The Denver Post had an interesting story today about the closures in Region 2 of the Forest Service.
What other public land entities in Colorado are doing:
State parks are not closed to hiking and boat ramps, the National Parks appear to be trying to figure it out community by community. Here’s a site that talks about the National Parks and Monuments in Colorado. Here’s an article about the more “destination” Parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a day trip from Denver. The community of Estes Park asked Secretary Bernhardt to close it. BLM is apparently implementing different approaches by State Office. For example, here is the Colorado State Office’s COVID page.
What Region 2 of the Forest Service is doing: note that Region 2 includes Kansas, Nebraska and parts of South Dakota and Wyoming as well as Colorado, so they’re not strictly comparable.
“Rocky Mountain Region officials are temporarily discouraging continued recreational use on the national forests and grasslands,” the U.S. Forest Service release reads. “While trails and roads may be open for use, facilities like visitor centers, entrance kiosks, restrooms and more will be closed. Currently, the guidance temporarily allows for the limited local day use of trails and rivers. The guidance is based on a risk assessment conducted by Forest Service officials to determine significant risks that would be difficult to mitigate given the demonstrated risk of COVID-19 exposure in large, concentrated gatherings of people.”
Asked how trails could remain open when trailheads are closed, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lawrence Lujan sought to clarify the point.
“It varies across the landscape, but generally, if the trailhead is closed, the access to the trail is limited,” Lujan said. “Sometimes a trail has multiple arteries and can be accessed from various points.”
Decisions are being made at the ground level for Colorado’s 11 national forests, which typically have three to six districts each. Lujan recommended users consult individual forests and districts online to find out what is open or closed.
“Each individual forest will report on their units’ recreational status,” Lujan said. “Know before you go. Check local public health guidance and orders, and your local district, before heading out. Take the necessary actions to do your part to prevent or stop the spread of the virus.
In this CPR article, there were a few clarifications:
While the Forest Service is recommending trailheads also close, local forest offices can choose to keep theirs open if they deem it safe.
The Forest Service is also discouraging hunting, fishing and trail use.
Based on a brief survey of Forest websites, it doesn’t seem all that easy to figure out what is closed. Maybe others know more? And based on some trailheads that get crowded, closing seems to lead to more people parking along the road nearby (as do fishers), rather than people going home.
Do other Forests/Regions have different policies?