Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 Repair July 19th & 20th 2019

Use this forum to report and discuss trails in need of maintenance. This will help organizations like TKO and agencies like the Forest Service get the most recent on-the-ground trail conditions.
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Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 Repair July 19th & 20th 2019

Post by jvangeld » October 7th, 2018, 4:32 pm

As anyone who has driven to the Silver Star Trailhead knows, forest road 4109 is in terrible shape. The Forest Service knows this but has been unable to fix it. So I would like to start a volunteer effort to do some road maintenance. I know that the Chinook Trails Association and Washington Trails Association has built some great trails up on Silver Star. But access to the main trailhead is being lost because of a lack of road maintenance.

To my eyes, the primary problem on the road is damaged water blocks which lead to rutting. You all have a lot more experience with trail maintenance than I do, so if you are aware of any other problems, please list them. But I think that, if we got 50 people up there for a weekend with hand tools, we could repair a significant section of the road. Would any of the local associations or agencies be interested in organizing or supporting such an event in the Summer of 2019?

I have visions of a big camping event every Summer, featuring blueberry pancakes, where a bunch of people get together and maintain a section of road 41 or one of it's subsidiaries. There are many places in the road 41 system where there is gravel, it just isn't sitting in the ruts or the potholes anymore. If some people got together with rakes and compactors, we could probably improve the situation. Who is with me? Who can tell me why it won't work?

When: Friday July 19th at 11:00 AM through Saturday July 20th from 9 AM to 6:00 PM

Where: The junction of USFS Road 4109 and DNR Road 1100 ... 722,16.75z

What to bring: Sturdy boots, gloves, a gallon of water, a sack lunch and any digging or cutting tools that you would like to use. Shovels, pickaxes, tampers, bowsaws, pruners, machetes and hoes would all be useful. Eye protection and hearing protection are also recommended. Domino's pizza will be provided for dinner on Saturday so please let us know if you intend to be there for that.

Communications: (360) 335-4528, FRS Channel 9.

Rough Schedule: On Friday morning I and some others will arrive and start removing brush from the shoulders, ditches and waterbar areas. We will also remove some logs. Friday evening I will camp either up at the junction or down on Copper Creek.

Then, on Saturday morning, some mechanical force multipliers will arrive and we will rebuild a waterbar, clean out a ditch, and place two yards of new gravel to fill a rut. We may accomplish more than that depending on how many additional helpers come up, but those are our minimum goals. After work finishes up around 5, we will eat pizza and toast the day's work. Any of you are welcome to come and go at any time during the event. We will find work for you to do. But most of all, we will leave the road in a better condition than when we found it, and we will have fun.
Last edited by jvangeld on July 13th, 2019, 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by justpeachy » October 8th, 2018, 6:53 am

The Forest Service would have to sign off on any repair efforts, which would be the major hurdle. They would want it done right to engineering standards. I've never heard of volunteers repairing roads, only trails.

Apparently that last 2.7 miles of road to the trailhead was supposed to be repaired this year. This interesting bit of news was posted in the comments section of this post in the Portland Hikers Facebook group recently:
The Mount Adams Ranger District had $70k last year to fix the road. Due to lack of internal communication between engineering and recreation, the money was spent of the section of Road 4109 between Road 41 and the junction with DNR's Road 1100. The money ran out before the contractor got to the final 2.5 miles to the trailhead. It has taken me a long time to get over my outrage about the mismanagement. Now the District Ranger wants $300k to build a super-road with lots of culverts. She is not likely to get that kind of funding any time soon, unless, as someone said above, there is "vegetation management" (aka timber sale) along the road. The old road with waterbars worked fine for years, but it didn't get regular maintenance so the drains filled in and the waterbars broke down, allowing water to gully down the road.
And this follow-up:
I heard this evening that the MA District Ranger is reviewing several engineering options for repair of Road 4109 to the trailhead.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by jvangeld » October 8th, 2018, 6:19 pm

Thanks for the reply, justpeachy. That is good news! A re-designed road 4109 could be much more driveable and easier to maintain in the future.

Still, this idea of volunteer road maintenance is sticking with me. I read the FHWA's Gravel Roads Construction and Maintenance booklet today. It describes all the ways that a grader can be used to maintain gravel roads. It turns out that graders can clean some ditches and return gravel from the shoulders to the crown of the road. I will keep reading up on gravel road maintenance.

I have seen the grader parked at Sunset Falls Campground a number of times. But obviously the budget to run it can't keep up with the amount of road there is to repair. A new road 4109 would improve access to Silver Star, but there are a lot more roads which a volunteer group could potentially repair. Whether that means partnering with an excavation company or doing guerilla work with hand tools; I feel that something could be done. I'll keep looking into it.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by Webfoot » October 8th, 2018, 6:38 pm

I think this is a great idea and I wish you luck with the project. Unfortunately I am unsuited to that kind of work. The old saying "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission" comes to mind, and I think the FS would have to be jerks to punish you for improving an existing, open, and used road, but I guess there's only one way to find out if they are...

A couple of pick-up loads of #3 crushed rock would probably patch the worst parts of that road, until the FS gets around to doing it right.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by Gray Jay » October 9th, 2018, 8:17 pm

Another "guerrilla" road project would be brushing. So many roads accessing trailheads have alders, ceanothus and other brush and conifers closing in on the road right-of-way leading first to loss of sight distance, and then to scratching and scraping of paint on vehicles trying to squeak through.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by jvangeld » October 12th, 2018, 6:40 pm

I can understand why the Forest Service would have concern about volunteers working on their roads. There are safety concerns, and concerns that the road would end up worse than when it started. Starting with the safety concerns; road work is dangerous. In 2014 119 roadway construction workers died, according to the FHWA. Road work exposes you to a lot of liability. For this reason, road construction companies do these things to improve safety:
  • Train their employees in CPR/First Aid
  • Train their employees in road work safety
  • Keep a safety coordinator on site at all times
  • Have daily safety briefings
  • Carry a lot of insurance
And that is not an exhaustive list. The Forest Service reasonably expects any organization that works on it's roads to do all those things. With that said, there are some mitigating factors for the work we might do. For one thing, we are talking about degraded gravel roads, not I-5. All those potholes and ruts and waterbars are pretty effective at traffic calming. Also, there are roads behind locked gates where motorized vehicles are not allowed at all. Maintaining the closed roads could be a pilot project for volunteer maintenance. Finally, the risks, though still present, go down as you get further away from the driving lane. Work on the shoulder is not as dangerous as work on the driving lane. Work on the ditches is less dangerous than that. And work on the culverts may be even less dangerous.

So, there are safety concerns, but what could we actually do? Gray Jay's idea of brushing is excellent. I came up with this list, ordered roughly from easiest to most involved:
  1. Remove landslide rocks from the road
  2. Brush out the road
  3. Recover gravel from the shoulders of the road
  4. Clean culverts
  5. Clean ditches
  6. Fill ruts and potholes with material recovered by the above tasks
  7. Repair waterbars, possible by excavating material from the uphill side of the waterbar and placing it on the damaged section?
  8. Regrade the road
  9. Add new gravel
With that said, I think work on the shoulders and ditches would be the most valuable, including brushing. Especially if we do that on a road that the Forest Service intends to grade. If the grader comes to a road where he can clearly see into the ditches, he will be able to work without getting out of the grader. Which should help him do a better job and stay on budget.

I am going up there tomorrow to look at what has been done.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by jvangeld » October 14th, 2018, 7:33 pm

Well, I drove up from Sunset Falls yesterday. That portion of road 41 was worse than it was last May. But 4109 itself has been graded to the L1100 junction. I walked about a half-mile up 4109 beyond the junction and it was in pretty terrible condition. It the point I stopped, shortly after a switchback, there was a three-foot deep gully in the middle of the road. Another spot, where a waterbar had filled up, I followed a mudflow forty feet back into the woods. There are not ditches on the side of the road, so the road has become the ditch.

I brought a hoe and a bowsaw to test my theory about volunteer road maintenance. And the results were encouraging. All of you who have maintained trails before will probably roll your eyes at they way I am re-deriving what you already know. But I am running an experiment this winter on Road 41, about a half mile in.

Last edited by jvangeld on May 19th, 2019, 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by retired jerry » October 15th, 2018, 5:52 am

interesting, good work

I don't think anyone would mind people using hand tools to maintain road. I've often though about bringing a hoe or shovel. Often, just one place could be fixed up and improve access.

I suspect putting gravel in a pothole or rut is temporary. After a few cars, the gravel will be kicked back out.

Maybe digging up around the pothole would work??? Make the edges gradual. Go ahead and fill it back in again which might be temporary. Run your tires over it a bunch of times to try and compress the fill. You'd need a substantial tool, like a pulaski, to dig up the existing road.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by jvangeld » October 19th, 2018, 7:26 pm

Thanks for the encouragement, Jerry. I agree that merely adding gravel to potholes isn't likely to be a permanent fix. But I think we could create a lot of benefit by focusing on waterbars and rut prevention.

I'm targeting the weekend of July 20th, 2019 for a road repair event somewhere on the Road 41 system. That will give some time to survey road conditions after the Spring melt and find some good locations to repair. When I survey the road, I might use OpenStreetCam to capture the road, and then send the link to the Ranger.

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Re: Gifford Pinchot Road 4109 to Silver Star Trailhead

Post by K.Wagner » March 5th, 2019, 12:20 pm

As usual, a little late on joining the discussion .....

I know the 41 road pretty well, have been driving it for a long time now. I recognized that turn, as soon as I saw it in the video. It will be interesting to see if your efforts will be noticeable after the spring snow melt. I hope so!

I do a fair amount of that kind of work myself, on both roads & trails. I guess its the way I was brought up, that if a person sees someplace that they can improve, with the tools & time that they have, they have some obligation to do what they can.
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