Young Gulch remains closed to hikers and mountain bikers. / Trevor Hughes/The Coloradoan
Nearly the entire High Park Fire burn area within Roosevelt National Forest remains closed, but some people have been discovered hiking, camping or climbing in the area anyway.
Since Poudre Canyon reopened to the public at the end of June, the Forest Service has issued 14 citations to people violating the forest closure, said spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman.
"It's a $125 fine, or folks can go to court" - federal court in Denver, she said.
Many of the citations have been issued to hikers on the Hewlett Gulch Trail, which was burned by both the High Park and Hewlett fires, she said.
The closure is in place because the burn area is still too unsafe for entry, and hot spots may still exist there, she said.
The biggest safety issues are trees that could fall on hikers, unstable slopes, rolling debris and other hazards.
The Young Gulch Trail could be closed for a year or more while volunteers and Forest Service personnel begin restoring the area.
Other trails likely will open sooner.
Greyrock, which was burned during the Hewlett Fire in May but unaffected by the High Park Fire, is likely to be the first trail in Poudre Canyon to reopen, Cloudman said.
Young Gulch is expected to be the last trail to reopen.
"We know people want to get in there, but we ask for their patience," Cloudman said. "It's going to take time to make it safe."
The High Park Fire Burn Area Emergency Response Team, which is in charge of coming up with a plan to rehabilitate the burn area, will issue its assessment of the fire's damage to the forest and a plan for restoration later this month.
It can take many years to restore and fully reopen a national forest following a severe wildfire, and violations of a forest closure following a wildfire can carry stiff penalties.
Some closures still are in effect for eastern Arizona's devastating Wallow Fire burn area more than a year after the blaze tore through 538,000 acres of private and national forest land during the summer of 2011.
The maximum penalty for venturing into closed areas of the Wallow Fire? A $5,000 fine and up to six months in prison.
High Park Fire still burning
The High Park Fire is still hot in some areas, and the U.S. Forest Service may not consider the fire under control until the fall.
Isolated pockets of the burn area remain hot, particularly in places that didn't receive much rain during storms which dropped several inches of precipitation in other parts of the foothills, said Forest Service spokeswoman Reghan Cloudman.
"Things can smolder for a while," she said. "There is no immediate threat to containment lines. It may be a while before we call it controlled."
The Forest Service estimates that the fire will be fully controlled by September, she said.
Fire crews are still patrolling parts of the burn area, she said.
"We'll call it controlled when we feel it's not going to keep putting up smoke," she said. "Folks still could see smoke in the area."
Is there a threat of the High Park Fire flaring up again?
"Never say never," Cloudman said.
Nearly half of the High Park Fire burned within Roosevelt National Forest, where the burn area remains closed to the public.
Roosevelt National Forest Closures
Roosevelt National Forest within the High Park Fire burn area remains closed. The closed area includes all national forest land in the area bounded by Larimer County Road 44H on the south, the fire's northern perimeter on the north, the Roosevelt National Forest boundary on the east and Pingree Park Road on the west.
Forest Service trail, road and recreation area closures include:
Written by Bobby Magill
- Young Gulch, Greyrock, Hewlett Gulch and Mount McConnel trails
- Diamond Rock and Bennett Creek picnic areas
- Cache la Poudre Wilderness
- Upper Ansel Watrous campground and five sites within the Mountain Park Campground
- West White Pine, Old Flowers and Monument Gulch roads
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