Beginning Friday, much of the Tonto National Forest’s developed recreation sites were back open for use after being closed because of COVID-19.
This includes all developed sites for the lower Salt River and Saguaro Lake and most developed sites at Apache, Canyon, and Roosevelt lakes. Bartlett Lake sites opened on Saturday.
“In conjunction with Governor Ducey’s phased reopening of Arizona, we are opening many popular sites on the forest for public use and enjoyment,” said Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth. “We recognize the importance of providing recreational opportunities to forest visitors while providing for the safety of our employees and the public.”
If you are planning to visit the Tonto National Forest, officials say to keep the following in mind:
· Be good stewards of public lands and natural resources. Recreate responsibly.
· Avoid crowded areas and parking illegally. Over the past month, the entire forest has seen unprecedented visitation numbers. While opening additional recreation sites will help address crowding and parking issues, we expect visitation will continue to exceed capacity in some areas.
· Starting May 15, Tonto recreation passes will be required. Purchase of passes will be available at machines at some sites across the forest, at participating vendors, and virtually by contacting a district office during normal business hours.
· Restroom cleaning may be limited in some areas; they will post cleaning schedules at each site. This will also be the case for picnic tables.
· Use common courtesy and “Leave No Trace” principles related at recreation sites to avoid creating a public health hazard for employees and other forest users. For more information on Leave No Trace and “The 7 Principles”, please visit https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/.
· Visitors to national forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the CDC, such as practicing social distancing and limiting group sizes. For additional tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.
Some sites on the Tonto National Forest remain closed because of shortages of personal protective equipment for employees, shortage of sanitizing products, and small spaces that force congregations of large groups in violation of Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Additional recreation sites that can be safely opened and maintained will open guided by conditions on the ground, seasonal availability and facility conditions.
For a detailed list of what remains closed, please visit the website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r3/safety.