National Forests across the state, including the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico, are bracing for Memorial Day weekend under COVID-19 conditions.
Memorial Day weekend is the traditional opening of the summer outdoor recreation season and on an average year, is a bustling weekend in the woods. However, even recent non-holiday weekends have seen unusually high visitation as people seek a respite from quarantine and the heat by heading into the forest. Sitting Bull Falls outside of Carlsbad, NM was visited by over 700 people in one day last weekend and the Upper Bonito Dispersed Recreation Area outside of Ruidoso, NM was inundated with campers. While most visitors try to do the right thing, careless campers and high fire danger are a bad combination. The Lincoln National Forest will have law enforcement, fire, and recreation patrols out over the weekend to ensure visitor safety, enforce the campfire ban, which has been in place since April 15, and encourage compliance with New Mexico public health orders.
“If you decide to visit the forest this weekend, please do your part to protect yourself, other recreationists, and our employees by being responsible and respectful,” said Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley. “The Forest Service is making every effort to expand access while following CDC guidance and state government orders to protect people and employees.”
Trails remain open and dispersed camping is encouraged. Please adhere to the Leave No Trace principles of outdoor ethics and refer to the Motor Vehicle Use Maps so you know which roads and trails are open to motor vehicle traffic.
Public, volunteer and employee safety are critical as the Forest Service considers potential risks and management of recreation sites. Factors considered when deciding to open a site include New Mexico health and safety guidelines, cleaning supply availability, and facility conditions.
The Lincoln National Forest will be reopening seven campgrounds at a 25% capacity limit on the Sacramento Ranger District near Cloudcroft, NM in time for the weekend. The sites that will be reopening are