National Forest officials are finishing up work to rehabilitate some areas and trails in the Ashton-Island Park Ranger Districts and have more plans for next year and beyond to catch up with the heavy recreational use the area receives.
One of this summer’s efforts was the Ashton/Island Park Habitat Improvement project implementing plans mandated by the 1997 Targhee Forest Plan.
“We’re just about done with the implementation this year,” said Liz Davy, ranger for the Ashton/Island Park district. “It is essentially working on routes that were legally closed through our forest planning process. A lot of those (trails) have been breached over the last few decades. We’re just bolstering those closures with different kinds of methodologies that we’ve used in the past.”
A National Forest road crew has been using an excavator and backhoe to create berms and rock obstacles on trailheads off of Stamp Meadows, Fish Creek Road and the Big Springs area this summer. One of the restored routes is a new foot trail leading to Coffee Pot Rapids (on the Henrys Fork River) from Stamp Meadow Road.
“In the (1997) plan we have constraints on motorized trail densities,” Davy said. “We’re just complying with that.”
Davy said at the same time the district has been working with Idaho Parks and Recreation to add new opportunities for ATV rides close to Island Park.
“We’re finishing up that project,” she said. “That’s more in the interior of Island Park closer to all the populous. It’s creating some loops and connecting some routes that have been ‘illegally’ connected in the past.”
The ATV route connections work was started “three or four years ago” and goes from Eccles near Last Chance to Mack’s Inn area.
Next year, the Forest Service district will do similar work to block illegal motorized traffic in the Centennial Range and in the northern part of the Teton Range.
“It’s in the area that we deem critical for wildlife habitat,” Davy said. “Keeping those motorized densities to the amounts that were set in the Forest Plan.”
Davy said the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has offered funds to help.
Also next year, the district hopes to snag some Great American Outdoors Act funds to do upkeep on structures along Big Springs and Mesa Falls.
“A lot of that infrastructure is 30-plus years old or 50 years old,” Davy said. “It’s not falling apart but it certainly could use some love.”
At Mesa Falls, the Forest Service wants to install new bathrooms, upgrade the boardwalks, and make the lower parking lot more user-friendly. Davy hopes to implement the changes in 2023.
“Since we started all of this 40 years ago, recreational use has changed and definitely increased,” Davy said. “We’re behind the 8-ball in my opinion. We’re trying to catch up to how people are using the area.”