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Trailhead changes

Plans for more than $650,000 in additions to the visitor experience on Mount Charleston are inching toward completion while some residents question the idea of a new neighbor.

It’s been a winding road for residents and frequent visitors of the mountain since early March, when the U.S. Forest Service released a proposal, or scoping document, outlining plans for the Mary Jane Falls and Old Ski Tow trailheads and facilities. Plans also call for construction of a new parking lot at the intersection of Echo Road and Forest Road 111.

The Upper Kyle Trailhead Improvement Project is to be funded by the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.

It hasn’t been an easy process for most involved.

The U.S. Forest Service has until the end of the year to use the $654,100 in secured funding or it will lose it. Some residents in Kyle and Echo canyons suggested that U.S. Forest Service planners were making decisions in haste due to the deadline.

The forest service released its multiple alternatives for the project, and some suggested closing the current Mary Jane Falls parking provisions, which also displeased many residents. Members of the Horse Council of Nevada balked at plans for paved parking, saying it was unsafe for horses.

Although nothing is final, the U.S. Forest Service believes its plan meets concerns from all groups, and construction could begin as early as late summer, said Judy Suing, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

The proposed action that the forest service may implement would close off access to Old Ski Tow trailhead, keep the Mary Jane Falls trailhead parking lot open but build new bathroom facilities and move forward with plans for a new, 66-space parking lot at the intersection of Echo Road and Forest Road 111. Both parking lots are to be paved with natural surfacing, or gravel, which is ideal for equestrians, Suing said.

“This is the plan we’re leaning toward,” she said.

The area will be closed after dark during spring, summer and autumn and completely in the winter as crews can’t plow gravel.

Neighbors have mixed reactions to the proposed plans.

Resident Cathy Bittinger said she appreciates the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to preserve most environmental space, but the new parking lot also will require sacrifices.

“If they’re going to make 60 spaces, they’ll need to level the mountain,” she said. “There is very little flat land there.”

Bittinger said she hopes the new lot doesn’t invite an influx of visitors.

“It’s not called Echo Canyon for nothing,” she said. “You bring all those people up behind residents and we can hear radios and shouting and slams of car doors.”

Resident Adrienne Richardson, who heads the Metropolitan Police Department’s emergency service volunteer program, worries that added visitors will bring more than noise with them.

She and a friend take daily walks and usually return with three to four grocery bags of litter, she said.

“I don’t know how people think they can just leave (garbage) out there,” she said. “If we see people, we tell them, ‘You have to pack your garbage out.’ ”

Richardson said she is in favor of the proposed plans if provisions for trash removal, traffic and safety are made.

The proposal addresses some of her concerns with one particular measure.

Closing off access to the Old Ski Tow trailhead curbs issues with rogue dumping, high traffic and dispersed camping, Suing said. The problems have been killing indigenous plant life in the area, she added.

Biologists are studying the area around the intersection of Echo Road and Forest Road 111 as a potential habitat for migratory birds, Suing said.

“If no nests are found, we can start construction this summer,” she said. “I think we’re on target to get that accomplished.”

Suing estimated that construction of the restrooms and parking lot would take about a month.

The public is welcome to comment on plans until July 29.

To view a copy of the proposed plans, visit fs.usda.gov/goto/htnf/upperkyle.

The plan Suing outlined above is listed as Table 4, “Elements of the Trail Canyon Wash Alternative.” .

For more information or to weigh in on the issue, call Jane Schumacher at 839-5560 or email jaschumacher@fs.fed.us. To send feedback via mail, address it to Jane Schumacher, Interdisciplinary Team Leader, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, 4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130.

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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