Cedar Creeks Falls to stay closed with strict new rules for hiking nearby trails

US Forest Service bans alcohol, requires permits

SAN DIEGO - The very dangerous Cedar Creek Falls near Ramona will be available for viewing again by the public in April 2013, but with strict new rules governing access to the area.

There are YouTube videos of cliff dives at Cedar Creek Falls, and not all of them are pretty. Hikers often twisted ankles or fell off trails, according to officials.

Cliff rescues became commonplace for the area, with helicopters frequently called to the Cleveland National Forest to airlift an injured person.

"It was an insane situation," said Rancho Santa Fe-based attorney Charles LiMandri.

Joseph Meram, 16, died in July 2011 when he slipped and fell 80 feet from a trail at Cedar Creek Falls. The Meram family, with LiMandri representing them, have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service, seeking greater safety measures.

New guidelines include the permanent closure of access to the falls, banning of alcohol and required daily permits to hike the trails.

According to the guidelines, 75 permits will be issued daily, allowing up to five people per each permit. Those numbers will be periodically reviewed, according to Cleveland National Forest Public Affairs Officer Brian Harris.

"Now under adaptive management, if we find that that's too many, we can lower that number. On the other side of that, if we find that natural resources out there are not being degraded, then we can increase that number as well. So that's a starting point and will likely change from there," said Harris.

LiMandri commented, "I feel good about it, my clients feel good about it as well because if these changes had been implemented before the tragic death of Joseph Meram back in July 2011, in all probability that accident would not have occurred and he'd still be alive today."

"One of the major concerns is a lot of rescues have been the result of dehydration. I know the Forest Service has been trying to get a supply of water out there so people can get hydrated; 100-degree plus temperatures, they get dehydrated and heat exhaustion," LiMandri added.

Harris responded, "When the site reopens again, the trailhead just outside of Ramona, water will be available at that point. It had always been a part of the original plan to do that and, unfortunately, we couldn't get that done by working through the water district. Those details have been worked out now."

The parents of Meram expressed satisfaction that the trails will be safer, but still want damages.

"Our clients lost their son and the law only provides relief in the form of compensation so that issue has to be addressed," said LiMandri.

A federal judge will decide if a trial is warranted by the end of the year.

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