By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Kitchen Creek, where access in the vicinity has been limited by frequent road closures
September 7, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – In recent months, several readers have written to ask us why they are encountering “road closed” signs on roads in Cleveland National Forest that were formerly accessible to the public.
We learned that Cleveland National Forest publishes a webpage where you can get information on current road closures, along with the reasons which include weather, fire danger (sparks from vehicles and hunting have started major wildfires locally), law enforcement activities, health and safety, and habitat protection. The website is http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/cleveland/alerts-notices/?cid=stelprdb5340229
Reader Tom Lemon laments in an e-mail sent to Cleveland National Forest, “I drove from the Sunrise Highway to Interstate 8 many times on Kitchen Creek Road and enjoyed the wilderness experience; me and my sons spent many days there hiking and taking pictures. Now it’s “access denied.” What the heck?”
As of today, Kitchen Creek Road in the Descanso area is reopened, but remains subject to closure depending on weather and fire danger, according to the CNF website. Other roads are closed, however, including several in East County. Those include Bear Valley Road in Descanso (partially opened, but access to Buckman Springs Road is closed traveling south from Pine Valley), Miners Road in Descanso (closed due to threatened and endangered species concerns), and Thing Valley Road (closed due to weather conditions and resource concerns). Several other roads in the vicinity are listed as subject to closure as well.
Elsewhere in the Cleveland National Forest, there are also closures in the Palomar and Trabuco areas.
Maureen Anderson with the U.S. Forest Service told Lemon via e-mail that the reason for the closure of Kitchen Creek Road is Border Patrol issue. “Homeland Security trumps the Forest Service,” she wrote. “The road was being used as a means of evading the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-8. So was La Posta Road, which went all the way to the Sunrise [Highway].” Bear Valley Road, off Buckman Springs in the Descanso area, was also used to evade the checkpoint on Buckman Springs Road, she added. “There were some wild BP chases up Kitchen Creek Road that nearly resulted in fatalities; very dangerous for your average forest user.”
Public safety concerns led to closures, Anderson states, adding, “So that is why we don’t get to enjoy them anymore. I guess if they ever decide to remove these checkpoints in our lifetime the Forest Service will be allowed to open the gates.”
If you encounter a closed road, you are allowed to park near the gate without blocking vehicle access and hike or mountain bike around the gate, but not drive your vehicle.