Ocala National Forest remains closed after Hurricane Irma

Contact(s): Tonee Davis, 803-467-8999

Ocala NF Irma Damage

SILVER SPRINGS, Fla., (Sept. 13, 2017) — The Ocala National Forest remains closed to visitors as crews assess damage and begin cleanup following Hurricane Irma. The closure includes all roads, recreation areas, campgrounds and trails across the forest, including the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Since the hurricane, crews have been inspecting roads and recreation areas for damage and safety hazards. Trees are down across the forest in multiple recreation areas and many roads are flooded or covered in high standing water, creating dangerous situations.

 “Right now, it’s just not safe for visitors to come to the forest,” said District Ranger Carl Bauer. “Many forest roads will need major repairs; some will need to be completely rebuilt. It could be a week or two before we can open back up, depending on what our assessments show.”

As some employees evaluate the damage, others are using heavy equipment to remove debris and chain saws to cut felled trees.

“Our priority is opening roads to local residents,” said Bauer.

Concessionaires also are returning to begin cleanup, with hopes of reopening campgrounds within the next two weeks.

Crews have not yet been able to assess damage to Juniper Run, a seven-mile canoe trail that runs through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. A helicopter will be on site on Thursday to evaluate the forest from the air.

The Seminole Ranger District Office will reopen tomorrow at 8 a.m. The Lake George Ranger District Office is without power and will remain closed until further notice.

Elsewhere on the National Forests in Florida, the Apalachicola will reopen its campgrounds, concession areas and trails, including segments of the Florida National Scenic Trail, on Friday. Visitors are advised to watch for hazardous situations, especially downed trees and limbs along trails. Campground fees still are being waived on the Apalachicola for visitors displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

The Osceola National Forest also remains closed until further notice.

Visitors with Recreation.gov reservations for campgrounds or sites on the Ocala or Osceola National Forests Sept. 8 – Oct. 2, 2017 will automatically receive refunds because of closures resulting from Hurricane Irma. If any campgrounds or sites are closed past Oct. 2, those visitors with Recreation.gov reservations also will receive refunds. If any campgrounds on the Ocala or the Osceola open before Oct. 2, people displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey will be given priority on a first come, first served basis and will not be charged for their stay.

For the latest updates on the Ocala National Forest, follow us on Facebook at NationalForestsinFlorida and on Twitter @NFinFlorida.


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