WENATCHEE– Recreating in the national forest is an activity loved by millions of people. Whether it be hiking, biking, picnicking, fishing, camping, or just going for a drive, the national forests provide fun, excitement, and solace to many. While many of these pastimes have been limited during the past few months, starting May 22, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest will resume opening trailheads and day-use areas on a phased-in basis. Some trailheads and day-use areas that are still snow-covered will open later.
“The Forest Service is making every effort to expand access within the context of CDC guidelines and state and local government orders for residents. To be in alignment with our Washington State partners, we will start a phased re-opening of many recreation sites on the forest on May 22,” Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail said. “During the first phase, trailheads and most day-use facilities will reopen.”
Though the vast majority of trailheads and day-use facilities will be opening May 22, there may be some special cases and isolated recreation facilities and areas that will remain closed. “Heavily visited day-use sites, such as Boulder Cave, and day-use sites that are located within campgrounds with no separate access will remain closed until the campground opens,” Bail said.
Access to amenities like restrooms, garbage service, and water facilities will be limited. Plan not to have access to these amenities, which means the public will need to bring water, know how to properly dispose of human and dog waste, and pack out all garbage.
Campgrounds will remain closed during this first phase so forest staff and concessionaires can prepare them for operation.
“Due to COVID-19, many operational tasks we normally do in April had to be delayed, requiring us to get these tasks completed later than we normally do with a limited workforce,” Public Services Staff Officer Bryan Mulligan said. “Water systems need to be turned on and tested, hazard trees need to be taken care of, outhouses need to be cleaned and repaired, trees and limbs that fell over the winter need to be removed, and the myriad of other necessary tasks that must occur before campgrounds can reopen.”
“The Okanogan-Wenatchee is eagerly looking forward to opening our campgrounds sometime in June, consistent with the Governor’s ‘Safe Start Washington’ plan,” Mulligan said. “Under this plan, campgrounds are described as opening during Phase Two.”
“Protecting the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, partners, recreation providers, and the public is always our number one priority,” Bail said. “We want to make sure that personnel have the appropriate personal protective equipment so they can safely open and operate these facilities.”
“Although there may be some temporary local closures, we continue to make every effort to provide access to these lands. We, too, look forward to when communities we serve can once again fully enjoy all the recreation opportunities available in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest,” Bail said.
Forest visitors are encouraged to know before they go. Check to find out what local conditions and closures may be. Please follow social distancing guidelines when in parking areas, trailheads, and on trails.
For more information regarding available recreational opportunities, please visit our website: www.fs.usda.gov/okawen