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40 acres of the campground off limits, but lake and campground to open as usual on May 15

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY PATRICK LAIR - Laminate root rot issues have continued in the timber around Walton Lake, one of the most popular Ochoco National Forestspots. While the campground will open on May 15, visitors should be careful  not to enter marked areas.

The Ochoco National Forest has extended a one-year public safety closure around 40 acres of forest near Walton Lake infected with a tree disease that weakens the roots and can cause them to fall without warning.

The Forest issued a one-year closure order on May 1 last year to prevent the public from recreating within the area of diseased trees that borders the busiest recreation site on the Ochoco National Forest. A new order went into effect last week to extend that closure while the Forest decides how best to deal with the trees.

The closure area encompasses about 40 acres of fir trees infected with laminated root rot, and includes about a third of a mile of the Walton Lake Trail that connects Walton Lake to the Round Mountain Trail.

"This is a temporary closure for this one area of trees, put in place for the health and safety of visitors, while we work through an environmental analysis to determine how best to deal with the problem," said Acting District Ranger Marcos Romero. "The lake and campground will open as normal on May 15, and everyone is still welcome to recreate here and enjoy the rest of the area."

The closure area borders Forest Service Road 2220, the loop drive that circles Walton Lake, but does not border the lake itself, nor does it prevent people from using the developed campground, the boat launch, or any of the many benches and picnic tables around the lake.

Ochoco staff had initially planned to cut many of the diseased trees out of the 40-acre area and replant with disease-resistant species like Ponderosa pine and Western larch, but later decided to hold off on the idea.

"The proposed treatment would have looked starkly different than what it does today," said Public Affairs Specialist Patrick Lair. "We realized much of the public did not fully understand the disease and why we were preparing to treat the area, or what the area was going to look like immediately following treatment. We decided to take a step back and engage our partners, the public, and the Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative to have more discussion. Walton Lake is the busiest developed recreation site in the Ochoco National Forest, and it's a special place for a lot of people, so we want to make sure we get this right."

Laminated root rot is considered the most damaging root disease of forest trees in Oregon and Washington, and because of that, it is also one of the most hazardous to people and property in popular developed recreation areas.

The native tree disease is caused by a fungus that rots and decays the root system of various conifers. Trees that are highly susceptible to laminated root rot can be killed and include conifers like Douglas fir, white and grand firs, and mountain hemlock.

The closure is expected to remain in place until the Forest Service has determined the best way to deal with the threat to visitor safety.

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