Officials announced Wednesday that Cedar Creek Falls in Cleveland National Forest will reopen in the spring.
The popular site—which was closed in July 2011 following the death of a teenager—will reopen under new laws prohibiting the possession and consumption of alcohol and requiring a visitor's permit. The decision was released after officials conducted an environmental assessment studying visitor use and addressing natural resource damage concerns.
“Based on my evaluation of the alternatives and supporting documentation, I have selected Alternative 2, the proposed action, for implementation as this is the best, most balanced method available to us to restore public access to Cedar Creek Falls while addressing natural resource concerns,” Cleveland National Forest Supervisor Will Metz said.
Under the visitor use permit system, a permit will only be required while recreating within the Cedar Creek Falls visitor use permit area, which is located in the immediate area around the falls. Other trail users including hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and hunters who are not recreating within the visitor use permit area or visiting the falls will not be required to obtain a visitor use permit, but they are still allowed to use and park in the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead parking lot free-of-charge.
The decision also includes the permanent closure of cliffs immediately surrounding the falls to public entry, in effect prohibiting jumping and diving from the cliffs. The permit system and closures are scheduled to be implemented in early April of this year. Until the implementation, the existing closures of the San River Gorge Trailhead and the San Diego River Gorge Trail will remain in effect.
Seventy-five visitor use permits for individuals and/or groups of up to five people will be available each day. Permits to visit the falls will be reserved through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) website. Reserving a visitor use permit will require visitors to pay a $6 administrative fee per permit for up to 5 people to NRRS.
Officials say the decision comes after the study revealed a "dramatic growth in visitation in recent years has resulted in a variety of issues, including medical emergencies and natural resource degradation."
“The designation and implementation of a visitor permit area is intended to reduce the number of daily visitors to a manageable quantity,” Metz said. “It is our intent to continue to provide for an outstanding outdoor recreational opportunity, while being proactive about caring for the natural resources on these public lands, and to assist the public in providing for their own health and safety.”