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Snowmobilers must give a little on parking at Dutchman Flat

The Bulletin
January 28, 2004

Central Oregon's reputation as a top locale for outdoor recreation is particularly evident this time of year when skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers crowd onto trails in the Deschutes National Forest around Mount Bachelor. And `crowd' is the right word. So many people have taken to winter recreation that parking in some popular places is in short supply. The good news is that the U.S. Forest Service has some ideas about how to address that problem. The bad news is that the best solution will require some sacrifice on the part of snowmobile enthusiasts.

Conflict between snowmobilers and skiers in the area around the Dutchman Flat parking lot has become commonplace in recent years. There have been complaints about snowmobilers driving too fast on the trails and about skiers causing congestion for snowmobilers who want to pass. Now, parking, too, is proving to be a point of contention.

Dutchman Flat is not particularly large. Under the best winter conditions, it can fit about 30 small to medium-sized cars. Such vehicles, though, do not tow snowmobiles very well. Pickup trucks and SUVs pulling trailers with snowmobiles on them show up on weekend mornings too. Those larger vehicles often take up more than one parking spot, infuriating people with smaller cars.

The Forest Service could ticket those who park illegally, but officials say that they would rather not create additional conflict, and we cannot blame them. Still, something must be done to free up parking.

The best idea that we have seen so far is to turn Dutchman Flat into a non-motorized parking area like the Swampy Lakes Sno-Park. That would divert snowmobilers to the Edison and Wanoga Sno-parks, each of which can hold upward of 100 vehicles according to forest officials.

The Forest Service hopes to bring together stakeholders from both sides to talk about the proposal this spring. No doubt the idea will make many snowmobilers unhappy. After all, they have just as much right to use forest parking and trails as skiers. The forest belongs to the entire public, not just the people who favor leg-powered recreation.

Still, there are some practicalities that snowmobilers must recognize. Both alternative sites are about seven miles from Dutchman Flat. Covering that distance in order to access trailheads will be much easier for snowmobilers than skiers. Indeed, seven miles can be much of an afternoon's skiing whereas a snowmobile going 30 mph can cover the distance in about 15 minutes.

Too, those concerned about having to cross Century Drive need not fret because there is an underpass just east of the Sunriver cutoff that hooks up with Trail 5. From there access to other trails is straightforward.

Even if the Forest Service were prepared to expand Dutchman Flat or build new parking instead, it could not do so in time for next season, which is when it hopes to implement the proposed changes. A big project like that will require environmental studies and potential appeals that can hold up construction. Shifting snowmobilers to Wanoga and Edison at least can ease pressures by next winter.

There is only so much room in the winter parking lots. The Forest Service must make sure that it is used as efficiently as possible, maximizing access to the wilderness for all types of users. Will the new system end up being a little unfair to snowmobilers? Most likely, but it is the most reasonable option on the table because of their greater flexibility, range and speed.







Read more . . .
SNOWMOBILES - a history of this discussion:
Snowmobile parking at Kapka Butte and Dutchman Flat revisited in 2009  
Proposed Tumalo Recreation Zone in the Deschutes National Forest in 2009  
Snowmobiler falls 1,500' into Mt. St. Helens and survives
Map of snowmobile restrictions at Dutchman Flat  
Snowmobile restrictions published for Dutchman Flat  
Snowmobile Safety Summit on Dutchman Flat area  
Report snowmobile renegades - an Editorial
Snowmobiles should not mix with skiers and snowshoers
Snowmobile accident draws $11 million dollar damage award
Snowmobilers keep the Atta Boy Race on track
Snowmobilers must give a little on parking at Dutchman Flat  
Recent snowmobile accidents near Bend
Set snowmobile limits at Dutchman Flat  
Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
Snowmobile access to summit of Mt. St. Helens questioned by The Mountaineers
Snowmobile speed limits on Dutchman Flat in Oregon  
Snowmobiles offer thrills
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Snowmobiles as a tool for traditional mountaineering