GLADSTONE – As the Hiawatha National Forest begins preparations for the opening of additional facilities, officials anticipate that both COVID-19 pandemic and winter ice storm damage will extend the usual pre-season maintenance. Currently, all overnight use is closed, and no campfires are allowed on the Hiawatha National Forests. Trails are currently open to the public.
For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information on openings, visit them online.
“We are looking forward to opening these sites for public use and enjoyment. Camping and recreating on the Hiawatha National Forest is an activity individuals and families look forward to experiencing every summer,” stated Cid Morgan, Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor. “While we understand there may be some excitement from the public to return to favorite recreation areas, please continue to follow local, state, and federal guidelines on staying safe.”
The Hiawatha is taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously and will continue to monitor the local situation and Forest operations to meet changing information, safety protocols, and recommendations from federal, state and local officials.
The Forest is committed to providing customer service and advancing recreation opportunities in an adaptable manner while monitoring health data and state orders.
“As states lift their shelter-athome orders, we are revisiting the opportunity for Forest Service employees, concessionaires, and volunteers to address pre-season work that has been limited by COVID 19. We are also working closely with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopening sites closed in response to the pandemic,” stated Morgan.
After the governor’s order is lifted, employees and concessionaires may begin performing spring maintenance such as: submitting water tests, clearing roads of dead or fallen trees, removing hazard trees in campgrounds, trimming brush, opening toilets, grading and replacing signage and clearing trails. Facilities like day use sites and campgrounds will then be opened sequentially in a safe manner that protects the health of employees, visitors, partners and cooperators.
“We are urging visitors to use greater care than usual while recreating this spring,” said Morgan, explaining that given maintenance delays, it’s more likely that recreationists may come across downed limbs and trees, uneven trail surfaces, missing signage and other related hazards.
She added that recreationists should slow down, take corners with extra caution, watch for potential hazards, and stay on designated trails. Due to ice and wind damage, dead, fallen or bent trees and brush are common on many roads, trails and other recreation sites.
“Unfortunately, the storm damage, which is heavy in certain locations, means our staff and concessionaires face an increased volume of spring maintenance work in combination with the delay caused by the COVID-19 situation,” said Morgan. She explained that staff and partners will need time to safely address the necessary work at a site before moving to the next site.
Visitors are asked to stay as local as possible when choosing a site to visit and to pack out everything they bring, especially trash. Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local health and safety guidance. For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https:// www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/about/prevention.html.