BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - People who visit the campgrounds along the Upper Kern River could notice some big changes this summer.
The Forest Service has come up with a plan to help keep the river clean, and right now the Forest Service is seeking feedback from the public on the proposed changes.
“The biggest change we’re looking at for this coming season is restricting people to camp in designated areas only,” said Tricia Maki, Recreation Officer with the Kern River Ranger District.
Maki told 23ABC that volunteers and forest service protection officers have spent the last three months or so cleaning up 20 miles of the river and all of the camping areas. Now the goal is to keep the trash from piling up this year.
There will be ten designated dispersed camping areas that will still be free camping areas, but people will no longer be able to pitch a tent just anywhere. There will be specific areas designated for overnight camping. The campgrounds are in the area from RiverKern to the north side of the Johnsondale Bridge, and from the eastern edge of the Kern River to 1,000 feet east of Mountain 99.
“That's going to limit the number of people that can overnight camp. All of those areas will still be open for day use for fishing, swimming and hiking, but we see that the largest amount of trash is generated from overnight use," said Maki, "So it will help to manage overnight use and we'll have people in camping locations where we can provide dumpsters and toilets."
The Forest Service is also looking to convert Halfway and Thunderbird campsites into group campgrounds. There would be a total of nine group campsites of different sizes. They should be able to accommodate anywhere from 12 people up to 50 people.
Fees would be charged based on the site capacity and each campsite will include picnic tables and fire-rings. Portable restrooms and trash service will also be provided. People will need to make a reservation to use the group campsites through the National Recreation Reservation Service.
The Forest Service is hoping these changes will improve the river corridor and quality of recreation along the river, but officers need people to do their part by picking up after themselves when they camp in areas along the river this summer.
"The Kern River is a wild and scenic river and it was designated by Congress as a very special place and we need to start treating it that way,” said Maki.
“We really want people that come up here to visit to have that experience of a wild and scenic river without eyesores of trash graffiti and other things that take away from the natural beauty and value they came up here to get,” said Cody Norris with the Kern River Ranger District.
The Forest Service will continue to collect any public comments until Friday, Feb. 14th. Comments can be sent via email to Kern River Ranger District Officer Tricia Maki at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send written comments to Kern River Ranger District, P.O. Box 9, Kernville CA 93238.