Forest reopens after shutdown

Published 12:33 am Saturday, October 19, 2013

National forest sites across the state, including the Conecuh National Forest, are in the process of reopening to the public following the 15-day partial government shutdown.

According to information released by the forest service, employees began returning to work Thursday, but some forest facilities may take several days to become fully functional.

“It took us a few days to close all of our facilities, so it may take us the same for reopening,” said Forest Supervisor Steve Lohr.

Conecuh District Ranger Tim Mersmann said that will not be the case for Conecuh facilities as both Blue Lake and the newly-opened shooting range have been reopened to the public.

Mersmann said the shutdown forced the forest areas’ closures because of a lack of personnel to properly maintain them.

“Since everyone who would have been available was of on furlough, we had to shut them down,” Mersmann said, adding a select few employees remained to make sure the closed areas were not damaged or trespassed on.

“We did keep a small staff, including myself, to make sure to protect the park’s resources,” he said.

Lohr said cleaning up any damage done to the forests during the shutdown is one reason some may take longer to reopen than others.

“Forest employees are working not only to clean and evaluate the safety of each facility and site, but also to repair any vandalism or resource damage that may have occurred during the shutdown.”

While work still needs to be done before all of Alabama’s national forests are once again fully functional, Lohr said forest service employees are just happy to be back at work.

Officials in the Conecuh District in Andalusia can be reached at 334.222.2555.