Green Mountain National Forest limits site access

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RUTLAND — The Green Mountain National Forest is prohibiting overnight camping at certain campgrounds and making backcountry shelters and privies along the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail off limits.

Forest Supervisor of the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests John Sinclair said the decision to restrict access to certain areas of the park is the right thing to do at this time.

"These difficult decisions are not taken lightly. They consider the current risk to public health, the national effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the local community desire to access public lands," Sinclair said. "Restricting access to recreational sites or areas is a particularly difficult decision for the Forest Service, but health and safety concerns during this pandemic must be taken seriously."

The closure notice is dated May 6 and in effect until further notice. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued an addendum May 6 to the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order which allowed "businesses, non-profit and government entities that support or offer outdoor recreation and outdoor fitness activities with low or no direct physical contact to begin operations on May 7."

Despite loosening the restrictions of some outdoor activities, the addendum states that campgrounds, marinas and beaches are not permitted to open at this time.

Ready said the Forest Service is announcing the closures now despite the governor announcing a partial relaxing of restrictions because this is when federal land facilities would be opening for the season.

"Our developed campgrounds are not scheduled to open until mid-May," Ready said. "So they haven't been opened yet for the season. We have been trying to remain as accessible as possible during the pandemic."

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The Forest Service order prohibits camping in designated areas, campgrounds and shelters. Areas that are closed throughout GMNF include Greendale Campground, Grout Pond Campground, Hapgood Pond Campground, Somerset Campground and the Old Job Shelter in the Manchester Ranger district. Locations in the Rochester Ranger District include Bingo Campground, Chittenden Brook Campground, Moosalamoo Campground and Silver Lake Campground. Many Long Trail shelters and Appalachian Trail shelters are also closed. Privies along the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail are locked for health reasons.

"These campgrounds and privies are being closed because they are typically places where people might be gathering in larger groups and using the same surfaces. We continue to monitor recreation sites, but as personal protective equipment is scarce, we have to focus on the health of our employees and the visiting public," according to the Forest Service.

Certain sites at GMNF may take longer to open, even if the state further loosens its social distancing restrictions.

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"While the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order may be lifted in time, there may still be a delay in reopening certain recreation areas of the Forest. This decision will be made on a case-by-case basis," according to the USDA.

Although the GMNF has restricted activities at some locations, the Forest Service land remains open.

Visitors are asked to follow all state restrictions.

The Forest Service advises those who are sick to not visit the forest. They are also asking visitors to remain 6 feet apart from one another and keep your dog on a leash close to you. Avoid crowded areas during their visit.

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Choose low-risk activities to avoid injures to lower the burden on the health care system.

Trash receptacles may not be available so carry you trash out.

Choose uncrowded areas. If an area is crowded, look for a less occupied location or return at a later time. Consider avoiding the forest during high-use periods.

For up-to-date information on the Green Mountain National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/main/gmfl/home

Darren Marcy contributed to this article. Reach him at dmarcy

@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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