Road to Panther Meadows expected to open July 14

Steve Gerace

The wet winter of 2015-2016 has been a boon for many recreational opportunities in the Mt. Shasta area, but it is causing a delay in opening the gate that allows vehicles to drive to Panther Meadows on Mt. Shasta.

The Forest Service in recent years has been trying to open the gate by July 1, but because of wet conditions and the dangers to sensitive plants in the area, a decision was made last week to wait until July 14.

While the road is free of snow from the gate to the Panther Meadows campground, Forest Service officials say there’s still a foot of snow at the campground and a foot of snow at the meadow.

A county road crew told Forest officials that a snow berm in the road just beyond the campground needs more time before it’s ready to be removed.

Once the gate is open, the Panther Meadows area is a popular destination.

Forest Service assistant resource officer Marcus Nova said approximately 70,000 vehicles drove to Panther Meadows last year. Some of those vehicles are tour buses, and he said that adds up to a lot of foot traffic.

Mud puddles are a concern, Nova said, because people walk around them, widen the trails, and can damage sensitive plants in the area.

“Wet soils compact easier,” said Twyla Miller, a Forest Service botanist and restoration program manager who runs the greenhouse at the Mount Shasta Ranger Station.

Miller said the Forest Service collects seeds and grows plants in the greenhouse that have been used for many years in restoration efforts at Panther Meadows.

“It’s a huge help giving the meadows time to dry out on their own before we get large numbers of people going there,” said Forest Service recreation officer Becky Cooper.

She said signage is being prepared to let forest visitors know about the plan to keep the gate closed until July 14.

The Forest Service says this will also allow more time for maintenance crews to work on the campground after the snow melts.

Once the gate opens, Nova said the Panther Meadows campground fills with campers and stays full.