By KRISTIN FLETCHER
I am writing to ask the community to take action to protect one of our quiet jewels—the single-track trails and roads leading up the side canyons all along the Wood River Valley.
Four days ago I picked up 15 pounds of beer cans and a few bottles, discarded near the road closure sign up Bullion Gulch west of Hailey. More disturbing, just a few hundred feet up the road I picked up two pounds of spent shells and live ammunition. Since I hike out there regularly, I know they were left at the same time.
A week ago, a friend and I filled three garbage bags with beer cans, busted bottles and garbage along Colorado Gulch Road and parking area, south of Hailey. Broken glass and running dogs are a bad combination. A day earlier she had picked up skeet targets and other miscellaneous trash from Rock Creek Road. Her bag wasn’t big enough and she had to return to pick up the rest. Many of us carry multiple trash bags and latex gloves with us all the time.
Vehicles regularly drive past the spring road closure signs on both Rock Creek and Bullion roads. Recently, cars were in the motorcycle trailhead, which is also closed. Rock Creek Road has been torn up all winter by vehicles going off the road and it’s a real mess. New tire tracks are appearing on the hills out Democrat Gulch as well. Multiple entrances are being abused at the motorcycle area.
Many important issues need to be addressed. Litter and torn-up roads are the problems most easily seen. But the bigger picture is far more troubling. Underage drinking and parties hidden away from the eyes of sheriff’s deputies, parents and citizens create very unsafe driving situations for the drunks and for people who live up the canyons and in town. Particularly frightening is that guns appear to be involved in a number of these drinking situations. A terrible tragedy seems inevitable.
Finally, with our incredibly dry winter and spring, wildfire season will soon be on everyone’s mind. All along these side canyons myriad cigarette butts are tossed casually aside and multiple fire rings abound. The combination of a hot, dry summer, drinking and fire is scary. Add a little wind and things will spiral out of control.
So, what can we do? A group of concerned citizens has contacted the Sheriff's Office, Ketchum Ranger District, BLM, Blaine County commissioners and Wood River Bike Coalition. The Sheriff’s Office promises increased surveillance and will meet soon to discuss increased signage. BLM has committed to witness and monitor areas of concern. All recognize that these are important issues that must be addressed.
But they need our help! I challenge all the recreational users to speak up with ideas to keep the side canyons clean and safe. As residents, each of us can assist the Sheriff’s Office. If you happen to find a receipt with a bunch of beer bottles, note the license of a car that’s driven past a road closure sign, hear a party happening up a side road or gunshots in a strange place, just give them a call. These activities may be perfectly legitimate, but then again, maybe they’re not. Just knowing citizens care, are more watchful and willing to act will go a long way toward reducing inappropriate, potentially dangerous behaviors.
Our side canyons are terrific places to recreate! Trails are outstanding and more people are using them than ever before. They need our care, protection and maintenance. Thank you so much for your help.
Kristin Fletcher is a resident of Hailey.