area from March 2021. Some wood fixtures on the Peltier Bridge were replaced with pressure-treated lumber. (Photo: Whiskeytown National Recreation Area)
Pushing back the final restoration deadline doesn’t mean some popular trails and other areas won’t be accessible soon, said Hoines, who hopes the Brandy Creek Trail will open to guests by midsummer.
Another popular trail, the Boulder Creek Trail, could be open as early as next year.
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Some areas that are seldom used may stay closed, he said, but staff will wait to make those decisions after the public has a chance to respond to the assessment online and at a public meeting, both in June.
At that time, look for the assessment on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.
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