CHEYENNE — Wyoming’s state parks and recreation sites have escaped damage from wildfires for the most part this summer, but a state parks official expects visitation to be hurt because of fire restrictions and bans on open campfires.
“All of our state parks either have fire restrictions or total fire bans, and it’s not looking real shiny for much of the rest of the summer,” Bill Westerfield, chief of operations with the Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, said Tuesday. “This has had a bad effect on our visitation in that nobody wants to stand around the picnic table in the evening and talk to each other without a fire burning.”
Wyoming has 13 state parks and recreation sites with camping facilities. A large wildfire burned in Guernsey State Park in southeast Wyoming last month, and wildfires burned close to Glendo and Seminoe state parks this month. Guernsey was closed for nearly a week, while part of Glendo was closed for several days.
Milward Simpson, director of the State Parks and Cultural Resources Department, reported to the State Parks and Cultural Resources Commission on Tuesday that the only reported damage to park facilities occurred in Guernsey. Two small, reconstructed Depression-era foot bridges were lost.
There has been no damage to “any place where people would want to recreate or camp,” Simpson said.
“Guernsey is actually seeing regrowth at the park already,” he said. “The erosion control seems to be very effective.”
But, Simpson said, the economic harm caused by the fires won’t be known until park visitation numbers are compiled at the end of the year.
About 2.8 people visited Wyoming state parks in 2011.
Westerfield said he expects visitation to be down this year because of fire bans and restrictions at all the state parks and recreation site campgrounds.
For instance, he noted that the number of people at Glendo State Park over the July 4th holiday was down from previous years.
“Usually on the Fourth of July, Glendo gets pretty much full, and we weren’t anywhere near that this year,” Westerfield said.
Open campfires are banned at Boysen, Glendo, Guernsey, Hawk Springs, Medicine Lodge, Hot Springs, Seminoe, Sinks Canyon state parks and cultural sites. Charcoal grills with a lid and propane grills are allowed.
At Bear River, Keyhole and Edness K. Wilkins state parks, all campfires and charcoal grills are prohibited. Propane grills are allowed. Campfires, charcoal grills and propane grills are banned at Curt Gowdy State Park.
Buffalo Bill State Park has less restrictive fire bans.
Separately, the State Parks and Cultural Resources Commission gave unanimous approval to a proposal by the Wyoming Military Department to transfer about 800 acres of land in the Guernsey area to the state parks department. The land contains ruins, graves and other sites associated with the Oregon Trail that runs through the area. The recommendation goes to the State Legislature for final approval.