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post #1 of (permalink) Old 12-09-2006, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
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4X4 Trail Designation in Ocala National Forest

Re: 4X4 Trail Designation in Ocala National Forest
Reply #5 - Yesterday at 03:35:12
Jenn and I met with Rick Lint and Bret Bush at the Lake George Ranger District Office on December 7, 2005 from approx. 2:00pm - 5:15pm. There were many technical issues covered as well as off-topic issues addressed however I will summize the meeting in the interest of important points.

We covered all issues of the route proposal and also talked about some other issues. Rick was very open to our plan. We gave him a better understanding about how we are wanting our trail system to look in terms of loops, how they connect, distance from one loop to the next and types of obstacles we are interested in seeing.

He explained to us the process for proposing alternatives and how it worked. It would seem that the concept of using logs (from fallen trees) as an obstacle was less of a concern than using rock (of any kind). During some of the meetings with the agencies that actually approve of the route designation (entire Phase 2) Rick has been mentioning our proposal so folks are aware of it. Now that he has an idea of our proposed route he can begin to overlay it on their proposed route system to see how it differs (which roads they removed from the plan that would need consideration to be included back in).

The routes we did not cover during our Novemeber 26 GPS ride would need to be done ASAP (within a few weeks) and the data sent in to the Forest Service if we are expecting it to also be included into an alternative. As it stands, we only have the (roughly) 60 mile run (loops are less) in official form. We plan to offer far more as to provide our group with multiple day runs possible within a 4X4 designation (aside from the remaining trail system).

I made it clear a few times that the route designation for licensed 4X4 vehicles was far more important to us than the specific trails we were proposing, meaning if the Forest Service would rather choose a different loop system (based on our expectation of how the loops should be routed) then that would be fine.

The issue of volunteer effort came up and our clubs would need to step up with volunteer assistance to help maintain the trails. There might be some training/certification required, we are going to have to work out the details of this. A strong volunteer effort is going to be required if this plan is to work well. Rick did not seem to feel that the routes we were proposing would require any special fee or permit like they are considering for the ATV trails.

Public Comments: Rick mentioned that approximately 80 we sent in of which a small handful were actually done in their own words (did not use our letter). He had them all at the meeting in hard copy and is going over them. So far, the FL4WDA seems to be the only group making a detailed suggestion to the Phase 2 area that is beyond the "give us more trails" comment. There are some issues being brought up (from hunters for example) that they are looking into in addition to ours.

The Florida Fish and Game Wildlife Conservation Commision is one of many groups that must sign off on the plan (which would include proposed alterations such as our route designation) and they have the duty of upholding the Endanged Species Act, this may affect where our routes are placed if approved. Other issues that may arise within our plan approval is the concern for obstacles in terms of safety (say a rail buggy, which is licensed, flying across a downed log that was placed purposely) and how the obstacle blends with the environment. We suggested access to obstacles should require diverting from the main trail loop (the obstacle would be the bypass instead of the other way around) in an effort to address this issue.

All things considered, the meeting went very well. The dialog was very open. I brought in pictures I found on the internet that depict trails and trail signage we are looking for and we did plenty of scribbling on paper in hopes of illustrating our suggestion for a 4X4 Trail Designation.

For now, the FL4WDA is going to continue to formally document the specific trails we want considered into the designation and sometime in Janurary the Forest Service planning team will use that information for consideration into the plan.
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