Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

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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Splintercat
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Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by Splintercat » October 26th, 2015, 8:09 pm

Folks, we are in the process of losing a battle that TKO has been working on for nearly four years: it looks like the Mirror Lake Trailhead on the Mount Hood Highway will eventually close, and new trailhead will be constructed from a site that doesn't require shoulder parking. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been pushing this for some time, now, but for awhile the Forest Service pushed back. That seems to have changed, and while it's still worth commenting in support of keeping BOTH the existing and new trailheads open, this will be an uphill battle. Here's the official notice:
The Project Partners will be conducting an open house for the Project to provide additional information on the project's purpose and need, alternatives, and resource issues of concern. The open house will be held on October 29, 2015, 6-8 pm at the Zigzag District Office, 70220 E Highway 26, Zigzag, OR 97049. Following that meeting, displays and other materials will be posted on the project webpage.
Here is the official web page for the project:

http://www.flh.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/or/mirror-lake/

There's not much info there, now, but you can subscribe for updates on the project.

Background

The Forest Service received a grant in 2014 that is funding their analysis of different trailhead options. The most promising option from a logistics standpoint is simply using the Ski Bowl parking area, but the resort has concerns about that, as you might guess.

You have probably seen other changes in the area. ODOT is midway through a major widening of the Mount Hood Highway that will bring a freeway-style concrete barrier to the entire Laurel Hill grade, from Government Camp all the way down to the Kiwanis Camp Road (the old highway section that leads to Little Zigzag Falls). This means that the historic trailheads at Laurel Hill and Mirror Lake will only be accessible from the eastbound highway, and that Portland area hikers leaving Mirror Lake would need to drive east to Government Camp and turn around to head west. Likewise, hikers coming from the east would need to drive to the bottom of the hill, and turn around at Kiwanis Camp Road to reach the Laurel Hill and Mirror Lake trailheads.

For now, the project proposes fifty parking spaces in a new lot constructed somewhere else in the vicinity. That sounds small (and it is), considering the size of crowds on a typical weekend at Mirror Lake, but that's intentional. The Forest Service is looking to reduce the human impact on Mirror Lake, with a parking area sized to what they would see as the optimal maximum for the area. If the new parking area and trail is located at Ski Bowl, there is obviously a large existing parking area that will allow a lot more than 50 parties to visit the trail in the off-season for the resort. The Ski Bowl concerns come from winter use, when snowshoers and backcountry skiers might use the parking area to visit Mirror Lake, and displace resort visitors.

If you find yourself grieving the loss of the historic trailhead, here's something else to consider: the project proposes to restore the existing shoulder parking area to some sort of natural condition. So, if you comment on the proposal, consider commenting on how this restoration might work to benefit Camp Creek, which is now heavily affected by highway runoff and the impacts of parking here. While it might not be a welcome change for hikers used to this trailhead, it could benefit Camp Creek -- something to consider, assuming this change is inevitable.

Feel free to post questions or comments about the proposal on this thread, and I will post updates as I learn about them.

Tom

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Splintercat
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by Splintercat » November 30th, 2015, 10:00 pm

I've completed the first two of a three-part article on the trailhead project on my blog that might be of interest if you're following the Mirror Lake project. As always, lots of geeky detail if you're interested, including maps of the various options under consideration:

A New Vision for Mirror Lake - Part 1

A New Vision for Mirror Lake - Part 2

It's worth weighing on with your thoughts on the options -- info on how to comment at the bottom of the second article. Make your voice heard -- only a few ever weigh in on these projects! Thanks in advance!

Tom :)

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miah66
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by miah66 » December 1st, 2015, 9:22 am

Thanks for taking the time to do this! Another great article. I rarely if ever hike this trail, so my feelings on it's use and relocation are pretty neutral. I understand the desire to stand up for better protections for Camp Creek, however. It's kind of disheartening to see when ODOT and other agencies like the Forest Service seem to steamroll over opportunities for improvement and implement lowest common denominator solutions on a broad scale, so trying to steer these kinds of projects in the planning and commenting period is important. Thanks again for all your work on this.
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markesc
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by markesc » December 20th, 2015, 4:29 pm

Tom thanks again for your work and dedication!

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Waffle Stomper
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by Waffle Stomper » December 22nd, 2015, 7:17 am

Thank you for the update. This is challenge for both ODOT and USFS. It's a big challenge to manage the needs of commerce, public use of our forests and the preservation of our natural resources.

You said in part 2, "As I have argued before on this blog, placing physical barriers to outdoor recreation is tragically short sighted if our goal as a society it to encourage people to be more active and to enjoy and take responsibility for our public lands. Thus, I favor other strategies for addressing heavy use on trails, including peak parking fees at the busiest trailheads." I find this is the most difficult part for me to wrap my head around. In order for a people and society as a whole to appreciate and value our wildlands they need to have access, and unfortunately I believe some areas need to be sacrificed to allow that access. The experience makes it personal beyond an image on a computer monitor. Making trail less accessible pushes people to other areas and shifting that wear and tear elsewhere. Putting fees on top of fees for trailheads also limits access for people who have limited financial resources, making our public lands less public. Yet on the flip side of it, I understand that these areas will soon wear out. I'm not sure what the answer is.

We live in a growing metropolitan area and access to nature is part of the experience. In addition there is a divide between the east and west sides of the Cascades. Bend and it's surrounds is growing and the need of a safe highway for commerce and vehicles is undeniable and not just to allow skiers to speed to the slopes.

It's a delicate balance. I wish I had an answer. I know I've seen it all degrade in the last few years and I am very sad.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir

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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by sprengers4jc » December 22nd, 2015, 11:29 am

When passing through this area this past weekend, I couldn't see the area where the winter TH parking normally is, but pink spray paint was everywhere on the snow from the TH to SkiBowl, warning 'Do Not Park Here.' Is it possible they have already killed this parking option? And the only people we saw attempting it seemed to be coming from SkiBowl.
'We travel not to escape life but for life to not escape us.'
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funhog
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by funhog » December 22nd, 2015, 5:39 pm

The spray painted snow is normal this time of year. People have to park at Ski Bowl and walk to the trailhead behind the guardrail. This year I've been surprised to see so many cars parked at the summer trailhead after November first! They often are towed after that date.

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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by sprengers4jc » December 23rd, 2015, 6:19 pm

funhog wrote:The spray painted snow is normal this time of year. People have to park at Ski Bowl and walk to the trailhead behind the guardrail. This year I've been surprised to see so many cars parked at the summer trailhead after November first! They often are towed after that date.
Thanks, funhog. I wasn't sure what was normal for that area. It definitely cut down on the traffic to the trail! We only saw two couples, one when we were on our way to Frog Lake, and one when on our way home.
'We travel not to escape life but for life to not escape us.'
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Water
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by Water » March 21st, 2016, 4:25 pm

does this still need to be stickied to the top?
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Splintercat
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Re: Mirror Lake Trailhead Relocation Project

Post by Splintercat » March 27th, 2016, 8:20 pm

I'm planning to keep it pinned until the project details become known, and especially opportunities for further comment and (eventually) volunteering -- which means some periodic quiet time, as we're in a federal planning timeframe. There haven't been any updates since the opening comment period last fall.

Tom

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