First off, I'd like to thank Carla Boucher for flying into our State to present our case officially to the Forest Service. Her time speant on this project is much appreciated and quite refreshing.FL4WDA's appeal letterUFWDA's appeal letter
The USFS contacted Carla Boucher of United Four Wheel Drive and setup a meeting to discuss our appeal with some of the decision makers of the Access Designation. Those in attendance are shown below (spelling is believed to be accurate):
Carla Boucher, United Four Wheel Drive
Jason Kawaja, Florida Four Wheel Drive
Jennifer Hawkins, Florida Four Wheel Drive
David Harris, USFS
Will Ebaugh, USFS
Bret Bush, USFS
Harlod Shenk, USFS
Rick Lint, USFS
The four counts in United's appeal letter we discussed for the majority of our meeting while some discussions spun off at times concerning various aspects of implementation of the Access Designation Plan and such. Please refer to United's appeal letter (link above) to assist making sense of what is below.
What follows are portions of notes I took during the meeting. Far more was discussed however these are some of the points of interests to most of our members, feel free to ask questions on these or other issues.
* Concentrated Use Areas were defined by the FS as "areas" of high impact, could be a section of trail, intersection of another trail, mud hole, water hole, pond, sand pit, etc.
* The Concentrated Use Areas were identified after the workgroup was concluded (public involvement).
* There was no analysis conducted as to whether each Concentrated Use Area needed to be closed or remained open, Rodman Sand Pit was left open from what appears to be convinence.
* The milage of unclassified roads to remain open (or to be closed) as listed in the FEIS is likely inaccurate and needs ammending. (They listed more miles closed than the Impact Statement showed as existing)
* It was shown (proven in the meeting) that the number of unclassified roads to remain open (or to be closed) was predetermined.
* Closed trails will not be blocked or signed unless it is deteremined that there is visitor confusion when reading a map and riding the trail.
* The policy of "Closed Unless Posted Open" was done out of ease of signage/enforcement.
* The change in term from "Concentrated Use Area" to "Day Use Area" does in fact indicate the FS wanting to close off those areas for night use.
The meeting was anticipated by FL4WDA to have permitted far more interest in our appeal than a lecture on how the Forest Service is attempting to correct many years of failure to achieve their goals and purpose for the Ocala National Forest. While FL4WDA is sympathetic to the intent of the FEIS and to the charge the Forest Service has we also feel strongly about sustaining a reasonable amount of recreation in an area that our members have graciously volunteered numerous hours of assistance and continue to. It appeared rather evident that our appeal points and further discussion about them (validating our reasoning) are to be denied. Where we go from here is being discussed.
When the Forest Service makes an official statement publicly or to Carla Boucher I will update here (FL4WDA Thread)
Many thanks for your attention.