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Public comments due by March 25

By Miriam Raftery

February 25, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Three Sisters Falls is one of the most beautiful natural attractions in East County – a trio of waterfalls and natural swimming holes in a wilderness area within Cleveland National Forest.  But the falls are also among the most difficult scenic sites to access.

Now Cleveland National Forest’s Palomar Ranger District is planning a major recreation management   project at Three Sisters Falls, located near Boulder Creek Road between Santa Ysabel  and Descanso. The proposed action is to adopt and/or construct a Level 2 System Trail to Three Sisters Falls, to decommission and restore existing user-created trails, and to clear and construct  a primitive dirt or gravel parking area off of Boulder Creek Road, also adding a kiosk with educational materials.

The purpose of this project is to  address concerns related to public health and safety, resource impacts from unmanaged recreation use, and compromised access along Boulder Creek Road for area residents and emergency vehicles during high-use periods at Three Sisters Falls, says district ranger Joan Friedlander.

The user-created trails cross steep, rugged terrain and riparian areas.  Last year, an average of 100 to 200 people a day used the trails to Three Sisters Falls, exceeding 400 people a day at peak periods. This has resulted in public health and safety issues including heat illness, traumatic injuries resulting from hikers falling as they attempt to reach the falls, and lost hikers. (photo, right: user-created trail requires rappeling with rope down a rocky face)

There have also been problems of widespread soil erosion, watershed impacts, plant and wildlife impacts, and impediments to traffic flow on Boulder Creek Road including impeding access to emergency vehicles and area residents.

While the U.S. Forest Service believes the proposed changes will improve safety , access and environmental protections, one key issue is that improving access could also increase the number of visitors to Three Sisters Falls. That could necessitate a permit system to restrict dailyvisitors, as was implemented after changes were made to trails leading to Cedar Creek Falls.

A letter sent February 25, 2015 by Cleveland National Forest initiates the 30-day scoping period for the Three Sisters Falls Recreation Management  Project Environmental Assessment (EA). A project description and map are available online at: .

You can submit electronic comments at with the subject line Three Sisters Falls Recreation Management. Comments may also be mailed or hand delivered during business hours (M-F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm) to: Joan Friedlander, Attn: Bjorn Fredrickson, Palomar Range  District, 1634 Black Canyon Road, Ramona, CA 92065. Finally, comments may be submitted by FAX to (760) 788-6130. Names of commenters will be part of the public record subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Any comments received by March 25, 2015 will be included in the project record.

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