Davis Road Repairs Started, Results Disappointing So Far – Action Needed!

I spoke with Tom Trakes of San Jacinto Wildlife Area today about the status of Davis Road. As you most likely know, Davis Road, which is the only public access to San Jacinto, was virtually destroyed by this winter’s storms. The results of the storm damage was to make SJ just about inaccessible to hunters or anyone else that might want to visit the Wildlife Area. We almost lost the last 5 hunt days of the 2016 / 2017 season as the DFW almost closed SJ due to the access problems. Several vehicles got stuck trying to get in on the last few hunt days with only the highest ground clearance 4X4 trucks were able to negotiate the mud, ruts, holes and deep puddles (almost qualifying as lakes) to make it into San Jacinto. As you also most likely know, Tom and the SJ crew went above and beyond by getting special, one-time permission to allow public access through the upland area for this season’s 23rd annual Junior Hunt. Without this, the Junior Hunt would have been canceled.

Tom told me that Riverside County Department of Transportation, which is responsible for maintaining Davis Road, came in today and graded Davis Road. According to what Tom told me the county did a minimal job and only graded part of the road. The road is still impassable and the only people making it into San Jacinto, unless they want to walk it, are the SJ staff, utilizing the road through the upland area. Unfortunately, even though Davis Road is the access to San Jacinto, since it is a county road the SJ crew aren’t allowed to fix it themselves, even if they had the equipment and materials to do so.

Although the road through the upland area was used for access for the Junior Hunt, that was a one-time, special permission from the DFW big wigs thing, just to accommodate the Junior Hunt. The road through the upland area is just a small service road and cannot be used by the public for access as it could not take the daily traffic, especially during hunting season, and would be unserviceable in short order.

Tom told me that the county has the equipment and means to repair Davis Road, at least a serviceable “path” that vehicles could use to access San Jacinto, right now. But, apparently, they don’t want to. Tom said that the county needs to come in and bring the road back up to proper grade, crown it for proper drainage, and create culverts for the water to run off into. Tom said that the county told him that this type of damage happens to Davis Road all the time when we get heavy rain. Well, I beg to differ, and I know Tom does too. I have hunted San Jacinto many a day in the past when it had rained so heavily that the internal roads at SJ were flooded and closed (the infamous “walk-in” days) but Davis Road was still opened and passable by any vehicle because it was (back then) properly crowned and had proper drainage. I believe Tom has been at SJ for at 23 years and he’s only seen it this bad a few times, (’93 / ’94 – ’97 / ’98 – ’02 / ’03), and those were during years that it rained much, much more. I’ve been hunting there probably at least that long and I personally can’t remember Davis Road this bad, but then maybe I’ve blocked it out. The reason it has gotten so bad is that every time Davis Road was damaged all the county has done is come in and scrape the road smooth again. This has resulted in the loss of the road’s crown and the lowering of the road’s grade until the water has nowhere to go.

The fact is Davis Road is an access route to one of only two State Wildlife Areas in Southern California that have a type A waterfowl hunting program (Wister being the other one). If Davis Road is not properly repaired it may be a very short 2017 / 2018 waterfowl season there. Even if you don’t hunt San Jacinto and only utilize Wister this should concern you. What do you think will happen if San Jacinto is shut down? That’s right, many hunters that would usually hunt SJ will head to Wister. 3920 hunters utilized San Jacinto this past season. I’m sure that number was down some just due to access issues the last month of the season. A more correct number had there not been access problems, probably would have been more like 4300 or so. Add to that the people that come in to utilize the upland area for hunting and the people that come in throughout the year for bird watching, photography, nature study, horseback riding and other such outdoor pursuits and I’ll bet you have around 6500 or so people utilizing SJ throughout the year.

So, with all that said what needs to be done is to put Riverside County Department of Transportation’s feet to the fire and make sure they take the repair of Davis Road seriously. Tom advised me to urge everyone that utilizes San Jacinto Wildlife Area, whether it be hunters, bird watcher, photographers or anyone else that has a stake in this to call the Riverside County Department of Transportation and express their concern that Davis Road be repaired, and repaired properly, so we’re not back in the same position next season. The phone number to call for the Riverside County Department of Transportation to express your concern is 951-955-6899. It might also be a good idea to contact your State Representatives and your Congressperson.

Hopefully, if Riverside DOT sees that people are serious about this, things will be done right.

Updated info (as of 3/27/17) here….




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