A popular trailhead is temporarily closed.

What’s behind the closure of a popular trailhead?

From left, Marissa and Carolina Houk read the trail-closure notice at Galena Park.

From left, Marissa and Carolina Houk read the trail-closure notice at Galena Park.

Photo By Marnee Benson

The closure order and map of the affected area.

Reno hikers and mountain bikers have noticed the recent weekday closure of sections of the Jones Creek and Whites Creek trails near Mt. Rose Highway and Galena Creek Regional Park. The closure is due to a federally mandated tree removal and brush clearing operation in the newly designated Whites Creek Fuelwood Stewardship Sale Area.

Approximately 3.75 miles of trail were closed on May 28 for an undetermined period of time until the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service order is rescinded. Forest supervisor Ed Monnig does not know the specific time frame for the sale. However, Franklin Pemberton, public affairs specialist for the Carson and Bridgeport ranger districts, estimates the area will reopen by early July.

“The goal of the closure is to keep the public safe while the contractor is in there felling trees and removing brush,” says Pemberton. The project is part of President Bush’s Healthy Forests initiative and aims to reduce the number of trees and bushes in national forests as a way to decrease the potential for large forest fires.

According to Pemberton, the current treatment will focus mainly on smaller, 10-inch diameter trees and may include removal of native brush species mountain mahogany and manzanita. He says the removal of this vegetation is “for hazardous fuels reduction and wildlife habitat improvement.” Pemberton says lightning strikes are a problem, as well as the risk of someone starting a fire from the trail. He also says federal wildlife biologists have deemed the removal of bushes and trees as important to wildlife habitat.

According to the contractor, however, no bushes will be removed, and the area of concern is mainly adjacent to the trails.

“We’re removing 1,700 to 1,800 trees up there, mostly near the trails, where people are,” confirms Dennie Hansard of High Sierra Forest Products in Carson City. Hansard estimates the maximum diameter of felled trees to be 20 inches.

In addition to the trees and other biomass removed from the site, the U.S. Forest Service is paying $37,000 to High Sierra Forest Products for services rendered. Pemberton reports that the fee is paid by the government to the contractor for “hazardous fuels work” and “to meet the goals of the Forest Service.” Hansard says the money is being paid to ensure branches are removed while they are felling trees and logging.

The closure area is approximately 20 acres, and 3.75 miles of trails have been closed because of work crews in the area, according to Monnig. Hansard says he has two men working on the project.

Violators can be punished with a fine of up to $5,000 for individuals or $10,000 for organizations and up to six months in prison. Be sure to read the posted signs before you enter the trails on weekdays until work in that area is completed.