May 23, 2011 9:44 PM by Ariel Wesler

Recreationists upset over road closures in Los Padres National Forest

Some recreationists are upset roads and trails are still closed in the Los Padres National Forest, almost two years after a fire burned through the area.

In August 2009, the La Brea Fire scorched nearly 90,000 acres, east of Santa Maria. La Brea Road was one of the spots damaged by the fire and heavy rains. The area is still closed to vehicles and some off-road riders feel nothing is being done to reopen it.

Off-roading through the great outdoors is a popular pastime for many on the Central Coast.

"It's a blast. My kids love it. I have two daughters," said Byron Wilson of Santa Maria. "They love cruisin' around and going out in the wilderness and seeing all the different animals and what not."

But it's taking a back seat because of trail closures in the Los Padres National Forest. The forest service invited the public on a field trip to take a look at the damaged areas from the La Brea fires and ease frustrations for users.

"It makes it very hard for us to be able to go recreate when you have these closures. We have to go further away to find where to go ride," said Ed Waldheim, President of the California Trial Users Coalition.

"They can walk out here. They can ride a mountain bike out here. They can ride a horse down here, but they can't ride a vehicle down here," said Santa Lucia District Ranger Kathleen Phelps.

The forest service hasn't maintained the trails because of environmental concerns.

Forest rangers say La Brea Road crosses La Brea Creek more than 30 times and repairs could impact endangered species.

"It's mainly the aquatic species the red legged frog and the steel head," Phelps said.

"There's concerns that we need to work out with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries on the habitat for those species," Phelps said.

But as more and more people hit the trails this summer, riders say limiting access will limit enjoyment.

The forest service did not provide a time frame for when certain trails and roads would reopen to vehicles.

Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly two million acres stretching from the Big Sur Coast in to the western edge of Los Angeles County.


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