Here’s what’s happening with the trails right now in Big Bear:

Weather: very little snow. Trails that are normally covered in 3 feet of snow have been open all winter. While we’re enjoying biking at 8,000 feet on Skyline in January, the joy is tempered a bit by the realization that we’ll probably somehow have to account for this dry winter in the future.

Signage: we’ve had several days of slamming brown carsonite signs into the ground over the last couple of months. We’re approaching 250 signs installed, helping us to help visitors and locals alike find their way around the South Shore of Big Bear Lake. We even made it partway out to Siberia Creek to install a sign in the darkness! We’re also well on the way to getting out more than a dozen “You Are Here” maps to place at important junctions in the South Shore area by the time summer hits.

Free Map: Big Bear Cycling is working on a 2014 free tear out map with road bike, hiking, and mountain bike routes on it. We’ve been working with them to ensure that all of the trails and back roads in our valley are represented accurately.

Event Organizers: Open Air Big Bear, Tour De Big Bear, and Team Big Bear have graciously volunteered to support the Trails Foundation by asking their event participants to give back to our trails. You can see the splash page here: http://trailsfoundation.org/eventsinbigbear/

USFS District Ranger: Scott Tangenberg, our district ranger, has officially left the post and the interim District Ranger is Sarah Tomsky. We’ve had several meetings with her, aiming to keep up the momentum and relationships that have served us well over the last couple of years. Sarah is not applying for the permanent position, so we’ll have to wait for early June to find out who the new District Ranger will be.

Fuels Reduction Crews: this might not be a headline that grabs your attention, but the content is very important. These crews are the ones that have been up on 2N10 past Clubview for the last year, thinning out the forest to protect us from forest fires. There are quite a few large contracts out for these crews, and it’s affecting how we use and build trails. Remember the mountain bike trail Pirates? These fuels reduction crews turned this fun trail into a dirt road, and brought about a good deal of local frustration. Unfortunately, at the time Pirates was not considered a “system” trail, and so was not afforded any manner of protection. Fall Line is in a similar position; although it’s now a system trail (along with Pirates), when the fuels reduction contract was signed there were no provisions in it allowing for protection and rebuilding of any affected trails. There are some crews up near Clark’s Grade working near Skyline, and this trail is protected; any work that affects the trail will be fixed by the contractors. The good news about these fuels reduction crews is that when they move out of an area, such as where Eastern Skyline is planned (near old Plumber’s), the land has been opened and cleared so that building a trail is much easier. We’re working with the USFS to obtain a full list of the projects and timelines of Fuels Reduction crews.

IMBA Grant A Bust: the Trails Foundation had been working on applying for part of a $100,000 IMBA / Bell Grant, but as much as we wanted, we couldn’t find a way to make their timeline work with our forest. The ideal plan would have been the Pirates / Fall Line area, where we wanted IMBA to build a flow trail from the top down to the junction with Fern Trail. Fuels reduction crews, good for the long term health of our forest, turned out to be bad for our short term trail plans. They aren’t going to be finished in this area this spring, and may have more contracts coming to continue clearing the forest as it butts up to the eastern edge of Snow Summit. We’re hoping to have a “shovel ready” project for the spring of 2015 if any more IMBA grants present themselves.

Snow Summit Affectations: We also took a look at reimagining Dickies and Hike A Bike for the IMBA grant, but the long term plans of Snow Summit may play a role in what we do. Originally Snow Summit had indicated they were going to fund an EA (environmental assessment) that would investigate the impact of their users on the surrounding USFS system trails. This would have opened the door to potentially look at bringing in non-system favorites like Trick or Treat and Balloon, and possibly allow them to build several more downhill specific trails on their lease land. Reportedly Snow Summit is reconsidering their EA, and instead now looking at only applying for a CE (categorical exclusion) for one downhill green trail. This affects us because if the long Snow Summit green trail is approved, it may affect the long term standing of very close trails like Dickies and Hike A Bike. Trail density is something the USFS bears in mind as they manage the trail system. As a result, we didn’t want to place too much work into Dickies or Hike A Bike until we knew more about the situation.

Heritage Program and Trail Building: in their words, “The Forest Service is committed to protecting the cultural resources on the national forests and grasslands and making them accessible for the public to appreciate and enjoy“. Before we can build more trail on the South Shore, we need to get approval from Heritage. The Southern California Mountains Foundation is taking the lead in getting final approval from Heritage so that we can finish the build on Eastern and Western Skyline this spring and summer, and move onto other projects like rebuilding Fall Line (as soon as fuels crews move out). You can find more about the Heritage Program here: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/heritage/

Parntership with Southern California Mountains Foundation: these are the folks that run the Discovery Center. With our assistance, they applied for a couple of large grants: USFS CMTL in the amount of $239,000 and CA State Parks RTP Program (intent to award funding) of $272,100. These grants will be used exclusively in the South Shore area, to rehabilitate and build trails. Headed by local Gavin Burke, this crew last summer built a new start to the Pine Knot Trail, addressing the watershed, erosion, and pebble plain issues that were present on the original trail. This was also the crew that slashed and decommissioned several illegal downhill trails on the South Shore. The Trails Foundation is going to partner heavily with the Mountains Foundation and their trail crew this coming year, working to build out Eastern and Northern Skyline. We are also going to support these crews as they have to decommision trails; our goal is to provide quality trail experiences, and to get more good trail we may have to eliminate questionable user built trails along the way. We’ll do our best to communicate our actions and reasonings as this progresses, but please be supportive as we work long term to keep as many good trails as possible and provide you with even more trail opportunities. Also, bear in mind that these seemingly large grants have a volunteer in kind clause; we must provide a certain amount of volunteer hours from community members in order to receive the monies. This means that we’ll still be having volunteer build days, and we will need you to come out and help!

South Shore 2014: spring, summer and fall we are going to work at building out the rest of Northern Skyline (near Secret Trail) and all of Eastern Skyline (near old Plumber’s), giving us another 4 miles of singletrack. These will be all hand built by SCMF work crews and BBVTF volunteers.

Lightning Ridge Trail: this is the old and overgrown system trail that runs from the top of Sugarloaf to the top of Sugarlump (where the highest Bear Mountain chair lift sits). If you haven’t been up on this ridge yet, wait for us and you can come up first with a shovel and rake and then later with a sense of ownership and pride. We’re in talks with the USFS to determine the steps in adopting this trail as a project.

Membership Campaign: stay tuned for the official start for our 2014 membership drive. We’ll need your support, in both on the ground work and in financial donations, to make all of these projects happen. Please become a member for 2014!

Let us know if you have any questions or comments: hello@trailsfoundation.org