A harmful winter has damaged infrastructure so badly that roads leading to three popular area reservoirs had to be closed through 2018, but one man is lobbying local decision-makers to open them sooner.
Shawn Seale, owner of the Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. in Arnold and Murphys, said he sent an email to Rep. Tom McClintock May 2 to communicate the need to prioritize repairs along the closed Spicer Road, which provides access to the popular Utica, Union and Spicer reservoirs.
“As a congressman, (McClintock) has the ability to influence federal agencies,” said Seale, who added he also spoke with District 4 Calaveras County Supervisor Mike Oliveira about the topic. “I hope he can put a priority to getting the road open.”
Last month, officials with the Stanislaus National Forest reported several roads leading to popular Calaveras recreation sites were closed following the powerful winter. Diana Fredlund, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said the roads could remain closed until 2018 at the earliest.
Among the roads closed were Spicer Road and Slick Rock Road leading to the reservoirs, Candy Rock Road en route to Candy Rock, as well as Boards Crossing Road, McKays Road and Cottonwood Road.
“It’s just not safe. You can see the danger. You have some roads where the blacktop is there, but the ground underneath has been washed away,” said Fredlund, who added that sites could still be accessed by horseback riders or cross country hikers. “Many rivers or streams were out of their banks where they normally are. It undermined the roads. Not just a little buckle. Sections were dropped.”
Seale isn’t sure that’s the case along Spicer Road, however. He said he skied about a quarter-mile down Spicer Road earlier this month and saw only moderate damage. He thought the impacts were so minor a two-wheel drive vehicle could be able to pass through.
“I saw a creek flowing across the road as a result of a culvert not functioning,” Seale said. “The creek had done some damage to the road. Granted, this is just the first quarter-of-a-mile down the road. There was nine miles left. (But) it’s possible the damage is not extensive.”
Ultimately, Seale said a summer without access to the three reservoirs, or White Pines Lake after Blagen Road was flooded and awaits federal assistance to build a bridge, would be harmful for the Arnold area.
“It would be hundreds of thousands of (dollars) lost revenue for just the town of Arnold,” Seale said. “Those people (that visit) all load up at the grocery store; a lot of people go up for a week or more. They’re all buying gas, groceries, going out to dinner. They might be staying in a hotel and going up on day trips.”
It is likely Lake Alpine off Highway 4 will be open, but Seale said it would become incapacitated and overcrowded. Visitors from outside the area would not have as much access to the camping opportunities and parking spaces as they would have if they had vehicular access to the three nearby reservoirs.
“At this point, we’re talking about a lot of people. It’s a stream of RVs and campers going up the hill to the high country,” Seale said. “There aren’t enough campgrounds to absorb the people. It’s pretty much full anyway.”
Seale said he thinks Spicer Road will be open before the end of this summer. It has to be, he said, because it’s the only paved road within a more than 100-square-mile radius of the Carson Iceberg Wilderness Area of the Stanislaus National Forest.
“And on any given day during the summer, hundreds of people use that road,” Seale said. “And they’re going back there to fish, go to the campgrounds and they’re going for off-roading.”