Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie NF Temporarily Closing all Developed Recreation Sites

Developed recreation sites now closed include campgrounds, sno-parks, restroom facilities, and trailheads. These closures are necessary to address the social distancing guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and to align with Governor Inslee’s “Stay at Home and Stay Safe” executive order. The executive order says to stay home and to not travel for recreational purposes.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest officials urge people to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and avoid putting undue pressure on medical and law enforcement services, especially in rural communities so we can all return to our outdoor adventures as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

In addition, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offices are currently conducting public business by phone, email, or through web-based transactions; critical in-person business is being handled by appointment only to minimize person-to-person contact.

 

Developed Recreation Sites Closure Order


Why is the closure necessary?

The decision to close is a difficult one. Recreation provides physical and mental health benefits. Unfortunately, too many people were not following recent safety guidelines while out on our landscapes. At this time, it is extremely important that we follow the direction of scientists and doctors to stay home except for essential needs.

Isn’t being out in the wilderness safer than being elsewhere?

In some ways, yes, but other people also think so. When everyone heads to their favorite recreation area, suddenly people are parking together, sharing facilities, passing on the trail. Closing access is a significant step, but it’s necessary and temporary. The sooner people follow stay home direction, the sooner we can welcome folks back. Not many trails are currently accessible and even more are snow covered.  This leaves the public with limited hiking options within the forest and can create radical overcrowding in areas susceptible to resource damage at a time when social distancing is most needed.

Why is camping closed?

Campgrounds bring people together and that is why we cherish outdoor adventure. However, this creates a potentially unsafe setting. Visitors stay for days at a time, cook and eat in close proximity, share restroom facilities, and have limited resources for following disinfection and hand washing recommendations.

We weighed many scenarios, and came to the conclusion that the most effective course is to fully close camping for now. We recognize that this will create additional challenges for some people, however, it is imperative that we take action to limit risk and exposure for everyone

What will happen if people go into the closed areas?

This is a legal closure and people who don’t follow the closure order could be ticketed. However, our goal is to get voluntary compliance, as our intent with this closure is to align with the Governor’s executive order to stay home. If we come across people in closed areas, we’ll inform them of the closure order and ask them to leave. If visitors do not adhere to the warnings, officers may issue a citation.

How will you enforce that?

If we come across people in closed areas, we’ll inform them of the closure order and ask them to leave. Our goal is to get voluntary compliance.

Is it okay for me to park on a road next to the Forest and access trails?

Yes. However, state and local ordinances may apply in some areas. Users must abide by all Federal, local, and state laws. Blocking, or impeding, vehicle traffic or damaging natural resources may result in citation and/or towing.

  • Visitors should check with local authorities to see if any local ordinances have been enacted.
  • Check with local officials to see if your visit will add an unnecessary stress on local resources.
  • If you get lost or injured, it may take longer than usual for someone to assist. Calling up Search and Rescue teams puts a large stress on county resources, volunteers and their families and can strain an already strained health care system.
  • We still have wet, muddy and snowy conditions on trails and roads—these should be considered closed until conditions improve. Waiting for these trail and road systems to dry out and open up will mean that our road crews, trail crews and partner organizations don’t have to spend additional time on reparative maintenance.

Is dispersed camping allowed on your forest?

Yes, dispersed camping is allowed, and visitors may use forest roads.

Can I drive forest roads, park, and camp at dispersed, non-developed, campsites?

  • The closures of developed recreation sites across Oregon and Washington were made to align our operations with the Governors' stay at home orders in both Oregon and Washington.  
  • Please delay travel to outdoor destinations as much as possible. We’ll be here ready for you when it’s much safer for all of us.
  • If you can’t delay travel, please consider the following:
  • Visitors should check with local authorities to see if any local ordinances have been enacted.
  • Check with local officials to see if your visit will add an unnecessary stress on local resources.
  • If you get lost or injured, it may take longer than usual for someone to assist. Calling up Search and Rescue teams puts a large stress on county resources, volunteers and their families and can strain an already strained health care system.
  • We still have wet, muddy and snowy conditions on trails and roads—these should be considered closed until conditions improve. Waiting for these trail and road systems to dry out and open up will mean that our road crews, trail crews and partner organizations don’t have to spend additional time on reparative maintenance.

How are people supposed to know what’s closed?

We’ll use a variety of means to inform people what has been closed but we won’t have the ability to put up signage or other means of notification for all areas. If people are unsure, you can call us to ask, or delay your visit until we're fully open again.

What is the violation / fine / punishment for breaking a closure order?

Depending on the violation, people may be issued a local, state or Federal citation that could result in a fine

If you head out, please take some time to consider:

  • What risks are associated with the activity you have chosen to do?  Law enforcement, search and rescue, and hospitals have limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Plan ahead, check road and trail conditions before heading out, and have alternative options knowing that people social distancing and access will be difficult given the closure of all developed recreation sites.
  • If the site you have chosen is full, have some back up options in mind that will allow you to maintain @CDC social distancing guidelines.
  • How will you help minimize pressure on smaller communities adjacent to the forest that have limited resources?  Restaurants, rest stops and trailhead bathrooms are likely to be closed.   Do you have the food, water and fuel you need for the day?  Do you have the supplies you need to hygienically pack out your waste?
  • We know the outdoors are calling, but the decisions you make affect everyone.  If there was ever a time to recognize our #interdependence, this is it. 

 

While we encourage you to go outside and enjoy the fresh air and nice weather, we ask that you please take extra steps to help us keep our lands healthy.

  • Don’t open locked gates. Most gates are for public safety, but many are there to protect sensitive natural resource areas.
  • Practice “Leave No Trace” principles and leave the forest in the condition you found it, or better!
  • Remember that we still have wet, muddy and snowy conditions on trails and roads—these should be considered closed until conditions improve. Waiting for these trail and road systems to dry out and open up will mean that our road crews, trail crews and partner organizations don’t have to spend additional time on reparative maintenance.
  • Let’s all protect and respect these public lands we love.
     

While you are enjoying your public lands take care to stay within your limits. Be mindful of the route you take, stay on well-established trails, tell someone your plan for the day and stick to it--and don’t go out alone.

  • Take extra supplies for any emergency. We’ve been hearing from our county partners that they are seeing an increase in Search and Rescue operations, which puts stress on county resources, volunteers and their families and if you get injured, an already strained health care system.  
  • Let’s all do our part to ensure we are keeping ourselves, our families and our communities safe by being prepared and recreating responsibly.
  • Be extra cautious, as emergency responders are very busy and resources that typically support Search and Rescue are being used to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Please don't take any risks that might mean you need rescue or health care.
     
  • If you get lost, it may take dozens or hundreds of searchers to find you, particularly if you venture off-trail. Most of these searchers are volunteers who will be leaving behind their families during this emergency to help you and they may need to prioritize their own health and that of their families.
     
  • If you get injured, you will be relying on an already stressed health care system, diverting hospital resources from the pandemic response.
     
  • Give people space when you meet in parking lots, at overlooks, and even along the trail. When you see approaching hikers, look for a spot where you can safely step aside or just off the trail to maintain 6 feet of distance.




https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbs/home/?cid=FSEPRD719012