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Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest restores recreation access following 2019 windstormSubmitted: 06/03/2020
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest restores recreation access following 2019 windstorm
Maya Reese
Maya Reese
Reporter
mreese@wjfw.com

RHINELANDER - The USDA Forest Service's restoration efforts on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to address severe damage from a July 2019 storm have reestablished access to many roads, trails and campgrounds.

The windstorm swept through northern Wisconsin on July 19, 2019. On the Lakewood-Laona Ranger District, the storm impacted roughly 1,230 miles of road and 2,000 miles of trail and led to the closure of three developed campgrounds and multiple dispersed camping sites.

Work to restore access to recreation sites began immediately after the storm. Forest Service crews, timber sale contracts and other contracts made it possible to open about 900 miles of roads that were previously impassable due to fallen trees. Over 400 miles of motorized trails were reopened with the help of volunteers, contractors and Forest Service crews. The Forest coordinated with counties and snowmobile clubs to clear the remaining snowmobile trails.

Approximately 40 miles of non-motorized trails have been opened, including some cross-country ski and mountain bike trails. These trails were prioritized last fall in anticipation of the winter recreation season. The remaining non-motorized trails are still closed, including 11 miles in the Jones Spring area and the 18-mile Popple Ridge horse trails. The storm hit these areas especially hard. Salvage logging in the area will help with some of the reopening. The remainder will be opened by trail crews or possibly by additional contract work, but this may not take place until the end of the 2021 field season or later.

Most developed recreation sites in the Lakewood area were closed directly after the storm. Forest Service crews were able to reopen the majority of those sites before the 2019 Labor Day weekend. Boot Lake Campground is the only developed recreation site still closed due to storm damage. Cleanup operations are ongoing, and the campground is expected to open during the 2020 camping season.

"The teamwork and effort that went into reopening recreation sites and trails before the Labor Day holiday was really impressive," said District Ranger Mike Brown.

Most dispersed (i.e., undeveloped) camping sites are currently open. Exceptions include Fanny Lake, Jesse Lake, Perch Lake, Spruce Lake, Trickle Creek, Wayne King and Wischer Lake, which should be open later this summer.

"It took staff from across the Forest, trail partners and coordination with towns and Oconto County government to make these restoration efforts successful," said Brown. "How we all worked together to get things back open really shows the strength of our community and partners."  

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