Public access to Cedar Creek Falls is scheduled to be allowed from Ramona this spring, but hikers will need a permit, according to the Cleveland National Forest.
New restrictions will also prohibit alcohol in the visitor use permit area and will implement permanent closure of cliffs immediately surrounding the falls to public entry, prohibiting jumping and diving from the cliffs.SD river gorge trail sign.WEBstory
Cleveland National Forest Supervisor Will Metz signed the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Cedar Creek Falls Visitor Use Permit System, based on an environmental assessment that was conducted. Metz said the alternative he chose was the most balanced method available “to restore public access to Cedar Creek Falls while addressing natural resource concerns.”
The forest service will establish a visitor use permit area at the San Diego River Gorge and Saddleback trailheads, and along the San Diego River Gorge Trail and Eagle Peak Road that lead to the falls. The San Diego River Gorge trailhead that provides access to Cedar Creek Falls from Ramona is at the end of Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates. That trailhead has been closed since July 2011, following numerous rescues and the death of a teenager who fell at the falls.
The new system is scheduled to be implemented in early April 2013. Until then, existing closures will remain in effect.
Initially 75 visitor use permits for individuals and/or groups of up to five people will be available each day by reservation. Permits to visit the falls will be reserved through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) website. Reserving a permit will require a $6 administrative fee per permit for up to 5 people to NRRS. Rules and regulations of the permit system will be enforced by forest service law enforcement.
Cedar Creek Falls has long been a popular recreation destination, but an increase in visitors resulted in more medical emergencies, natural resource degradation, and parking and traffic congestion in the Estates, said the forest service.
Under the visitor use permit system, a permit will only be required while recreating within the Cedar Creek Falls visitor use permit area, which is located in the immediate area around the falls. Other trail users including hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and hunters who are not recreating within the visitor use permit area or visiting the falls will not be required to obtain a visitor use permit, but are still allowed to use and park in the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead parking lot free-of-charge. Parking is limited.
Metts said the permit system will be governed by an adaptive management system using three metrics: litter left behind by area visitors, wetland and riparian health, and erosion resulting from the proliferation of user-created trails in the visitor use permit area.
The decision is subject to appeals. A written appeal, including attachments, must be received in the forest service office by Feb. 2, 2013. For more information, visit data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?project=37332.