Snowpack delays road openings

All Forest Service routes tentatively scheduled to open by July 4

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— Eager adventurers will have to wait one or two weeks to head to higher elevations.

Heavy snowpack and below average spring temperatures are delaying U.S. Forest Service road openings. The roads usually are open by June 15 and sometimes as early as Memorial Day weekend, said Kent Foster, recreation program manager for the Hahn's Peak Ranger District, but this year he estimates all roads won't be open until July 4 or later.

"There's still a lot of snow up there," Foster said. "Up on Buff Pass there is still 6 or 7 feet of snow."

Diann Ritschard, Forest Service public affairs specialist, advised people not to go around closed gates. The roads are wet and driving vehicles on them will cause damage such as deep ruts and erosion, she said.

"As the water melts, it gets down into the ruts and can cause even worse damage," Ritschard said. "And ultimately it's the taxpayers that have to pay for this damage."

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland encompass nearly 2.9 million acres of land. Foster said the budget allots about $800,000 for road maintenance, of which 10 percent to 15 percent is spent on springtime maintenance each year.

"It's a limited budget, and the more fixing we have to do in the springtime, the less money we have for normal maintenance," Foster said.

The current status of local Forest Service roads and campgrounds:

- F.S.R. 60/Buffalo Pass Road: Closed at the Dry Lake gate. Snow begins about 1.5 miles up and is solid at 9,000 feet and above. The Forest Service plans to monitor to see when the road can be opened to the second gate.

- F.S.R. 400: Open to Coyote Park. The Forest Service tentatively plans to cut hazard trees at Slavonia Trailhead this week in time to open Saturday.

- F.S.R. 314/Elk Park Road: Closed.

- F.S.R. 550: The Forest Service is checking the road this week. The main gravel road is mostly open but trails and un-surfaced roads are wet and snow covered in the trees. Tentatively plan to open by June 28.

All campgrounds are currently closed.

- Dry Lake campground should be open by Saturday.

- Seedhouse campground: Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews are working on hazard trees this week, and the campground potentially will be open by the weekend. If delayed, the area will be open by June 28.

- Hinman campground could open by July 1.

- Meadows and Dumont campgrounds remain snow covered and won't open until July 1, at the earliest.

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