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Trash, unattended fires, gate chains cut: Forest officials concerned over multiple incidents last weekend

Rangers responded to multiple instances last weekend of Coloradans not following the rules while recreating on forest lands.
Credit: White River National Forest officials
Trash left behind in White River National Forest last weekend.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — White River National Forest officials are urging Coloradans to respect public lands and follow rules that are in place after responding to several concerning incidents last weekend. 

On Sunday, forest officials said four people were base-jumping from cliffs above Hanging Lake and that one person had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. 

The trail to Hanging Lake is currently closed and off-trail travel is never allowed in the area.  

“We never want to see people breaking rules and engaging in high-risk behavior, but it’s especially worrisome given the current situation,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “We don’t want to pull emergency officials away from focusing on the pandemic.”

Under the state’s “safer-at-home” order, Coloradans are discouraged from traveling more than 10 miles to recreate. Officials want people to continue to enjoy parks and open space, but they also want visitors to be more responsible about going out during the pandemic.

RELATED: If you have to drive to hike in Colorado, ‘you’re trying too hard’

Also last weekend, all ranger districts on the White River National Forest reported finding multiple unattended campfires, the U.S. Forest Service said. 

“This isn’t rocket science. Follow the area fire restrictions. If you can have a campfire, enjoy it safely and make sure it is completely out before you leave,” Fitzwilliams said. “It’s only a matter of time before one of these abandoned campfires sparks a larger fire.”

Credit: White River National Forest officials
Trash left behind in White River National Forest last weekend.

RELATED: Fremont County enacts fire ban

Staff also noticed that several chains on seasonal Forest Service gates were cut over the weekend to gain early access.  

The Forest Service said seasonal closures to vehicles are in place to prevent disturbance to wildlife and damage to the roads. In other areas, people are driving around the gates or along muddy roads that suffered serious damage from motorized traffic.

“Please stay off muddy roads. Be patient, these spring conditions will improve,” Fitzwilliams said.

Credit: White River National Forest officials
Roads suffered serious damage from motorized travel in several areas of the forest.

Forest officials also wanted to remind the public to observe the 14-day camping limitations in areas open to camping, and to pack out their trash. A photo shared by the Forest Service over the weekend showed a large pile of trash sitting outside next to a restroom at a developed recreation site. 

“Public lands are a tremendous resource available to us during these stressful times. But people need to be responsible and use common sense. We are all in this together,” Fitzwilliams said.

If you see illegal behavior, contact your local ranger district or sheriff’s office.

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