BLM secures abandoned mines in Rademachers

BLM secures abandoned mines in RademachersThe Bureau of Land Management, recreational users, adjacent landowners and interest groups are actively working together to protect and enhance the scenic, ecological and recreational values of the Rademacher Hills just to the south of Ridgecrest.

The Rademachers have been of considerable interest to prospectors and miners since the 1880s, and today numerous hikers, horseback riders and bicyclists use trails and routes that were once used by miners.

Evidence of the historic prospecting and mining is still found throughout the area. “Visitors can often see features such as adits, shafts and trenches,” said Sterling White, Abandoned Mine Land and Hazmat Program lead from BLM’s California Desert District Office.

In 2012 an interdisciplinary team of staff members from the Ridgecrest Field Office analyzed more than 60 abandoned-mine features and determined that 20 of them along the Rademacher Trail System were dangerous. Working on remediation were teammembers Archaeologist Ashley Blythe, Wildlife Biologist Caroline Woods, Abandoned Mines and Hazmat Specialist Lori Ford and Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner Craig Beck.

The Rademacher Hills trail includes segments that pass through a variety of desert terrain and that have differing degrees of trail difficulty – ranging from open, flat desert to steep, rocky ridges. The trail system is designed to offer the opportunity for both loop trips and point-to-point trips on BLM-managed public land to the north of Cerro Coso Community College.

The system extends from Gateway Road on the east to South Downs Avenue on the west and Javis Avenue on the north with 11 trailheads. Each of the trailheads has a parking area and a kiosk with trail information.

Recreation staff members Danny Tyree, archeologist, and Rob Enriquez, heavy equipment operator, periodically monitor and maintain the trail system, so they were able to identify dangerous mine features at the beginning of the project.

BLM’s primary goal for the Abandoned Mine Land program is to provide a safe experience for the public when they are visiting public lands, and to ensure that mining-related features and facilities abandoned on public land are remediated to minimize damage to the natural environment while recognizing and protecting the historical importance of selected features and facilities.

In late fall the project moved from planning into construction. Fifteen prospects varying in depth from 5 to 60 feet were backfilled with a rubber-tired all-wheel-drive backhoe. The contractor carefully maneuvered equipment into each site, taking care not to damage surrounding vegetation.

Workers filled each abandoned mine, raising its floor to within several feet of the surrounding area. Ford, BLM’s on-site inspector, said she was satisfied that dangerous fall hazards were removed, even while visual evidence of prospecting, such as prospects, remained. Desert tortoise, for example, could escape these prospects if venturing in for a look. After crewmembers removed their equipment, they raked out the tracks.

At five locations along the trail system the contractor constructed specialized gates of heavy steel that provide bats, owls and small critters access to the underground, while preventing falls or entrapments.

BLM officials said that post-construction monitoring will ensure that remediation actions, including gates, will continue to prevent accidental falls into dangerous adits, shafts and trenches, while bats, owls and other animals will be able to continue their use.

To take a hike in the Rademachers, a good place to start is at the centrally located Sunland Trailhead. From China Lake Boulevard turn south on College Heights Boulevard and then left (east) on Belle Vista Road. Ten other trailheads can also be used to access the trail system at other points along its 8.5-mile route.

You can help BLM maintain this remarkable area by reporting any dumping in the Rademacher Hills, or on any public land, by calling the BLM Field Office at 760-384-5400 and asking to be put in touch with a BLM ranger.

Story First Published: 2013-02-13