LAKE ELSINORE (CNS) – Campgrounds, picnic areas and other sites within the Cleveland National Forest have been closed to the public until at least April 30 in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the closure orders were issued in deference to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place proclamation urging all individuals not employed in “essential” functions to stay at home as much as possible.
The USFS said “developed recreation sites” are affected by the closure, and those include established camping areas, as well as picnic grounds.
Sites shut down on the Riverside County side of the 460,000-acre preserve include El Cariso picnic areas, Hot Springs trailhead, San Juan loop trailhead, Tenaja trailhead and Wildomar staging area.
The San Bernardino National Forest also closed numerous recreation sites, including Pinyon Campground, along with roughly 15 “yellow post” sites that provide individual camping amenities and multiple picnic areas.
A USFS statement asks people to “keep health, safety and the environment in mind when visiting national forests.”
“Your personal responsibility is critical to ensuring public safety and preventing further restrictions. We ask that you consider whether your personal participation in outdoor recreation at this time would pose an unnecessary risk to others, as we all work together to … slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Violators of the closure order could face fines.
Officials pointed out that trail networks for walking, hiking and mountain biking remain accessible, but rangers again emphasized the benefits of social distancing — remaining 6 feet from the nearest other person who is not a companion — and no groups in excess of 10 people, per the health directive from Riverside County two weeks ago.