The Siuslaw National Forest hasn't received many comments on the designation of off-highway vehicle trails in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Forest service officials published a proposal June 9, but haven't heard as much feedback as they thought.

'So far, I've probably gotten about 70 comments," said Angie Morris, recreation planner for the Siuslaw National Forest.

She said most comments show strong reactions to the scoping letter, which details the proposed designated OHV trails.

'It's basically, what I'm finding, the reactions are pretty polarizing," she said. 'Either close the dunes or don't close them."

The scoping letter outlines possible trail designations for the northern, middle and southern riding areas. The latter runs north of Horsfall Road in North Bend to Tenmile Creek, and shows some proposed closures to user-developed OHV routes.

'Under the proposed action, approximately 22 miles of unauthorized routes would be replaced with about 0.6 miles of designated route. Unauthorized, user-developed routes would be closed and rehabilitated or allowed to naturalize," the scoping letter states.

Jody Phillips, a board member for Save the Riders Dunes, doesn't like the looks of the proposal.

Save the Riders Dunes (www.savetheridersdunes.com) is a website trying to educate OHV riders about dunes closures. Phillips had a first-hand account of the designation process since he was part of the working group, which voluntarily met many times over the past two years to discuss what routes to designate.

'The working group, literally, I wasted a year and so many months," Phillips said. 'I would say that they pretty much ignored what we talked about."

He said he was concerned that the invasive European beachgrass would take over the dunes, practically eliminating them. He added that OHV riders help keep the spread of European beachgrass under control.

'It's killed the free flowing of the sand dunes," he said. 'The only effective tool that they have is OHV, and they're unwilling to recognize that OHV kills grass."

Morris said the forest service consulted with wildlife and plant biologists, and considered the working group's proposals before creating the scoping letter.

The forest service ultimately is working toward an environmental impact statement, she added. The ODNRA Management Plan, set in 1994, requires the forest service to designate OHV routes to minimize harm to vegetation, wildlife and wetlands.

Phillips said his group doesn't want OHV to trample others' rights to use the dunes.

'I think we're all environmentalists," he said. 'We don't want to see our land trashed, and we can certainly have areas where people hike and enjoy the solitude and the animals."

Comments on the proposal will be taken during the entire process. In the scoping letter, it says comments will be taken only through July 25, but Morris said comments submitted later will be accepted.

'We had a lot of people saying they needed more time," she said. 'We'll start discussing comments after the 25th. We're hoping to start analyzing in September. The sooner, the better."

The forest service will try to offer a preferred plan and alternatives in September. They hope to have a draft ready for public comment in December.

For a comment to be helpful, it needs to discuss distinct trails, Morris said.

'Their input is absolutely welcome, and the more specific they can be, the better," she said.

The forest service still is far from designating OHV routes.

'This is a proposal," Morris said. 'The decision, we're really far from it.

'The scoping letter is certainly not a decision."

Outdoors Editor Rachel Finney can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 237, or at rfinney@theworldlink.com.

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