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Six-foot Ivan Chavez from Santa Clarita stands next to Frosty, an 11-foot ambassador of fun built by snow play visitors in Frazier Mountain Park last weekend. [Mountain Enterprise photo / by Pam Sturdevant]
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Who can wonder why the crisp snow and pine trees on Mount Pinos attract snow visitors to the Los Padres National Forest lands? This is the parking lot at the Mil Potrero Y, at the top of Cuddy Valley on Sunday, Jan. 9 as visitors arrived to sled and throw snowballs.
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But litter left by 'snow bunny' visitors, along with cutting of fences and locks on private property, cause those who live here year 'round to post signs like these. Congestion of local roads is also an annoyance, and a safety concern. When traffic reaches gridlock, residents worry that emergency vehicles have no way to pass.
By Patric Hedlund
Just before the snow season begins each year, U.S. Forest Service officer Ian Lauchlin makes a little speech to an interagency summit conference of people responsible for public safety during the snow play season on Mount Pinos and surrounding forest lands.
Lauchlin is the Forest Protection Officer for the Mt. Pinos District of the Los Padres National Forest. At the core of his speech is this message: “These are public lands; the public has a right to be here.”
In recent years, as the volume of snow play visitors has increased, Mountain Community residents have been debating how it is possible to be good hosts while still maintaining safe roads, efficient transit for residents and access for emergency vehicles if the need should arise. Sometimes the voices are calm and reasonable. Sometimes they are not.
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been brainstorming about how to create local jobs and a safer, cleaner and more hospitable snow season. They hope to develop a snow play map, with legal parking spots and a reminder of snow play etiquette, such as using litter receptacles or ‘pack it in, pack it out’ messages. The ideas of business-sponsored trash cans and committees to greet visitors and give them the information about legal snow play are on the table. Some envision Cuddy Hall and local churches offering hot chocolate, information and parking. Hungry Valley State Park may plan to open for snow play at $5 per car.
Employees of The Crazy Duck Chinese Restaurant said their roadside invitations to snow visitors resulted in a full house of out-of-town guests for dinner last weekend.
CHP Public Information Officer Robert Shuck said, “It would solve a lot of issues if we had a place to park 1,000 cars.” He said CHP would be receptive to a committee of mountain ‘greeters’ at the CHP checkpoint, providing information to those who come here to play.
This is part of the January 14, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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