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Rally Race for Monongahela NF???
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“Motor race considered for special use permit
in Monongahela National Forest
Visitors to parts of the Monongahela National Forest over Labor Day weekend may find themselves shut out while race car drivers are "roaring through dense forest, jumping rises, splashing through creek beds and negotiating hair-pin turns at top speed," according to a Rally Promotions website.
Currently, Monongahela National Forest administrators are considering whether or not to issue a special use permit for Rally Promotions to hold a race on national forest roads over the next major holiday weekend.
The proposal, the type of event, the closure of some roads over the holiday weekend and the location of the roads near sensitive areas of the forest‹including the Upper Shaver's Fork‹have gained the attention of local and regional conservation groups.
A scoping letter, issued by Sara Schell, the Special Permits Coordinator for the MNF, lists several forest roads for the proposed event, including: FR55 from State Route 84 to State Route 39, FR24, FR368C, FR135, FR235, FR233, FR227, FR92, and FR14 from FR423 to State Route 28.
"The proposal includes the temporary closure of some of the forest roads for safety reasons. Some roads would be closed the night before the event and opened by 8 p.m. the day of the event. Other roads would be closed a few hours during the event," the letter states.
The race, billed as Rally West Virginia would involve approximately 50 cars, with a team of six people for each car, according to John Shirley, the president of Rally Promotions. The race, hosted at Snowshoe Mountain, will not be a spectator event, Shirley added.
"This is strictly a get-to- know-you event," Shirley continued, "so people can see what we do, what we're about.
"It's never our intention to restrict other users," Shirley added, despite the call for road closures in the scoping letter.
As for potential environmental impacts, Shirley insisted that in 30 years of running races in national forests including the Ottawa, Cherokee, Angeles and Prescott national forests, "we have not had an environmental impact in a race."
The local conservation community is not convinced.
"The closure of 100 miles of forest roads on a holiday weekend is outrageous," said David Saville of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
According to Saville, a road race in the MNF would conflict with the work of local convention and visitor's bureaus in promoting the forest as a destination for recreation and solitude. Of particular concern to Saville is the use of roads that border wilderness and backcountry areas in the forest, including the Laurel Fork Wilderness and Upper Shaver's Fork region.
Saville also expressed his concern for the "furious erosion" and other damage to forest roads and nearby streams such a road race might cause.
"We feel that a car race is incompatible with the various other users of the national forest on any day of the year, not just the proposed Labor Day weekend," said Ruth Rogers of the Shavers Fork Coalition.
Rogers said she felt such an event was in conflict with people who "expect to find solitude in the Upper Shavers Fork and Laurel Fork Wilderness.
Rogers expressed her concern about the potential ecological impacts to a watershed still recovering from more than a century of mining, logging and road construction. Specifically, Rogers was worried about the possibility of increased sedimentation of the Shavers Fork.
Given the timeframe the Forest Service has to evaluate comments from the scoping letter, conduct an evaluation of the area and issue a permit in less than two months, Rogers worried "it might be pushing and stretching the Forest Service's resources to do the impact study well."
Frank Slider, of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, submitted a letter to the Forest Service detailing the concerns of his group: the closure of roads to Labor Day visitors, noise pollution in backcountry areas, the impact on local wildlife, and sedimentation and run-off into local streams "less than a month away from the spawning of the brook trout."
In defense of Rally West Virginia and other races sponsored by Rally Promotions, Shirley noted the events "make a pretty good economic impact." According to Shirley's estimates, such races can generate anywhere from $0.5 million to $2 million. Shirley added that such an impact would be spread throughout the county, not just concentrated on Snowshoe Mountain.
"These are street legal cars. We have a noise restriction of 87 decibels, which is quite low," Shirley noted, in reference to concerns about the noise generated by the race.
Shirley also stated that Rally Promotions provides the Forest Service with the money to repair any roads damaged as the result of a race.
Clyde Thompson, Supervisor of the MNF, noted the Forest Service will review several factors as it considers whether or not to issue the special use permit. Forest Service personnel will look at the legal aspects, technical aspects, biological impacts, social and economic effects of such an event in the MNF.
Thompson said his main concerns regarding the proposed race are for public safety, conflicts with other forest visitors and the potential impacts to the forest's road system.
Thompson also expressed concern over the timeframe the Forest Service has to work with, noting the event was promoted before a special use permit was secured.
Saville, Rogers and Slider were also bothered by the way the event had been promoted and publicized before a permit had been issued.
"It would set a terrible precedent for the Forest Service to cave into that kind of pressure," Saville said, citing the postings on both the websites of Rally Promotions and Snowshoe Mountain.
"I was disturbed by the website posting at Snowshoe," said Rogers, calling the posting "a flub."
"Why has Snowshoe Mountain posted this race on their website?" Slider asked in his letter to the Forest Service.
"Snowshoe wasn't brought up to date by the promoter," according to Snowshoe Mountain's Director of Communications, Joe Stevens. "As soon as we found out [from Shirley] that the Forest Service was involved and a permit needed to be issued, we updated the website" Stevens continued.
The website now notes, "currently this event is listed as tentative pending further discussion and approval by the U.S. Forest Service. Stay tuned for further updates."
While the Forest Service has already received a mix of input, according to Schell "it has been more opposed than for [the race]." The input gathered from the public, "is certainly a major factor," Schell continued.
As the Forest Service continues to collect public input from the scoping letter and analyzes the proposal, Schell noted Forest Service personnel will be working "right up to the wire" to complete its analysis before Labor Day.
The last day to submit input to the Forest Service regarding the proposal is July 10.
To send comments to Monongahela NF regarding this issue, email Sara Schell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do it before Saturday.”
“Oh, isn't that lovely!”
“Please write Sara and oppose it.”
“Wow, I'm actually torn on this. I'm all for protecting forests and wild areas, but places where you can go or watch rally racing are limited in America, particularly in the East. I've been a rally racing fan for years.”
“Yeah, me too, TB. I've never seen a race in person, but I'm not thrilled by the prospects of the impact... Not just the impact of the race itself, but the secondary impact of hundreds of yahoos with no concept of LNT -- trash everywhere, etc.
On top of everything else, the timing purely sucks for everyone else. 100 miles of roads?”
“The areas proposed for the race are especially sensitive areas. Rally racing has its place, but not in the national forest.
The timing is bad, but the impact would be severe whenever it would be held.
Upper Shavers Fork is a beautiful area, recovering from lumbering and some coal mining. Parts of the area are proposed for wilderness. It's a plateau valley with stands of red spruce. Red spruce habitat includes the northern West Virginia flying squirrel, on the list of endangered or threatened species.”
“*** bump ***”
This won't take long, did it?
“I've just gotten word that the rally organizers have withdrawn their application for a permit. We win!”
“I just love saying "Monongahela."
“It's a native American word meaning, "Many, many Boy Scout come, start big fire."”
“I think I'll use that as a rallying cry for the baseball tourney this weekend:
“Actually, it means something like, "where the waters rise."”
“I'm wearing a Monongahela National Forest T shirt today!
So many trails....
So little time....”
“Have you checked the music thread lately? <G>
I think that alterate chorus was from before the water pollution laws kicked in --”
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