The decision last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to close the River Gorge Trail (Cedar Falls Trail) until November comes as no surprise. Back in 2005, plans for a trail and trailhead were developed to address recurring safety and resource protection problems. The rugged access to the falls has resulted in many serious injuries including paralysis and several fatalities over the past few decades. In fact, the Cedar Creek Falls area has the highest amount of rescues in the San Diego County Sheriff’s jurisdiction.
The just completed trailhead and trail reconstruction project included a gently graded hiking trail, public easement with vehicle parking, restrooms, trash cans, information kiosks and more. Accidents take place all the time and unfortunately some are tragic. Would better enforcement and more signage with warnings help? Absolutely. But it would not stop accidents from happening no matter what the circumstances or how prepared or unprepared you are. Just recently a baseball fan in Texas fell out of the stands and died catching a ball that was tossed to him from an outfielder. A man was mauled to death by a bear in a state park because the bear felt threatened and was protecting her cubs. A biker was killed when an SUV lost control on the freeway, went up a steep embankment through a fence and struck the cyclist on a bike path.
We all take risks every day, some more dangerous than others. Cedar Creek Falls is a beautiful place, but it can also be very dangerous, and every safety precaution should be implemented. The forest service must decide if the risks outweigh the rewards of this area. Let’s hope Cedar Creek Falls can be re-opened sooner than later.