Vail Daily column: Gear up for the great outdoors this summer
The Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District is gearing up for another busy field season, and I wanted to take a moment to address a few items before we all get out in the woods this summer.
In light of the relatively dry winter and early spring, the existing snow is melting ahead of schedule, and our district is being asked whether the road system will open earlier this year. The 2011 Travel Management decision analyzed historic weather trends across the district and set our road open dates at May 21, June 1 and June 21. While we understand that Mother Nature will never match perfectly with a date on a calendar, having consistent open and closure dates allows the public to better plan their motorized use each year, provides for protection of wildlife, water and soil resources and, importantly, keeps the road surface in better condition through the inevitable (and hard to predict) spring rain and snow events. It’s for all these reasons that we need to remain consistent with our closure dates and will not be opening roads early this year. I appreciate your understanding and patience over the next few weeks.
Due to some unexpected vacancies, our front desk and administrative staffing will be short-handed in the coming months. Given budget realities, the challenges associated with running two offices and the timing involved in hiring new staff, we have decided to close the Eagle office to the public beginning on June 1 in order to concentrate our Visitor Services in the Minturn office. The Eagle office is usually open Mondays and Fridays during the summer months, but the realities of our staffing situation make keeping both offices open increasingly difficult. As the summer progresses, we will monitor the front desk workload, along with opportunities to fill permanent positions, but I expect this closure to remain in effect through Labor Day.
We do plan to keep an information board posted outside the Eagle office with basic forest information and phone numbers, and the Eagle Tourist Information Center will be provided with maps and materials to give to the public. I recognize that this may cause some inconvenience to those who live downvalley, but I’m hopeful that our staffing limitations will be temporary, and this closure will only be in effect for this summer season.
Finally, I want to thank you for continuing to be good stewards of our public lands. The White River National Forest sees roughly 12.5 million visitors annually. We are able to overcome the challenges of managing such popular areas because of the numerous volunteer groups, partnerships and people such as yourselves who help us every day. So whether you spend a Saturday helping us maintain a trail, pick up trash as you hike or teach your children about the joys of the forest, I recognize the contributions you make in keeping your National Forests enjoyable for everyone.
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Have a fun and safe summer on the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, and please don’t hesitate to stop by the Minturn office to say hello!
Aaron Mayville is deputy district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest.