As a result of COVID-19 we are all facing new situations every day that affect different aspects of our lives. In addition to the primary health impacts of the virus and the impacts to our economy, COVID-19 has created other impacts – one of which is increased visitation at our local public recreation facilities from county residents and people from outside areas. Whether because businesses have been shut due to state orders or because people are choosing recreation options that allow for greater physical distancing, much of the focus of recreation has shifted to outdoor activities as result of COVID-19. Although we welcome outdoor use of our beautiful area, the number one concern is the health and safety of our residents. We also need to make sure that there are no impacts to our natural resources.
As the summer months have progressed there has been growing public demand on canyon access points, parks, trails, rivers and lakes on public lands in District 5 from Auburn to Tahoe. We are not alone. Public lands throughout the nation are experiencing high volumes of visitors, and in many cases public land managers are reporting record-breaking numbers of guests. Frustrations in our area have run high due to well-over-capacity parking, over-flowing trash bins and litter, and overcrowding of outdoor areas that have historically seen very few visitors. Sometimes these issues are nuisances, other times they can become life and safety issues.
Aerial photo of Yankee Jims Bridge.
Recently the Yankee Jims area made headlines due to unsafe conditions as people poured in from out of the region, blocking access along Yankee Jims Road. The parking area at the Yankee Jims Bridge allows for 12 cars to park legally, and on one day there were more than 300 vehicles packed in along the narrow canyon road. This made it impossible for emergency vehicle access to the area – which is particularly concerning as we are in wildfire season – and caused a traffic jam that lasted for hours.
As a result of this hazardous situation, public safety officials from multiple agencies have been working together to find a solution. The California State Parks Department closed all parking in the area and began issuing citations to illegally parked cars, and the Placer County Department of Public Works placed “No Parking” signs along the roadway. The Auburn State Recreation Area also issued a news release alerting people of the parking lot closure and parking restrictions along Yankee Jims Road. State Parks personnel issued 117 citations the first weekend of enforcement, and as a result of increased signage, including the placement of electronic signage well in advance of entry points to Yankee Jims Road, the number of citations dropped to 70 this past weekend.
The situation at Yankee Jim’s Bridge and other heavily-visited areas in District 5 remains an ongoing issue, but the coordination between state and local agencies has resulted in progress toward addressing the problems. I have received calls and emails from people who want the county to prohibit access by non-residents to these areas, but unfortunately it is not simple. We do not have the ability to close the state or federal highways that lead to our areas, so we need to focus on addressing the issues that arise with increased use of these public facilities. Failing to take a broader approach to addressing these situations would literally push the problems down the road to the next open spot.
We will continue to partner with personnel from State Parks, California Highway Patrol, CAL FIRE, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, and staff from our Department of Public Works to develop solutions for issues in our area as they arise. We also continue to rely on public education to encourage visitors to plan ahead and make sure the area they want to visit is open, to make alternative plans, and to visit these areas on non-peak days.
Please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or need any assistance with County issues or concerns.
– Cindy Gustafson, District 5 Supervisor
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175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn, CA 95603
Supervisor Cindy Gustafson: cindygustafson@
District Director Lindsay Romack: firstname.lastname@example.org
District Aide Kelly McCaughna: kmccaughna@placer.
Temporary Assistant District Aide Judy Friedman: email@example.com.