The wildfire at South Mountains State Park still smolders, but rangers, foresters and other officials are quickly making plans to repair trails, remove hazards and return the landscape to its natural state. The goal is to reopen the park as soon as practical, though no date has been set and some areas may be off-limits for quite some time.
Firefighters, with the help of infrared technology, are still searching for hotspots that need attention in the 6,435-acre fire zone. Technically the fire is 90 percent contained.
Fourteen trails (27.3 miles, nearly 60 percent of the park’s trail system) were affected by the wildfire to varying degrees. Each mile must be carefully inspected for dangerous limbs, trees that might topple, severe erosion and other hazards, as well as trail signs and gates that were damaged or destroyed. After that inspection, rangers must set priorities for restoring the trails and determine the cost and manpower necessary.
The blaze started Nov. 6 near the Chestnut Knob Trail, which sustained considerable damage. It’s likely that when the park reopens, that trail and some others will remain closed until proper repairs can be made. Aside from possible dangers, hikers could further damage trails that are fragile after the fire.
The specific trails that were affected by the wildfire are: Lower CCC, Upper CCC, Horse Ridge, Sawtooth, Little River, Chestnut Knob, Upper Falls, Shinny, Possum, Fox, Headquarters, High Shoals Falls, Turkey Ridge and Benn Knob.