Some SoCal mountain communities seeing visitor influx despite stay-at-home orders

Mountain communities like Forest Falls in San Bernardino County are still seeing visitors despite stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
FOREST FALLS, Calif. (KABC) -- It's not just local beaches that were filled with visitors this past weekend despite state orders to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many mountain communities were inundated with tourists as well.

The Vivian Creek trailhead above Forest Falls in San Bernardino County was no exception.

"It was like a concert," said resident Julie Beckman about the number of vehicles packing the parking lot near the trailhead. "Every turnout was packed full of cars."

It was not as busy Monday morning as it was over the weekend. Still, more than a dozen cars were parked in the parking lot. Visitors were sitting down at the picnic tables. And almost no one had masks covering their faces.

"I'd say about 15 to 20 percent at best," said resident Ernie Sisley about the number of people he's seen hiking in the area with masks. "And everyone says, 'We're out in the air, we don't need a mask.'"

While the U.S. Forest Service has the upper parking lot gated off to any potential vehicle traffic, the lower parking lot was still open. Residents are upset that any of the parking lots are open.

"(The Forest Service) says they can't close the gate because the trailheads and the trails are still open," said Sisley.

The U.S. Forest Service issued the following statement in response to questions about the situation in Forest Falls:

"In alignment with the Regional Forester's order to close all developed recreation sites, we have closed the Big Falls picnic area and its associated parking area. While designated recreation sites are closed, the general forest area including the extensive trail system has remained open and available to the public. It is the intent of USDA Forest Service to maintain trail access to the extent practicable, though we do advise every visitor to please consider state and local guidance before visiting. We will continue to monitor the Forest Falls parking lots for any issues."

Residents seemed resigned to the fact that visitors will still use the trails despite the stay-home order.

"If you're going to come up, please wear a mask," said Beckman. "Please be careful, and just follow the rules."

"It's a beautiful spring day, but we're a small town. If one person gets (the virus) we're all going to get it."
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.