Storm leaves mark on national forest
ELKINS, W.Va. -- Lingering late-season snow is keeping work crews from making repairs to a number of Superstorm Sandy-damaged Monongahela National Forest campgrounds, trails and recreation areas popular with spring trout anglers.
"This is the time of year many people start to think about fishing," said Eric Sandeno of the Monongahela National Forest headquarters office in Elkins. "So we'd like to let everyone know, particularly if they're driving in from areas where there's no snow on the ground, that some of our campgrounds will be closed for a while to allow storm repairs to be made."
Campgrounds under temporary closure orders due to safety hazards posed by downed trees, broken limbs, and sheared-off treetops include Cranberry and Big Rock campgrounds along the Cranberry River in the Gauley Ranger District.
All numbered primitive campsites along the Cranberry River between the Big Rock and Cranberry campgrounds are also closed pending repairs, as are the Woodbine and North Bend picnic areas.
At nearby Williams River, numbered campsites along Williams River Road between the Three Forks and Tea Creek campgrounds are also closed for repairs. The campsites affected by the closure order are numbered sites 6-19.
Some campgrounds and day use areas in the Gauley Ranger District escaped serious storm damage from Sandy and have opened as normal, including Summit Lake and Bishop Knob campgrounds and the Falls of Hill Creek waterfall viewing trail and the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.
In the Monongahela's Cheat-Potomac Ranger District, gates are closed due to storm damage at the Horseshoe Recreation Area and Campground in Tucker County, and at the Stuart Recreation Area and Campground along Shavers Fork in Randolph County.
Contracts will be issued soon to clear storm damage from the campgrounds and recreational areas as they become accessible to heavy equipment, Sandeno said.
Trail crews are scheduled to begin removing hazards from the hardest-hit hiking trails in the Monongahela starting in about two weeks.
"Right now, every mile of trail in the Otter Creek Wilderness is closed off" due to storm damage, Sandeno said, while hikers will find many other trails difficult to use until they are cleared of debris.
The wilderness trails will be cleared by crews consisting mainly of Forest Service trail foremen from western states, where trails usually remain snow-covered through April.
"We'll be borrowing them for about a month, and then we'll be hiring seasonal crews for our normal trail work," Sandeno said.
Monongahela National Forest personnel will provide detailed information about delays, closures, repair work status and re-openings on its website at www.fs.usda.gov/mnf. For more information, call the Gauley Ranger District office in Richwood at 304-846-2122 or the forest's headquarters in Elkins at 304-636-1800.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5169.