Weekend Dog Mountain visits to require new permit

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STEVENSON, Wash. — March 26, 2018  To address safety concerns along Washington State Route 14 in the Columbia River Gorge, the U.S. Forest Service – with partners at Washington State Department of Transportation, Skamania County, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce. – is launching a new permit system at the Dog Mountain Trailhead for weekends during the peak use season, March 31- July 1.

As visitation at Dog Mountain has increased in the last decade, so have safety concerns. On weekends and holidays during the wildflower season, hikers often park and walk along SR 14, where high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances create challenging situations for pedestrians and motorists alike.

“We’re trying this new approach to enable people to connect with this cherished trail while reducing safety challenges,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said. “We worked in partnership with local organizations to come up with this solution.”

Beginning this year, Skamania County offers a weekend shuttle service to reduce parking congestion at the summit. All visitors riding the shuttle on weekends from March 31 to July 1 will receive a Dog Mountain visitors permit when they ride. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis, at a cost of $1 per trip, or $2 roundtrip. Bus drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual on the day it is issued. More information about the shuttle schedule can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SkamaniaTransit/Shuttle.

For weekend visitors during the peak use season (March 31 to July 1) who do not use the shuttle, there will be 165 permits available per day through the national online reservation system at www.recreation.gov, costing a $1.50 non-refundable reservation fee per permit. Those parking in the lot at Dog Mountain Trailhead will also need to pay a per car recreation fee of $5 per day, or display a valid Northwest Forest Pass or Federal Interagency Pass, which is an existing requirement. Please note that parking is limited at the trailhead, and obtaining a permit does not ensure a parking spot.

“We’re hoping this new approach will offer a win-win by encouraging visitors to use the county shuttle service while also making SR 14 safer for visitors,” Skamania County Commissioner Chair Tom Lannen said, on behalf of the Skamania County Board of Commissioners.

Hikers should carry a printed permit or electronic copy of their permit, as Forest Service will check for permits at the trailhead.

Dog Mountain Trail System includes Dog Mountain Trail (#147 and #147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail #4407.

For more information, call 541-308-1700 or visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/hikedogmountain.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres of Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River cuts a spectacular river canyon through the Cascade Mountains. The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest lands in the National Scenic Area and works with the Gorge Commission, states, counties, treaty tribes, and partners to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while encouraging local economic development consistent with that protection.

Learn more about Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa or follow us on social media at facebook.com/crgnsa or www.twitter.com/crgnsa.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

New Permit System to Address Public Safety Concerns at Dog Mountain, Washington

Why is the U.S. Forest Service implementing a permit system at Dog Mountain?

The permit system is designed to protect public safety. On weekends during the wildflower season, the Dog Mountain Trailhead parking lot overflows and visitors park and walk along Washington State Route14 (SR-14) to access the trail system. With high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances along SR-14, pedestrian traffic creates a serious public safety concern. Our partners at Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol have asked the Forest Service to take action to address these safety concerns. The permit system will reduce overflow parking occurring along SR-14 in the vicinity of Dog Mountain Trailhead by encouraging use of shuttle services provided by Skamania County.

How can a trail permit system reduce safety concerns on a highway?

The permit system will encourage the use of Skamania County shuttle services while reducing the number of vehicles parking at Dog Mountain Trailhead and nearby areas along SR-14 on Saturdays and Sundays during the high use season. Only 165 visitors per day will be issued a permit to access the trail system via personal vehicle; the remaining visitors will be required to use the shuttle to obtain a permit.

When will permits be required for the Dog Mountain Trail System?

On Saturdays and Sundays from March 31, 2018 to July 1, 2018 each individual using the Dog Mountain Trail System will be required to obtain a permit. The system includes the Dog Mountain Trail #147 and #147C, the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the southern portion of the Augspurger Trail #4407 between the Dog Mountain Trailhead (on State Route 14) and the intersection with the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A. Hikers on the system will be required to carry a hard copy permit or electronic proof of purchase.

How do I obtain a permit and what is the cost?

There are two options for obtaining a permit.

  • Option 1. Permits are available on a first come, first served basis for visitors who ride the Dog Mountain shuttle service operated by Skamania County. The shuttle costs $1.00 per person each way ($2 roundtrip per person), and it runs on weekends from March 31 to July 1. The shuttle schedule can be found at https://skamania.org/public-transportation/. Drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual and is only valid for the day it is issued.
  • Option 2. Another option is to reserve a permit through the national online reservation system at https://www.recreation.gov at the cost of $1.50 (non-refundable reservation fee) per permit. Visitors should print and carry their permit or carry electronic proof of purchase. There will be 165 permits available per day (for Saturdays and Sundays from March 31 to July 1).

Will there be permit-free or fee-free days?

No permits will be required on weekdays from March 31 to July 1 or for use outside of permit season. Recreation use fees apply every day of the year except fee free days. In 2018, the remaining fee free days include June 9 (National Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 22 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10 – 11 (Veterans Day Weekend).

How will the reservation system be enforced?

Forest Service staff will check for proof of permits at the trailhead and along the trail. Visitors using the Dog Mountain Trail System without a permit may be issued a violation notice. Visitors who access the permit area via shuttle bus will be given a permit upon arrival at the trailhead. Visitors with online reservations are asked to print and carry a hard copy of their permit (or at a minimum, carry an electronic proof of purchase). Please remember that cell phone coverage and cell phone battery life may affect your ability to produce electronic proof of purchase.

Why is the Forest Service limiting use at Dog Mountain when so many trails in the Columbia River Gorge are closed because of the Eagle Creek Fire?

The Forest Service has been working with our partners at Washington Department of Transportation, Washington State Police, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, and the Gorge Tourism Alliance to develop a permit system that allows for the continued public use and enjoyment of the Dog Mountain Trail System while also providing for visitor safety along State Route 14. Visitors who are unable to reserve a permit online, can access the Dog Mountain Trail System via shuttle from the Skamania County Fairgrounds.

Why is the Forest Service implementing a permit system to address safety concerns versus other, less restrictive approaches to site management?

The Forest Service and our partners have been working to address safety concerns related to congestion, parking, and traffic management along SR-14 for years. This season, safety concerns are further elevated as a result of Eagle Creek Fire and the associated closure area. The Forest Service and State Parks are already seeing an increase in use at trailheads on the Washington side of the Gorge as hikers looks for alternatives to popular trails within the fire closure area.

Past efforts have included the following:

  • Trailhead parking lot improvements to allow for safe passage of shuttle buses and emergency vehicles.
  • Partnering with Skamania County to provide and promote shuttle services.
  • Partnering with Friends of the Columbia Gorge to develop the Trailhead Ambassador program and expand education efforts at the Dog Mountain Trailhead.
  • Partnering with Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol to manage parking and enforce existing regulations.
  • Partnering with Travel Oregon to develop and promote the Ready, Set, Gorge informational campaign in an effort to reduce congestion at popular areas and during peak times.

In addition to these ongoing efforts, the Forest Service is applying for grant funding through the Federal Lands Access Program to study the feasibility of relocating Dog Mountain Trailhead. Our partners are also applying for FLAP funding to initiate a congestion mitigation study for the SR-14 corridor and primary recreation areas.

The permit system is an additional tool that we feel is needed to address public safety concerns in the near future. There will be opportunities to monitor the permit system’s effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

Do permit requirements apply to outfitters and guides?

No. Outfitters and guides are not authorized to use the Dog Mountain Trail System on weekends during the high use season. Permit holders can continue to access the site on weekdays when permits are not required.

Do I need a permit if I access the trail system from the northern trailhead (instead of the Dog Mountain Trailhead on SR-14)?

Yes. All visitors entering the permit area on weekends between March 31st and July 1st are required to carry a permit regardless of where they access the trail system.

Can I reserve a space on the Dog Mountain shuttle?

Shuttle services are only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

How often does the Dog Mountain shuttle run?

Skamania County provides shuttle service between Skamania County Fairgrounds and Dog Mountain Trailhead every half hour between the hours of 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on weekends between March 31st and July 1st. On days when the shuttle buses are operating, the last departure from Skamania County Fairgrounds will be scheduled at 1:30 PM and the last pickup at Dog Mountain Trailhead will be at 4:30 PM. Visitors are encouraged to plan their trip accordingly. Approximate hiking time for the Dog Mountain Trail System is three to six hours.

Where can I catch the shuttle bus to Dog Mountain Trailhead?

The Dog Mountain shuttle will provide service from Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, WA at 710 SW Rock Creek Drive, Stevenson, WA 98648. More information can be found at https://skamania.org/publictransportation/.

Can I bring my dog on the shuttle with me?

Leashed dogs are allowed on the Dog Mountain shuttle buses. Owners must be in control of their pets at all times. Please consider leaving your dog at home if you have concerns about them being on a crowded shuttle bus with other pets and people.

Will there be security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot?

There is limited security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot. Visitors are discouraged from leaving valuables in their cars and/or in plain sight.

Can I reserve a permit online? How far in advance?

Permit reservations can be made online beginning March 14, 2018 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Permits will be issued as people apply for them (first come, first served). Demand for online permit reservations is expected to be high, so reserving a permit in advance is recommended.

How do I reserve a permit?

Similar to making a camping reservation, making an online permit reservation and payment is easy. The system will accommodate advance and day-of reservations (dependent on availability). Each individual is limited to purchasing four online permits per day per order.

How do I verify that I’ve reserved a permit online?

You will receive an email confirmation and are encouraged to print and carry the paper copy or carry an electronic copy. Forest Service employees will be monitoring compliance with permit requirements at the trailhead and along the trail.

If I reserve a trail system permit online, am I still required to purchase a recreation pass to park at Dog Mountain Trailhead?

Yes. Dog Mountain Trailhead is a recreation fee site. A daily, per-vehicle fee of $5.00 is charged for use of the Dog Mountain Trailhead facilities. Visitors can pay the daily fee on-site or online at https://yourpassnow.com/parkpass. Annual passes such as the Northwest Forest Pass and other interagency senior, military, and Every Kid in a Park passes are accepted as alternate forms of payment. Note that this fee is in addition to $1.50 administrative fee charged for ticket purchase.

If I show up at Dog Mountain Trailhead without a permit reservation, can I get one on the spot?

The Forest Service cannot issue permits “in the field” at Dog Mountain Trailhead. If space is available and you are able to get cell service and get online, you can reserve a permit from the trailhead and carry electronic proof of purchase while on the trail.

Will reservation and recreation use fees be used for maintenance of the Dog Mountain Trail System?

The $1.50 administrative fees are used for administration of the reservation system, which is contracted under Recreation.gov. Recreation use fees, however, are used for facility maintenance, visitor services, and trail maintenance at fee sites throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

If I purchase my permit online, am I guaranteed parking at the trailhead?

Online permit reservations do not guarantee parking at the trailhead. The numbers of permits available online is based on parking lot capacity and average group size numbers for the Dog Mountain Trailhead, so the need for overflow parking should be minimized. The Forest Service will monitor conditions at the trailhead and adjust the number of online permits available if needed.

What should I do if I have a permit reserved and the trailhead parking lot is full when I arrive?

Visitors should park only in designated spaces and allow room for emergency vehicles and shuttle bus access. The Forest Service and our partners at the Friends of the Columbia Gorge will reserve some additional parking spaces each day and will make them available as needed to accommodate visitors who have reserved a permit online and arrive to find the parking lot full. For your safety, please remember that parking along Washington State Route 14 (SR-14) to access the Dog Mountain Trailhead is discouraged and visitors parking illegally may be fined and towed. Walking along the railroad tracks is both dangerous and illegal.

What if I need to cancel my reservation?

The online $1.50 reservation fee per permit is non-refundable. Reservations may be cancelled up to the day of the visit. Because there are a limited number of permits issued each day, you are encouraged to cancel your reservation if you cannot use it, so it is available for others.

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