60,000 Snow Visitors Leave Fun, Litter and Questions Behind

[Republished from last week's edition; See the slide show attached]

The factoids are drifting in like snowfall flurries now, and they are startling. Sgt. Darrell Brooks of California Highway Patrol’s Fort Tejon station reports CHP estimates 30,000 snow play visitors hit the Mountain Communities each day of the January 23-24 weekend. He said that the per-day figure is “conservative.”

“It was a steady stream of cars for six hours on Sunday with a minimum of four people in each car. We just did the math,” he said. There were even more cars, vans and buses loaded with large families and playful groups from the urban areas surrounding us on Saturday.

Brooks said CHP shut down traffic on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. at the Flying J to let in “residents only from that point, where the frontage road merges back onto Frazier Mountain Park Road, because there was nowhere for anyone to park.”

There were 12 CHP officers on duty on Saturday and Sunday. Brooks’ patrol area was from Lebec to Frazier Mountain Park (the four-way stop). When asked how many citations were issued over that time, Brooks said “None. We were too busy on traffic control.”

On Saturday afternoon, from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. it took 75 minutes to travel from Lebec to Frazier Park on Frazier Mountain Park Road.

At the end of the daisy chain of villages that make up the Mountain Communities however, questions like those of Andy Khalil, co-owner of Pine Mountain General Store were being asked: “If a family from Bakersfield wants to bring their kids up to play in the snow, and they have a four-wheel-drive vehicle with chains; why do they have to be a resident to drive out on Mil Potrero Highway, have lunch in Pine Mountain and enjoy the snow further west? They have a properly equipped vehicle and these are public roadways.”

Clearly, some people on the western part of the mountain didn’t know what was being experienced on the eastern side, although snow visitors from Santa Maria, Taft and the Santa Barbara areas created their own traffic jam on Cerro Noereste, just west of Pine Mountain as cars skidded out of control on the ice and snow. One central coast family had to have a Kern County Search and Rescue Team extract them from snowdrifts earlier in the week.It is clear that this conversation has just begun. Next week, this report continues.

–Reporting by P. Hedlund, K. Penland and G. Meyer

This is part of the February 05, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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