Officials begin opening developed recreation sites

Officials begin opening developed recreation sites

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Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands officials will open all developed recreation sites on the Pine Ridge Ranger District and increase public access beginning May 20. These developed sites include the Cliffs, Red Cloud, Roberts Tract, Toadstool, and Solider Creek campgrounds.

“While we understand there may be some excitement from the public to return to beloved recreation areas, please continue to follow local, state, and federal guidelines on staying safe” Pine Ridge District Ranger Tim Buskirk said. “There is still work to be done – ensuring cleanliness of facilities, conducting proper maintenance, and assessing recreation areas for health and safety.”

Buskirk further explained restrictions were in place for the Rocky Mountain Region that includes sites in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas. As of May 20 those restrictions were lifted, with the decision to open made by individual districts.

For a full list of open areas and up-to-date information, visit the NNFG website and social media pages.

Visitors should come with all the essentials for a day trip, including food, emergency supplies, and resources to pack-out trash. Please follow the latest health guidance, stay at least six feet from others, and avoid gathering in large groups.

The Forest Service is asking visitors to recreate locally and responsibly. This will help expand access to facilities, services and other opportunities. Visitors are asked to plan accordingly as certain services may still be unavailable. Prepare to pack out trash and human waste.

Stage 1 fire restrictions are in place until rescinded to enhance public safety, protect natural and cultural resources and help minimize human-caused wildfires. Under fire restrictions:

•Fires are to be built only in constructed, permanent fire pits or fire grates within developed recreation sites.

•No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, trailer, or building.

•No operation of a chainsaw without an approved spark arrester, fire extinguisher, and shovel.

•No welding or use of torches with an open flame, except in cleared areas larger than 10 feet in diameter

•No use of explosives

Buskirk has been working with local fire chiefs and county commissioners, and the fire restrictions not only keep the forests and grasslands from burning up. They also limit firefighters’ possible exposure to COVID-19

Buskirk said efforts are being made to help minimize crowds at the sites, which will help to fall in line with what Nebraska Game and Parks is doing and comply with the state directed health measures. He understands people want to get out and enjoy these public areas, but it’s important to do so safely.

Usually the campgrounds are not too overcrowded, and act as overflow areas for Game and Parks sites, Buskirk said, but this year could see some additional visitors. Buskirk wants people to follow the guidelines, “because the last thing we want to do is shut back down.”

For more information, please visit the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands website (www.fs.usda.gov/nebraska), Facebook (@NebraskaForestsGrasslands), and Twitter (@USFSNebraska). Please contact the Pine Ridge Ranger District at 308-432-0300 for questions and site-specific information.

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