Mount Shasta Trail Association 2011 Highlights

Here’s what Mount Shasta Trail Association president Joe Wirth said about the many MSTA accomplishments for 2011 during our recent annual meeting. He discusses the importance of partnerships and how that has been relevant to much of MSTA’s work.

Joe Wirth’s Comments

If I were to choose one word that characterizes the Mt. Shasta Trail Association’s accomplishments in 2011 it would be PARTNERSHIPS. What do I mean when I say that?  Quite simply, when we review all of the projects we’ve been involved in, our PARTNERSHIPS were the consistent reason we were able to get things done.  And in 2012 one of our primary goals will be to continue to build and strengthen our partnerships.

Here in our small community, which has seen some tough economic times over the past months, we see building strong relationships and partnerships as a cost effective way to significantly expand our resources and everyone wins.

Here are three concrete examples of our current  PARTNERSHIPS: The Gateway Trail, The Hedge Creek Falls to Mossbrae Falls Trail, and the work being done to keep Castle Crags State Park open.

The Gateway Trail Project

Let’s start building the case for partnerships by looking at the Gateway Trail project. This has been a PARTNERSHIP between MSTA and the Forest Service plus the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and a number of local mountain bikers. CA State Parks and Recreation Department has also been involved and been a major source of funds to build the trail.

Each of these groups and organizations I mentioned played an important role and without all of these groups working together, especially the Forest Service, the project could not have moved forward at all.

As we think about the future of the Gateway Trail and how to make Mt. Shasta a destination for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians it is clear that creating a strong relationship with IMBA is very important and has great economic benefits for the Mt. Shasta area.

Hedge Creek to Mossbrae Falls Trail

Now let’s move on to our second example, Mossbrae Falls.  Mossbrae Falls has long been a popular destination for hikers in this area and the only way to get there is to hike along the railroad tracks. Those of you who have taken this hike know that there are several places where meeting an oncoming train presents a serious problem.  If you’ve been there you seen the steep bank down to the river on one side a high embankment on the other with not enough distance from the railroad tracks to feel comfortable. But many folks every year have decided that the risk is worth the reward.

However, this past November the feared accident did occur. A woman did not succeed in getting far enough out of the way and was hit in the head by a locomotive. Surprisingly, she was not killed and is expected to recover fully over time. That’s the good news. But clearly this shows that beyond the shadow of doubt the time has come to fix this problem

Before this event we began working in with the Dunsmuir City Manager, Union Pacific Railroad, and the St. Germain Foundation to create a trail to Mossbrae Falls that would branch off from the existing Hedge Creek Falls Trail and cross what is now St. Germain property. This is the first time that the railroad and St. Germain Foundation have been willing to consider this idea.

The plan is to obtain funding to purchase St. Germain land that would then be owned by the City of Dunsmuir and build a trail on that land. To that end we obtained a $10,000 grant from the Union Pacific Foundation and used the money to lay out the trail, survey the land (5.35) where the trail would located and get a appraisal of land value. We are currently negotiating with St. Germain Foundation on a purchase price for the land and hope to find a mutually acceptable answer in the next few months.

I have hiked the proposed trail route with Tom Hesseldenz and others and it is very scenic trail that winds down a steep hillside with numerous springs to the level of the river and to the falls. We will work hard to take advantage of the opportunity to resolve this safety hazard forever and create a hiking attraction for this area.

As you’ve listened to this, I hope you’ll agree that the Mossbrae Falls project clearly illustrates the power of partnership and it’s importance, not only for the community but, in this case, especially for trail users.

Castle Crags State Park

Finally, I would like to talk about one of our most publicized park and trail challenges, the proposed closing of Castle Crags State Park, because the progress we’ve made to date, once again exemplifies the power of partnership.

On May 23, 2011 CA Department of Parks and Recreation announced the planned closure of 70 State Parks including Castle Crags. Shortly after that announcement the Mt. Shasta Trail Association began working with Parks and Recreation, the Castle Crags Interpretative Association and recently with the Bioregional Ecology Center to find a way to keep the park open or at the very least to keep the trails accessible and in good condition.

Here’s where we are: We have negotiated an agreement with State Parks and Recreation that will allow us to work on trails within the park to provide trail maintainance and promote educational and interpretative activities around the trails. Since Castle Crags Interpretive Association’s contract with State Parks expired at the end of 2011 they have transferred most of their funds from activities in the park to MSTA and we have put those funds in a separate account earmarked for use only within Castle Crags. Specifically here’s how this will work:

  • Our agreement with the state includes a listing of trail projects for use of these funds.

We will most certainly need a corps of volunteers to work on Castle Crags trails this year and into the future. There us a volunteer signup sheet in the back for those of you interested in working in Castle Crags

  • Trails are only a portion of the Castle Crags operation and recently the Bioregional Ecology Center has become involved to find a way to keep the park completely in operation and they are actively working to mobilize community support for the park.
  • We are working with them to develop short and long term plans for keeping the park in operation – while State Parks is continuing to work on new models for park operation that narrow the gap between park costs and revenues.

The planned closure date of July 1st is rapidly approaching. Keeping the park open is important economically and for the quality of life in the communities of south Siskiyou County. Now is the time to come together individually and as organizations to keep Castle Crags open.  Now is the time for us to show the power of partnerships

Finally, I hope you’ll leave here tonight an advocate for teamwork and partnerships, if you’re not already, and that having heard the progress reports on the Gateway Trail, Mossbrae Falls Trail and Castle Crags project, you too are now convinced of the power of working together.

Your Thoughts…

Please share your thoughts and ideas about these issues and any others you think relevant to the mission of the Mount Shasta Trail Association in the comments below.

Help Open Castle Crags State Park: Attend This Meeting on Thursday!

The Mount Shasta Trail Association, the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, and many other groups and individuals are working hard to reopen Castle Crags State Park.

But we need your help and your input.

There’s a very important public meeting at Sisson Museum in Mount Shasta at 5:30 PM this Thursday, February 16. There will be updates on current efforts and plans and ample opportunity for you to voice your concerns and share your ideas.

This meeting will be covered by local and regional media and it will have a substantial impact on local and state law-makers and bureaucrats. We need you there!

Please share this post and this information any way you can: e-mail, Facebook, etc.

On the trail to Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park.
On the trail to Castle Dome in Castle Crags State Park.

Thoughts on Closure of Castle Crags State Park

by Joe Wirth, President of the Mount Shasta Trail Association

On Saturday, June 18th, I was one of fifteen hikers from the Mt. Shasta Trail Association visiting Castle Crags State Park. Our destination was the base of Castle Dome to experience its well known panoramic view, but along the way the skyline, filled by the surrounding mountains, made a memorable impression of its own. As we reached the top of the trail, Mt. Shasta and its indescribable beauty simply dominated! Our group agreed this is “the” best place to lunch, and the trail is just plain fun. You can enjoy the extraordinary view, breathe the mountain air, and experience a feeling of pure openness and freedom. But I’m concerned.

Since our hike I have confirmed that there are plans for Castle Crags to close in July of 2012. In other words, the experiences our hiking group had may no longer be possible starting next year. Public access to this gem of a state park will be limited or denied altogether. It is a loss for all of us. We should not allow it to happen!

The rationale for our loss is to save money in the state budget; $11million in the first year and $22 million in the second by closing seventy state parks including Castle Crags and others in northern California. When I examine this rationale, it appears that very little long term thought has gone into the idea. There is no strategic plan for closing these parks and there appears to be limited understanding of the cost impact, either at the state or local levels. A recent panel discussion on KIXE made it very clear to quote one of the participants “we are making this up as we go along”. As stewards of these extraordinary public parks we deserve better! To save these treasures, we must all make a personal decision to become actively involved and make our views known to those who represent us locally and in Sacramento.

At the state level there seems to be no consideration given to the fact that while park closure makes all the revenues go away, it does not make the costs disappear. There are ongoing costs for maintenance of equipment, facilities and forests and for dealing with the vandalism and theft that are inevitable. These latter things are more than hypothetical since they occur now even when park rangers are present and can act to minimize their effects. When rangers are no longer present only bad outcomes will follow and get worse over the years. The real cost savings are likely to be significantly smaller than projected. And, at the state level where budget problems are in the billions, the results will be little more than a speck of dust. A very corrosive speck!

Let’s examine the impact of next July’s projected closure of Castle Crags on our south Siskiyou County businesses. Estimates from studies on the impact of state parks on local economies have found that for every dollar spent in the park, an average of $2.67 is spent in the surrounding communities. In the case of Castle Crags this amounts to over $300,000 annually from the 70,000 visitors who come to the park each year. While Dunsmuir will be most affected, Mt. Shasta, Weed and McCloud will also experience economic losses. This is hardly a time to inflict damage on local economies that are already struggling.

What can we do?

(1) Each of us can make our views known to our state and local representatives by taking the time to write letters, make calls and when possible talk directly to: the governor and lieutenant governor , the leaders of the state legislature, our local representatives to the state legislature and the head of California Parks and Recreation. Please know that I’m not usually a letter writer either, but faced with our imminent losses, I’m willing to become proactive.

(2) We can ask our local city council members to pass resolutions opposing the closure of Castle Crags. Our community should not allow this to simply slide by and do nothing to prevent the damage that will occur. Complaining after the fact will not help.

While we are actively opposing these park closures, we completely support developing a well thought out plan which we feel is essential before proposing and taking any action. For example: Can fees be modestly increased without seriously impacting park usage? (Fees are not taxes since use of park facilities is voluntary.) Can volunteer organizations contribute more? (Yes, but we do not believe that volunteer organizations can successfully operate a state park. However, they can and do take on well-defined tasks and special projects under the supervision of park rangers.) Is there an increased role for concessionaires? (Maybe. In my opinion the idea that private operators can always do a job better and more cheaply than government while making an acceptable profit is not automatically true.) Is there a possible partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, especially in a park like Castle Crags that is surrounded by Forest Service land including a wilderness area? (An idea worth investigating)

Finally, to you determined readers who have made it this far, please take some time to make your views known and take an active role in protecting this place, our home– “where heaven and earth meet.”

Governor Jerry Brown
State Capitol
Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom
State Capitol
Suite 1114
Sacramento, CA 95814

Speaker of the Assembly
John A. Perez
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0046

Senate President pro Tem
Darrell Steinberg
State Capitol
Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

Director Ruth Coleman
Dept of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296

Doug La Malfa
State Capitol
Room 3070
Sacramento, CA 94248-0001

Assembly Member Jim Nielsen
State Capitol
Room 6031
Sacramento, CA 94249-0002

Mike Rodriguez
Mt. Shasta Recreation and Parks District
P.O. Box 314
Mt. Shasta, CA 965067

PCT Maintenance and Training in Castle Crags State Park, June 25, 2011

Summer is finally here – Are you ready to hit the trails?

It’s time to replace our winter boots, scarves, and mittens with hiking boots, hard hats and gloves! We’re ready to hit the trails and we would love for you join us! The Mount Shasta Trail Association and the Pacific Crest Trail Association invite you on a one-day trail maintenance and training session where we’ll learn about:

* Trail Safety
* Trail Maintenance Tools
* Terminology

We’ll apply our new knowledge to the Pacific Crest Trail by repairing tread and improving the corridor. This project is great for beginner’s and for those who are ready to get warmed up for a great trail maintenance season! In other words, all skill levels are welcome!

When: Saturday, June 25 from 9:00 am to 2:00ish pm

Where: Parking area at Soda Creek Road Exit (this is where the PCT crosses I-5 just north of the Castle Crags State Park entrance). Directions will be provided upon registration.

What to Bring: Volunteers will need to bring day packs, lunch, water, and work clothes (i.e. pants, sturdy boots). Safety gear and tools will be provided.

Fitness Requirement: This project is great for everyone! Volunteers will hike 1-2 miles throughout the day on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Positions Available: 10-12

Nearby attractions: Camping and hiking in Castle Crags State Park, fishing along the Sacramento River, and gazing at beautiful Mount Shasta!

To Register: Please contact Robert Francisco at Shastamountain@gmail.com or call (916) 955-8641.

We’re looking forward to seeing you on the Pacific Crest Trail!

Castle Dome Hike in Castle Crags State Park

This Saturday, June 12, join the Mount Shasta Trail Association on this strenuous and sometimes steep 5.5 mile roundtrip hike to the sky scraping granite spires called the Castle Crags. The elevation gain is 2200 feet. We will first walk through the forest to Indian Springs and then hike out in the open, amid the granite slabs and pinnacles where the postcard views of Mt. Shasta and the Crags become more and more spectacular.

Castle Crags are actually part of the Klamath Mountains, not the Cascade Range, and are much older. They were formed by granitic magma slowly cooling underground (as a “pluton”) and subsequently becoming exposed at the surface through uplifting and erosion. This is the same way that the granites of Yosemite formed. In fact, the Klamath Mountains broke off from the Sierra Nevada about 60 million years ago. Mount Shasta, in contrast, was formed by relatively recent surface eruptions (within the last several million years), and its rock is andesite (a type of basalt).

We will meet at the Fish Hatchery (central Mount Shasta exit and then west, away from Mount Shasta) at 9 am and carpool to Castle Crags State Park. Bring lunch and water. We will return about 4:30 pm.

For further information contact Joan Roemer at 926-0647.

John Soares at age 30 hiking toward Castle Dome. (Photo by Rick Ramos)
John Soares at age 30 hiking toward Castle Dome. (Photo by Rick Ramos)