Appeals must be received by February 2, 2013
Updated 12/19/20 3 p.m.
December 19, 2012 (Ramona) – Cleveland National Forest Supervisor Will Metz today announced a decision to implement of a permit system for visiting Cedar Creek Falls. Initially, 75 permits per day for groups up to 5 people will be issued and can be reserved online. During peak season, the falls have drawn as many as 1,000 visitors –thus the permit system is apt to reduce the number of visitors who will be able to access the popular attraction during peak demand.
The Ramona trailhead to the falls, closed since July 2011 when 16-year-old Joseph Meram fell to his death, will be reopened in April when use permits take effect, Brian Harris at the USFS told ECM. However a permanent closure on cliffs above the falls was also announced, along with a permanent ban on alcohol in the Cedar Creek Falls area.
T Several other fatalities have occurred in the past from jumping and diving off cliffs. Metz did not refer to the deaths in his statement. However he indicated that the closure is expected to effectively prohibit jumping and diving.
Metz signed the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Cedar Creek Falls Visitor Use Permit System. According to a press release issued today, the decision stems from an Environmental Assessment conducted to study alternatives for managing visitor use and addressing natural resource damage concerns.
“Based on my evaluation of the alternatives and supporting documentation, I have selected Alternative 2, the proposed action, for implementation as this is the best, most balanced method available to us to restore public access to Cedar Creek Falls while addressing natural resource concerns,” said Metz.
This selected alternative will establish a visitor use permit area in the immediate vicinity of Cedar Creek Falls. It will also permanently prohibit the possession and consumption of alcohol in the visitor use permit area, at the San Diego River Gorge and Saddleback Trailheads, and along the San Diego River Gorge Trail and Eagle Peak Road that lead to the falls.
”Although members of the public have been visiting the falls for many decades, dramatic growth in visitation in recent years has resulted in a variety of issues, including medical emergencies and natural resource degradation. In addition to impacts on natural resources, high levels of public use have resulted in social issues related to parking and traffic congestion on County public roadways in the San Diego Country Estates (SDCE) neighborhood adjacent to the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead,” Metz said.
The USFS will monitor performance and impacts of the visitor use permit system using three metrics, Metz said. The metrics are: 1) litter left behind by area visitors, 2) wetland and riparian health, and 3) erosion resulting from the proliferation of user-created trails in the visitor use permit area. The Forest Service is not able to establish or use a metric that is not directly under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, such as impacts to the surrounding privately owned lands.
“The designation and implementation of a visitor permit area is intended to reduce the number of daily visitors to a manageable quantity,” added Metz. “It is our intent to continue to provide for an outstanding outdoor recreational opportunity, while being proactive about caring for the natural resources on these public lands, and to assist the public in providing for their own health and safety.”
Harris noted that the permit system may alleviate problems faced by nearby residents at Ramona Estates. "We are hopeful that the permit systemw ill reduce the number of vehicles on site, thus helping to solve the problem," he said, adding that the parking issue is within the County's jurisdiction.
The visitor use permit is a not a parking permit – limited parking space is available at the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead and is offered on a first-come, first served basis. The permit system will be enforced by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement. The violation for entry into a closure area is $75.
Under the visitor use permit system, a permit will only be required while recreating within the Cedar Creek Falls visitor use permit area around the falls. Other trail users including hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and hunters who are not recreating within the visitor use permit area or visiting the falls will not be required to obtain a visitor use permit, but they are still allowed to use and park in the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead parking lot free.
The permit system is expected to be implemented in April 2012. A $6 fee per permit will be charged for up to five people. Initially 75 permits for individuals or groups up to five will be issued. There is no limit on the number of permits per year that may be obtained, however permits may only be reserved 24 hours prior to a visit. All members of a party must be listed on the permit.
Permits may be reserved online 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) website.
The public has the right to appeal the decision. An appeal to this decision must be received in the office of the Forest Service by February 2, 2013. For more information on this project, please visit this link: http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project=37332