A popular waterfall and adjoining trails closed since the summer will remain so until next spring, Cleveland National Forest officials announced Monday. Cedar Creek Falls was scheduled to open Tuesday following the July 6th death of a teenager who reportedly slipped off an 80-foot cliff, hitting his head on a boulder on his way down.
"The purpose of the closure is to give the Forest Service time to design and implement a management plan to address issues of public safety, overcrowding, and resource impacts," said spokesperson Brian Harris of the extension that will last through April 1st.
The death of 16-year-old Joe Meram was not an isolated incident for the area. A number of emergencies have occurred there, including 10 "injured, dehydrated or heat-exhausted" hikers rescued during the Fourth of July weekend, according to wire reports. In 2010, nearly 50 calls for helicopter assists made, reported East County Magazine. And complaints about parking and unruly behavior was also an issue at one of the trailheads.
"This site is a favorite of hikers, the gem of our region's backcountry, arguably the most desirable and spectacular natural attraction in all of East County," explained Miriam Raftery, Editor of East County Magazine, in an e-mail to Harris and local media on Monday questioning why safety issues were not addressed during the four-month closure. "To keep the falls closed through winter and early spring... will no doubt seem extreme to the thousands of backcountry hikers who have enjoyed this trail in the past year alone."
Raftery pointed to Yosemite National Park, where a number of deaths recently occurred and long-term closures were not put into effect.
One of the safety measures under consideration is implementing a permitting system, which would limit the number of people on the trails and at the falls.
- Thornbush Road Trailhead and trail to and from Cedar Creek Falls
- Saddleback Trailhead (located on Eagle Peak Road) and trail to Cedar Creek Falls
- Cedar Creek Falls site
- The closure area extends for ¼ mile on both sides of the trails and the falls