The Forest Service (FS) is working to prepare the Sloan Ranch for low-impact public use, according to San Jacinto District Ranger Laurie Rosenthal. Currently, the Forest Service is eliminating a road that provided vehicular access to the area.

Some Garner Valley residents had expressed concern that the Forest Service was blocking access for horse riders and hikers into the property now part of FS dominion

“The goal was to take this non-system road and restore it back to its natural condition,” said Rosenthal. “Within several years, vegetation will be restored and it will start blending in to the surrounding forest.”

Rosenthal explained that horse riders, mountain bikers and hikers could still use the road, but access and use for off-road vehicles, motorcycles and any private mechanized vehicles would be prevented by the recent work to restore the natural environs.

“This was part of the implementation of the environmental analysis that was done for the Sloan Ranch in 2009,” she noted. “Horses and hikers are allowed to use the area in question; motorized use is not allowed.”

The procedure used to accomplish the decommissioning is called “chunking.” It is often used as a rehabilitation technique to close unwanted roads, trails or impacted areas. It is typically done with a piece of equipment that creates a series of chunks or divots dug into the ground anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet deep, with the removed soil being pilled on one side of the respective chunk. The chunks are placed in a staggered fashion. Following the treatment, native seed can be scattered on the chunked area or it can be left to seed naturally.

Using this approach particularly discourages use by motorcycles, off-road vehicles and vehicles in general. The process mitigates soil erosion potential by breaking up the force and quantity of surface water flows during rain events. Chunked areas also trap moisture and seed, leading to faster regeneration of native plant species. The bottoms of the chunked divots are moister and cooler than the surrounding area, creating a good microclimate for seeds to sprout and grow. Good plant growth is generally seen within two years following the treatment.