Spring is here and forest visitors are eager to get outdoors and enjoy their forest, but even though heavy precipitation is behind us, most of the roads on the Coconino National Forest -- those above the Mogollon Rim -- are still too wet and will remain closed.
Many roads are closed during wet, snowy weather because they are not designed and maintained for all weather traffic, Forest Service officials said.
As the weather warms, forest managers are evaluating road conditions on a regular basis.
"In many cases, a road may look dry and solid just behind the gate, but in spots farther down, it still has mud and even 1- to 3-foot snow drifts," said Christa Roughan, natural resource specialist for the Peaks and Mormon Lake Ranger District.
Driving on wet forest roads, and driving off-road to avoid mud puddles, creates costly and sometimes irreversible damage to the natural resources.
More importantly, doing so is unsafe for forest users. Officers have issued several citations to motorists who've ignored the road closures and ended up stuck in the mud -- some have been stuck for more than a day before rescuers could reach them.
"We had a big snowpack this year, and based on our observations of roads to date, it is too early to swing the gates open," Roughan said.
"We appreciate drivers' understanding and patience waiting for the roads to dry out."
Typically, when preceded by such a wet winter, managers begin reopening roads near the end of April.
For updates on road closures, check the Coconino National Forest Web site under "Current Conditions" www.coconinoforest. us, or contact the Peaks Ranger District at (928) 526-0866.