Leaders from the Deschutes National Forest have reversed their initial decision to close the campground at Cultus Lake for the summer.
Earlier this month, the Forest Service announced the closure of the day-use area and surrounding campground for the rest of the 2017 season, after an in-depth review found at least 160 dead and 300 infected trees that could fall on unsuspecting campers. But when that decision resulted in many complaints from people who had already reserved spots, officials changed their game plan.
"Our goal is to reopen the campground by mid-summer," Jean Nelson-Dean, public affairs officer for the Deschutes National Forest, told the Source Weekly Tuesday. "We are currently marking trees and putting out a bid for a contractor for removal," Nelson-Dean said. For now, the campground is still closed.
Forest Service officials initially said removal could not go ahead until after Sep. 30, due to the area being a breeding habitat for the endangered northern spotted owl, protected under the Northwest Forest Plan and the Deschutes National Forest Plan. These protections require the removal of trees to occur in the fall — outside of the owl's breeding season.
Following the announcement of the closure, co-owner of Cultus Lake Resort, Sandi Campbell, rallied supporters on her Facebook page to make phone calls and write letters to both the Forest Service and Rep. Greg Walden in a bid to mitigate the decision. In a June 13 statement, Walden reflected that the decision was "alarming considering the well-known value of Cultus Lake to summertime recreation in central Oregon...that the Forest Service missed an opportunity to remove hazard trees to ensure the safety of forest users and allowed this situation to reach the point of closure is unacceptable."
According to Campbell, the Forest Service has already removed hazardous trees around the boat ramp area, which reopened to the public June 16. All boat-in campsites remain open around the lake, including Big Cover, West Cultus and Little Cove.
Cultus Lake is a popular area in the Cascade Lakes, due to it being one of the few lakes that allow high-speed motorized boats.