By Karen Brainard
Joan Friedlander with the U.S. Forest Service updated the Ramona Community Planning Group on the process to devise a management plan for the Cedar Creek Falls trail.
Dialogue with stakeholders will be included, she told planners at their meeting last Thursday.
The forest service temporarily closed the Cedar Creek Falls trail, also called the San Diego River Gorge Trail, on July 8 to formulate a better plan to manage the trail’s use and safety issues.
“We have to deal with the number of people going down there,” Friedlander said.
After the forest service created a gentler grade to the trail, hundreds of hikers showed up on the weekends to see the waterfalls, neighbors of the trailhead at the end of Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates said.
The closure followed the July 4 weekend in which eight helicopter rescues took place at the trail and the July 6 death of an El Cajon teenager who reportedly slipped off a rock outcropping and fell 80 feet at the falls.
Friedlander told planning group members that within 10 days the forest service would hold a forum with stakeholders to hear concerns and possible solutions to better manage the trail. Such stakeholders will include neighbors of the trailhead and law enforcement, she said.
“We want to have some representation of the different people who use it,” said Friedlander.
Attendance at the forum will be by invitation, she said, but, once the forest service has a proposal it will reach out for public involvement.
Friedlander added that the forest service wants a safe recreational area that can co-exist with neighbors.
Those neighbors complained of excessive cars lining their streets, young people partying, littering and other problems. Some neighbors also said they had recommended the forest service install the trailhead at the end of Ramona Oaks Road where it would have had less impact on homeowners.
Other plans of the forest service are to bring in an on-site host and to educate the public about the trail through websites and social networking sites, said Friedlander.
She said there has been a trend with YouTube videos showing youths jumping from cliffs into the pool of water at the falls.
“It’s gone viral. It’s taken on glamorization,” she said.
In the past four years, Friedlander said she has seen a doubling of youths at accessible waterfalls in the area. She also said Cedar Creek Falls has long been a popular site and problems have occurred in the past with people diving 75 feet off the cliffs.
“There have been fatalities going back a long time,” she told the planning group.
RCPG member Dennis Sprong said that, as a taxpayer, he wondered if the U.S. Forest Service is paying for the San Diego County sheriff’s deputies posted at the trailhead to enforce the closure.
Friedlander said no, because the county has the responsibility for search and rescue at the site.