Red River area 4×4 roads targeted for repairs/maintenance

Goose Lake Road is becoming increasingly dangerous as this July 22, 2018 rollover demonstrates. (Photo by Justin Whitlock)

Participants in the third Red River Roads Stewardship Collaborative Workshop have narrowed area 4×4 roads targeted for repairs and/or maintenance. In addition to the Old Red River Pass (Forest Road 480), the group’s top priorities are: Fourth of July Canyon (Forest Road 490), Goose Lake (Forest Road 486) and Greenie Peak (Forest Road 54).

The remaining roads in the initial list of popular roads — Cabresto Lake (Forest Road 134); Flag Mountain Road; and Pioneer Creek (Forest Road 485) — are still part of long-term plans but received fewer votes from the group, which included business owners and public officials from Red River and Taos Ski Valley, as well as Amigos Bravos, National Forest Foundation and Carson National Forest/Questa Ranger District. No one from the Village of Questa attended.

During the Stewardship Collaborative’s third meeting Wednesday (Oct. 10) at the Red River Conference Center, Jack Lewis, District Ranger, Questa District, Carson National Forest, welcomed the group, noting, “We’ve come a long ways since the first time this group got together: community involvement, community organization. There’s some big questions with a lot of these roads.”

In the first meeting, held in May 2018, Lewis said his district was looking at at least $2 million in repairs — with not enough funding to complete repairs: “The reason why we need community support, if we’re going to go look for money,… a united front looks a lot better.”

Attendees at that first meeting took his words to heart: Locals formed the Red River Offroad Coalition, a 501(c)(3) non-profit in June. In a telephone interview with The Chronicle, newly elected President Chris Green said the group formed, “To assist the Forest Service with maintenance and repairs of Red River-area trails.”

The group of about 25 members includes 4×4 tour and rental operators in Red River and other business owners and locals who are interested in helping.

Since its formation, the group has met multiple times to address the challenges of deteriorating 4×4 trails and roads.

The Old Red River Pass is the group’s top priority. “All the trails need repairs but that one is closed and we need to get it open. We’ve had engineers look at it with the Forest Service and we have an operating plan that is pending their approval. We’re still hopeful that we’ll get it repaired before winter.”

At the Oct. 10 meeting, Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun, who is also a business owner, said, “Many years ago, Jeep tour operators were involved with maintenance.”

Somewhere along the way, that partnership ended Calhoun noted. “One of the big wake-up-calls was when Middle Fork closed. When the Old Pass closed, that’s what a lot of people thought of. It’s exciting to see people involved with the Off-Road Coalition.”

Elena Fernandez, Projects Associate for Amigos Bravos, a statewide water conservation organization headquartered in Taos, said her organization is behind repair efforts because of the danger poorly maintained roads pose to the watershed. “We need to maintain the roads to prevent [new] user-created roads.”

According to Carson National Forest Civil Engineer Mando De La Cruz, other than Greenie Peak Roads, which has a higher maintenance level number (ML-3), all seven roads on the original priorities list are ML-2 — suitable for high-clearance 4×4 vehicles only. Maintenance levels range from ML-5 — roads that are normally double-lane and paved — to ML-1 — roads that are so bad they have been closed to vehicular traffic. ML-3 roads can accommodate “standard passenger cars” at low speeds.

Lewis said Old River Pass repairs could cost roughly $80,000 using both Forest Service and Red River Offroad Coalition resources. “The US forest Service will fix the hole, the Red River Offroad Coalition can help with maintenance.… It’ll be a good test to see how this is going toward over time.”

During the meeting, Green said, “We’ve met with Adam [LaDell, Winter Sports Coordinator at The U.S. Forest Service-Carson National Forest] and we have a [FS-7700-40 road maintenance] permit in the works and a couple of contractors / individuals are volunteering time/money to get this repaired as fast as is allowable.”

LaDell said, “We still need to fine-tune details on what can be done, what can’t be done. We’re not here to slow up the process.”

Commercial operators can request a US Forest Service permit to repair or maintain Forest Service roads

Green told The Chronicle, “We are working on a short term permit [for the Old Red River Pass] and also will have a long term permit to allow us to maintain the trails in the future.”

During the meeting, Green said, “We’ve got equipment and we’ve started collecting money. We had a booth at Oktoberfest.”

Red River Offroad Coalition members hope new members, fundraising and grants will chip away at road repairs and maintenance. For information on joining the group, email  rroffroadcoalition@gmail.com.

“[The Old Pass] is going to be a constant maintenance issue, which it’s going to be on any of the roads,”Green said. “The [Old Red River Pass] Road keeps deteriorating. We need to take care of drainage issues so it doesn’t deteriorate any more than it already is.”

Top priorities after the Old Pass

A fatal crash on Goose Lake Road in early September put the need for repairs into sharp relief.

Although Lewis said, “We don’t have the results back from our investigation, [the crash] was in the narrow stretch.”

Solutions for Goose Lake Road could include:

  • Making the road one-way and finding another outlet, such as, Red River Ski & Summer Area or Pioneer Canyon;
  • Adding more turnouts for passing traffic;
  • Making the road accessible for ATVs and OHVs only.

Greenie Peak has also solicited user complaints and 4th of July is becoming increasingly impassable.

“Just for entertainment value, we took the engineers down 4th of July Canyon,” Lewis said prompting laughter from the group. “It’s in rough shape to the point where it’s doing some resource damage. It’s already supposed to be an ATV/OHV road only but that’s not well enforced.”

Julie Randall, contract facilitator with the National Forest Foundation, asked attendees and road users to provide photos to help with identifying problem spots. “Visuals help.”

More stakeholder workshops are planned with the objective of achieving “the long-term sustainability and safety of Forest Service roads in the Red River area.”

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