Access to three popular reservoirs along the Highway 4 corridor was restored last week after damages along the roadway caused by the heavy winter weather were repaired.
Diana Fredlund, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said June 28 conditions along Spicer Road, leading to Spicer, Utica and Union reservoirs were not as bad as originally anticipated two months ago when the service announced the passage could be closed through 2018.
She said snowmelt in recent months revealed a few buckles in the road, but nothing that could not be mitigated by barricades and other flags signaling areas to avoid. One-way travel could be expected in areas along the roadway, Fredlund added.
“We knew there were going to be places that were damaged but we couldn’t get in to see what they were. Now that the snow is gone, we’ve had an opportunity to do it,” Fredlund said. “Several locations on the road were damaged. … Now they are in good enough shape for visitors to be able to be on the road.”
The opening came a few months after the Forest Service said the road could be closed through next winter due to damages sustained earlier this year. The decision drew scrutiny at the time among those who live along the corridor that leads to Spicer Road and the reservoirs.
Shawn Seale, who owns the three Sierra Nevada Adventure Company sites in the area with his wife Jill, said in April the economy along the Highway 4 corridor would suffer mightily if Spicer Road were to remain closed through this year.
“It would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the town of Arnold,” Seale said. “The people that visit all load up at the grocery store. They’re all buying gas, groceries, going out to dinner. They might be staying in a hotel and going up on day trips.”
Seale began lobbying local politicians to expedite repairs along Spicer Road within days of the announcement in April. He said he urged Rep. Tom McClintock via email to prioritize repairs along the road.
Seale was skeptical the damages along Spicer Road were bad enough to prompt the stretch to be closed for a year and a half. He said he was along the road at one point before the end of winter and saw the damages. They seemed “insignificant.”
Business has been booming at the SNAC site in Arnold in the days following the announcement by the forest service. While June saw a significant drop in business, Seale said the business saw “good traffic” over the holiday weekend.
“We wouldn’t even want to quote that,” said Seale when asked to shed insight on the recent success. “It would be too big of a number.”
With the opening of Spicer Road, access to Spicer, Spicer Group, Union, Union East, Union West, Rocky Point, Sandy Flat and Stanislaus River campgrounds were restored. The forest road leading to Elephant Rock and Summit Lake trail heads remained closed, however.
In conjunction with the opening of Spicer Road, Slick Rock Road and McKays Road were also opened to motorists June 28.
Ebbetts Pass opened June 30 after Caltrans spent months clearing winter snow and debris from the passage, one of the highest in the Sierra Nevada region. This year’s opening was the latest the pass has ever been opened. It was only the third time in its history that the pass was opened after Memorial Day.