ELKINS, W.Va. (WDTV)-- The Monongahela National Forest has temporarily closed all developed recreation sites, as well as mandated a group-size limitation of 10 people or less per group across the entire Forest.
According to a news release from the USDA Forest Service, this decision is in alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing to ensure health safety of the Forest's employees, visitors and volunteers.
Monongahela sites impacted by this announcement include:
· All Developed Campgrounds
· All Developed Day Use Areas (including visitor centers, picnic areas, observation towers, Highland Scenic Highway overlooks, and historic sites)
· Middle Mountain Cabins
· Dispersed (roadside) camping along the Cranberry and Williams rivers
· All toilet facilities
Other recreation opportunities at Monongahela National Forest like fishing, roadside camping (in areas other than the Williams and Cranberry rivers), hiking, backpacking and backcountry camping remain available, according to Forest Service.
Forest Service says to protect public health and safety, all visitors to the Forest are encouraged to:
· Avoid visiting the forest if you are sick and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
· Follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene and social distancing before and during your visit to the Forest.
· Take your trash with you when you leave. Trash overflowing the receptacles becomes litter and can be harmful to wildlife and attract predators.
· Please make arrangements to use the restroom before or after your visit to the forest. Unmanaged waste creates a health hazard for our employees and for other visitors.
· If an area is crowded, please search for a less occupied location. Also consider avoiding the Forest during high-use periods.
Campers cannot camp in the same dispersed or backcountry campsite at the Forest for more than 14 consecutive days, according to Forest Service. After 14 days, campers must move their camp more than five road-miles away from the site you just occupied. Campers may return to the original site after 21 days have elapsed.
Forest Service says they continues to assess and temporarily suspend access to recreation areas that attract large crowds and cannot meet social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.