After almost a year and a half of being closed because of wildfire damage, hiking trails in Heil Valley Ranch’s South Side will reopen to the public on June 16.

An informational sign about the Overland Fire in 2003 stands in the burn scar from the Calwood Fire at Heil Valley Ranch in Boulder County in October 2020. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The Corral and Main Trailheads — and all connecting trails — will open after months of extensive restoration and repair, according to news release from Boulder County Parks & Open Space. Part of the Wapiti Trail will remain closed to protect a golden eagle nest in the area, but a detour is available.

Parks & Open Space staff had aimed to reopen the trails before Memorial Day weekend, but the date has been postponed because of delays in getting needed supplies for the repairs.

“We weren’t able to get materials — particularly, we were waiting to get a bridge installed, and that was delayed,” said Nik Brockman, a web administrator with Boulder County Parks & Open Space. “Some of the other things that were going on, we thought it was best to delay until after the Memorial Day holiday.”

The popular hiking area was devastated in October 2020 by the Calwood Fire, which ripped through more than 10,000 acres of land and damaged or destroyed 26 structures. About 5,000 people were evacuated from the area.

Although parts of the North Side of Heil Valley Ranch are open for trail use, fire damage has left the southern section of the park in a fragile state. According to Boulder County’s website, the burn area is vulnerable to flash flooding because charred land absorbs relatively little water, and even modest amounts of rainfall can loosen debris and trigger mudslides.

Brockman said the Main Trailhead parking lot will close daily at noon through Sept. 30 because of the risk of flash flooding.

“(The parking lot is) in an area where two creeks come together and it’s really prone to flooding,” Brockman said. “We’ve done a massive amount of work trying to help stop the debris flows coming through that area, but we really just don’t know what it’s going to be like. So we’re just taking an abundance of caution there and closing it at noon.”

Brockman encouraged visitors to sign up to receive emergency notifications in the event of a flood. Anyone seeking alerts for Heil Valley Ranch can opt in through Everbridge Alerts using the address 188 Geer Canyon Road, Boulder CO 80302. Cellular service is required to receive the messages.

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Amber Carlson
2022-05-19 00:07:29
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