Popular areas along Pikes Peak to be closed longer than expected

March 20, 2017 Updated: March 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm
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Hikers hike the trail to the Crags from the Crags Campground Sept. 4, 2012. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Forest Service Road 383 will remain closed until after Memorial Day, denying recreationalists access to popular areas behind Pikes Peak including the Crags and the trail to Devils Playground.

The U.S. Forest Service does not anticipate reopening the road in Teller County before June, according to an email to The Gazette from Barbara Timock, the Pikes Peak Ranger District's public information officer. The expectation previously had been to reopen it at some point in April, after a contractor finished removing dead trees at risk of falling.

About 12 acres of roadside spruce stands have been felled, Timock said, but more removal is needed. With at-risk trees still standing near the trailhead and Crags Campground, and with cleanup to follow, she said the road closure would be extended.

Dispersed, free camping along the road had been popular before the Forest Service banned the activity last year as tree removal began. Timock said dispersed camping would remain prohibited for safety conerns this season. After work wraps up in June, she said, the hope is to open the developed campground, with a $16 fee to set up at 17 sites.

District forest ranger Oscar Martinez could not be reached for comment. Previously, he said the Forest Service has been concerned about decaying trees on Pikes Peak's northwest slope since a 2011 beetle infestation. Last May, crews spent a month removing dead or dying spruce trees, shallow-rooted and growing more than 25 inches in diameter and 50 feet in height.

Projects are expected to continue over the next five years, Timock said. Martinez had said they likely would occur in the colder months, when soil was best-suited for felling.

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Contact Seth Boster: 636-0332

Twitter: @SethBoster­­

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