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Wallow Wildfire Update: Sitgreaves National Forest re-opens July 8th

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At the beginning of the Wallow Wildfire, Facebook pages sprang up with people frantically posting pleas for help, pleas for information, and others posting offers of help. It was humanity in it's finest hour. Very early on, while watching for information on a cherished area in Greer, I stumbled upon one of these pages. Tired of being a passive observer to this horrific growing fire, I posted the comment "How can people in Gilbert help you?" The answer I got back immediately was posted by Jenny Lucier who said simply "come visit when the fire is over."

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Jenny Lucier along with Dan O’Neill own a very special vacation get-away in Alpine called Charley's Mountain Retreat.

Her plea for the return of tourism to her community stuck with me, and I am please to report the strictly enforced closure of the National Forests is being lifted in some White Mountain regions.

According to InciWeb (Incident Information Center)

Today, The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) has announced that the Sitgreaves National Forest will re-open for public use on Friday morning, July 8, with Stage 1 fire restrictions still in effect until more rain has fallen. This means that campfires will only be allowed in developed campgrounds. The use of gas-powered stoves will be permitted throughout the Sitgreaves National Forest.

Several major recreation areas on the Apache National Forest will open at noon on Friday, July 8: Big Lake and the adjacent developed campgrounds, Greer lakes and the nearby developed campgrounds, Lee Valley and Winn Campground, Nelson Reservoir, and Luna Lake.

Stage 2 Fire Restrictions will remain in place, which means that no campfires will be allowed, even in developed campgrounds. Access to Big Lake is by Highway 273 only (Sunrise Highway) as Highway 261 is still unsafe for motor vehicle use due to damaged guardrails. Lee Valley Reservoir, Luna Lake, Crescent Lake, and the three Greer lakes are for day use only.

Please note that the remainder of the Apache National Forest is closed to public entry at this time due to the many safety hazards present in the aftermath of the Wallow Fire.

Reservations at the Big Lake and Greer campgrounds can be made starting on July 8 by calling 1-877-444-6777 or on the web at www.recreation.gov. The Clifton Ranger District remains closed to public entry at this time until sufficient rain has fallen.

The specific areas to be opened on Friday on the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts include:

Big Lake/Crescent Lake Recreation Areas including: Big Lake boat ramps and parking areas, Big Lake Visitor's Center; Big Lake Administrative Site, Big Lake store and marina, South Cove boat ramp and parking area, Railroad Cove boat ramp and parking area. Big Lake Recreation area will open Friday, July 8 at noon. Access to Big Lake is via Highway 273 which will open at noon as well on Friday.

Greer Lakes Day Use Area including the following: Greer Lakes picnic area, Greer Lakes boat ramps and parking areas, Bunch Reservoir, River Reservoir, Tunnel Reservoir.

Lee Valley Reservoir Day Use Area including the following: boat ramp and parking area,and the lake itself. Rolfe C. Hoyer and Benny Creek Campgrounds and Squirrel Springs Picnic Area, Winn Campground, Springerville Ranger Station, Alpine Ranger Station are now opened.

Luna Lake Day Use including the following: boat ramps and parking areas, Luna Lake Store and Marina, and the lake itself.

Nelson Reservoir Day Use Area including the following: North end boat ramp, north end parking area, fishing piers, NFS Land underlying Nelson Reservoir, and the lake itself.

Forest Road Closures: Highway 261 is closed.

Forest Service Law Enforcement officials are concerned that the public may be tempted to venture into closed areas to look at the effects of the Wallow Fire, but they ask the public to please be patient as crews clear hazardous trees near the roads.

As the summer rainy season progresses, the threat from high water in certain drainages is very real. Please stay in areas open for public use.

Warning: individuals who run road closures need to know they could be cited and fined $5,000.00 for individuals, and $10,000 for organizations and/or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months.

While the photos of the burned regions are vast, sad, and desolate...there are areas with green meadows, forested hills and wildlife.

Our neighbors to the Northeast could use our help, and couldn't your family use some time in the White Mountains?

Check out the campgrounds that are now open by going to The Recreational Resource Management of America Website or "like" them on Facebook for great information, friendly advice, and photos.

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Tracy Lynn Cook is a writer in Gilbert, Arizona. To read more, please visit her blog at www.TLCsThoughts.com, or browse by topic:

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Tracy can be found on Facebook.com and onTwitter @TLCsThoughts.

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