ELKINS, W.Va. — Although there are no facilities available, the Monongahela National Forest remains open in West Virginia. Under President Donald Trump’s National Health Emergency Declaration, the U.S. Forest Service has closed all developed facilities on forest property amid the Covid 19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t visit.
“In general, the forest is open and folks are welcome to come out and use the forest. However, we have closed all facilities,” said Ben South, Acting Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Monongahela National Forest.
Speaking on West Virginia Outdoors, South noted closures included all campgrounds, bathrooms, picnic shelters, observation towers, visitor centers or any other developed amenities on the U.S. Forest Service property. The Highland Scenic Highway is open, but all overlooks are closed along the roadway. The roads to the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, locally known as Jordan Run, is closed for the winter. As part of the pandemic response, the Forest Service has delayed reopening the road for the spring.
“However, if folks want to come to the forest to hunt, fish, hike, backpack, or participate in dispersed camping and those kinds of activities, please come out and enjoy the forest,” said South.
South noted “dispersed camping” was loosely defined as any kind of camping not happening within a developed and established campground on the National Forest property. Developed camping areas were shutdown in an executive order by Governor Jim Justice earlier in response to crowds gathering and out-of-state visitors arriving in the state to ride out the pandemic.
South also addressed concerns and questions about the out-of-state visitors to the National Forest.
“The forest is open to everyone. We encourage the use of the forest, but it’s not limited to state residents, it’s open to everyone. However, we ask that everybody abide by the Governor’s order. If folks are coming from out-of-state we ask they quarantine for 14 days according to the Governor’s order,” he said.
Forest Rangers are on patrol and checking dispersed campsites to insure the safety of individuals, but they are not requiring out-of-state residents to immediately leave.
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of our employees and the public as well. We’d like to do what we can during this emergency period to keep people safe and healthy,” said South.