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Forest Service shutdowns don't impact trails, but social distancing encouraged

Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-28 10:08:21-04

HAMILTON — Forest Service managers say a decision to close some popular recreation areas won't impact your chance to get outdoors, as long as you plan to hike and give others space.

Thursday's closure order from the Forest Service Northern Region comes after some recreation sites, like Lake Como, saw hundreds of people show up last weekend.

"That includes the day use sites at Lake Como, our developed campgrounds, a couple of our rental cabins, and also all of the outhouses and toilets on the forest," said Bitterroot National Forest Spokesman Tod McKay.

In fact those outhouses are a focal point of the hazard. Not only is it dangerous for the public, but the Forest Service trying to keep up on maintenance with limited help.

"It's also a concern for our Forest Service employees and our volunteers that are going out to these areas. Obviously trying to keep toilets clean and safe is another concern," said McKay.

Most campgrounds won't open until April 15th anyway. It's too soon to know if that will have to change, but the Forest Service will be watching the guidelines closely as the weather gets warmer.

"Some of our campgrounds have thirty or 40 sites. And all of these folks are sharing the same common facilities. So everybody's coming to the same outhouse. They're coming to the same area to gather water. And again, you've got these large congregations of folks and it's just unsafe and it's actually just the opposite of what state and federal guidelines are asking people to do," said McKay.

McKay emphasizes that the forest will remain open for business. Popular trailheads like here at Bass Creek will still be there for you to use if you want to get some fresh air. They just ask that you give each other plenty of space.

"Our trails, our trailheads where people go and park are still open. Please get out and recreate. Boy, if ever there was a time that people needed to get out, stretch their legs, get some fresh air, clear their minds, it's right now. But please recreate responsibly. Please make sure your social distancing when you're hiking. We just want to keep everybody safe," said McKay.