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Progress made after fire closed Catwalk trail

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SILVER CITY — After nearly a year, most of the Catwalk National Recreation Trail is still closed due to dismantled bridges, but there is progress toward reopening some areas soon.

Officials of the Gila National Forest closed the Catwalk in late May 2012 as the nearby Whitewater Baldy Fire was still growing and uncontained. It remained closed even as the fire was contained and into monsoon season because of concerns about possible flooding.

According to Gila National Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell, when a fire devastates the vegetation in an area, there isn’t anything to keep water from carrying debris and sediment with it during heavy rains.

In mid-June, officials began dismantling the metal bridges and walkways at the Catwalk to prevent logjams and damage from debris flows that were anticipated during flooding.

While the whole Catwalk won’t be open to the public right away, plans are under way to take the first steps. The Forest Service is putting together a risk and hazard analysis of the area in the next couple of weeks to be sent to state offices.

“Short term, we’d like to at least extend access up to the octagon,” Russell said. “We’re just finishing the risk assessment. Our first concern is public safety, so it won’t be next week or anything, but we’re hoping to have it open in May at least.”

According to Glenwood District Ranger Pat Morrison, the “octagon” is the section of the trail which lines the walls of the first slot canyon and is considered the most scenic area of the trail. Past the octagon, there is a stretch of more primitive trail. The Forest Service will still have to assess that stretch to see how much fire damage it suffered.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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