Guest editorial: Basin Recreation’s plan for trail in Toll Canyon is irresponsible
July 16, 2018
It was interesting to see Basin Rec (BR) acknowledge that controlling noxious weeds is a daunting task and even mention that weeds readily invade disturbed areas (Basin Recreation asks hikers and bikers for help pulling noxious weeds. June 17, Park Record). On the surface, it sounds encouraging, but it's hard to tell if BR is genuinely concerned about the issue or if this is just part of an attempt to "get in front of" recent criticism and a petition against their Toll Canyon trail as discussed in BR's Board meeting minutes of May 17.
Trails are vectors for weed dispersal; it's well documented, and a 10,000+ foot trail is a significant disturbance corridor. Toll Canyon is a perfect example of a place where weedy areas should be avoided and treated from the perimeter. Cutting a new trail through weedy areas in the pristine Toll Canyon public open space is irresponsible.
Although garlic mustard infestations in Toll Canyon were brought to BR's attention early in the trail review process, they've refused to adjust their alignment to avoid weedy areas. BR's final trail document claimed they will "actively manage" the new Toll trail and that the trail will make it easier to "eradicate" garlic mustard in the area. Now BR is openly stating they can't even control weed problems along their existing trails.
It is equally telling that although trail construction is imminent, advance weed control efforts have been lacking. BR made only minimal, haphazard control efforts for garlic mustard in Toll in 2017 and even in spring 2018, until complaints from nearby residents prompted a few follow-up responses this summer. Still, dense areas of garlic mustard remain along BR's proposed trail alignment that have received no control in 2017 or 2018. Similarly, there's been no sign of control efforts of garlic mustard areas along the Avenues and Hunter's trails in 2017 or 2018. By now garlic mustard seed pods are already dry and brittle to the point where even pulling the plants will spread seeds.
BR's pleas for help on the weed front would be more palatable if they chose to follow best management practices like avoidance and treatment of weed infestations from the perimeter rather than slicing a new trail directly though weedy areas. The most isolated garlic mustard infestations in Toll Canyon are around 100 yards from the nearest road access. Hardly remote. A new trail routed near the infestations could further improve access without the increased risk of spreading the weed by routing the trail directly through infested areas. BR's unyielding attachment to their original alignment through weed infested areas is baffling.
As property owners who pay the taxes that support BR, we believe BR should demonstrate they can control weeds on their existing trail network and open space areas instead of cutting new trails through isolated weed infested areas. With or without a trail, BR is supposed to be controlling noxious weeds in Toll Canyon and other lands they manage. Maybe they need to devote more of their existing resources to weed control. Preventive measures like avoidance and containment are also much less expensive than having to expand weed control efforts because a new trail spreads more weeds. Responsible use of our tax dollars is important.
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Until the new trail is cut the alignment remains an open choice. A slight shift of the alignment to the southeast would be the best management practice by avoiding known weed infestations and very densely used wildlife bedding areas and trails. Basin Rec, please take the responsible approach to managing our public wildlands and modify your trail alignment.
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