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6/13/2013 2:31:00 PM
Controversy: CNF closes Bull Pen for summer
Though 'a known safety hazard,' Verde Valley residents not happy with timing of USFS decision
VVN/Bill Helm
Due to a large number of trees that pose a hazard to the public, the Coconino National Forest recently issued a temporary closure of the Bull Pen area, located about 10 miles east of Camp Verde off Forest Roads 618 and 215.
VVN/Bill Helm
Due to a large number of trees that pose a hazard to the public, the Coconino National Forest recently issued a temporary closure of the Bull Pen area, located about 10 miles east of Camp Verde off Forest Roads 618 and 215.
VVN/Bill Helm
With the temporary closure of the Bull Pen,
VVN/Bill Helm
With the temporary closure of the Bull Pen, "there are alternative places to go," says Tony Papa, recreation technician with the Red Rock Ranger District. The Coconino charges $8 for day use of Clear Creek, pictured, which is located off Forest Road 626, about one mile east of the turnoff to the Bull Pen.

Bill Helm

CAMP VERDE - In baseball, a bullpen provides relief for a weary pitcher.

For Verde Valley residents, the Bull Pen area and its easy access to the west end of Clear Creek provides a break from the summer heat.

The Coconino National Forest recently placed a hold on that relief, as it closed the Bull Pen area due to a large number of trees that pose a hazard to the public, according to a statement by the Forest Service. The closure bans all public entry into the area, including camping, day use, hiking, and access to West Clear Creek via Forest Road 215.

"Over 80 hazard trees have been identified throughout this area," says Jennifer Burns, recreation staff officer with the Red Rock Ranger District of Coconino National Forest. "The Forest Service cannot allow use in an area where there is a known hazard like this. We regret that this situation is occurring just when most people want to visit this beautiful stream. The Forest Service has little choice in a matter regarding a known public safety hazard."

The Bull Pen is located about 12 miles east of Camp Verde. Though it is not the only place with swimming access, area residents are not pleased with the Bull Pen's closure. Renee Bartlett-Webber, chairman of the Cultural Heritage and Recreational Affairs Committee of the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce, says she understands the Forest Service's position on safety.

"I understand that they take the safety of the public serious," Bartlett-Webber says. "But I would hope that there would be a way we could continue to use the Bull Pen. Not only does the Bull Pen provide a swimming area for locals, but for tourists as well. It can be an economy booster."

Paul Hawk, owner of Thanks a Latte Café in Camp Verde, says he is "always sending people out to the Bull Pen.

"It's our forest," Hawk says. "It belongs to the people. I bet you I could ask a thousand people and nobody would agree with [the closure].

"I understand public safety," Hawk says. "If the problem is there, I wish it could have been prevented before the hottest time of the year. I hope that the Chamber can work with the Coconino National Forest Service to open the Bull Pen again, and as soon as possible."

"If they shut down something like that," Hawk says, "they should get on it ASAP to get it back open. They should already have a plan to get it back open."

According to Burns, the trees that are considered a hazard are located throughout the area that people camp and picnic.

"Some of these trees are several hundred years old and many feet in diameter," Burns says. "These trees provide shade and wildlife habitat and hold the banks of the stream together. These trees are full of nesting birds. The Forest Service does not want to cut all these trees without a study of the situation, to see what other options there may be for providing recreation in the stream side zone while protecting its natural values.

"In addition, the cutting of trees creates a lot of dead branches lying on the ground, which will also have to be dealt with, in order to reduce fire hazard," she says.

"We're trying to keep people safe," says Tony Papa, recreation technician with the Red Rock Ranger District. "There are alternative places to go [to swim]. Clear Creek's day use area is accessible until sundown. And Fossil Creek is also open. The whole area is not closed down."

Coconino National Forest charges $8 for day use of Clear Creek, which is located off Forest Road 626, about one mile east of the turnoff to the Bull Pen.

According to Burns, the Forest Service does not know when the Bull Pen will reopen. But she says that this is not a permanent closure.

"The Forest Service is conducting an assessment of the risk from these hazard trees," Burns says. "There may be other ways to lessen the hazard, such as designating camp sites away from the hazard trees, outside of the flood zone and informing the public about hazards associated with riparian areas. Information will be compiled and options will be looked at for dealing with this situation. Then a decision will be made about how to provide for safe public use in the area in the future.

"The risk assessment and decision process may take several months," she says. "Bull Pen is not likely to open prior to September."

Related Stories:
• Letter: Chamber concerned about access to public lands
• Letter: Bull Pen closure totally unjustified

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Article comment by: James M

Wasn't intending to yell at anyone. Just pointing out the age. But I get tired of people flying off the handle, not that I say you were, before getting the facts straight.

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014
Article comment by: Peppermint Patti

Hey... Sorry, I thought they were closing it again.
Thanks for catching my oversight.

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014
Article comment by: James M

This article is a year old, what do your comments have to do with this now?

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014
Article comment by: Peppermint Patti

Another closing? I want my tax money back!

Every answer here, except one (probably some 'official?) is vehemently against this closing. Everyone I KNOW is vehemently against this closing. All arguments presented against this closing are absolutely valid. The people are tired of oppression, If the forest service was true to it's name SERVICE, it would serve the people's needs.
The USFS need only put up a sign that says "Enter at your own risk." How cheap would that be?
My first thought was the same as"'possible solution'". Simple, fast and cost effective. Using an argument that the wood is not good for burning is... less than shallow.
This area is ripe with volunteers, who would work at their own risk. Not everyone is 'sue-happy'. The USFS seems to be abusing their power. I wonder where they get the idea that this abusing people is OK? (Not OUR government). The forest belongs to the people.
Mismanagement is clear. Want an uprising? Your headed right towards it. This could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Didn't they just close Bull Pen a couple of years ago? They must have known about the trees then.
Any excuse seems to be a good excuse to deny the peoples freedoms. I'm with Mav Rick on this one fellas.

Also converting Beaver Creek camp ground to day use only.(with fees!) makes the USFS more money. Should residents who live within a certain area of the campground be allowed a discount? Many of us moved here with all our belongings to enjoy our beautiful forests here.
I want my money back!

Posted: Friday, May 9, 2014
Article comment by: Karen bowen

I am confused! Is it not their job to monitor the different areas and maintaining them? Isn't that what the money they get is for? They would have known the dangers of letting these trees get out of control right? So, noone is accountable for this closing? Again, I say I am confused!

Posted: Friday, May 9, 2014
Article comment by: Tonyia Kase

5-8-14 USFS Recreational Staff Agent Jennifer Burns finally answered some questions on the continued no camping restrictions at Bullpen. It's because it is in a flood plain & flood way. So what is the next step? They have no funds to conduct the flood survey needed to see if there are spots to still allow camping and not be in the flood plain. She explained they approached the Camp Verde city council for assistance on funds and the councilmen were not supportive of this idea. USFS should receive no funds for this survey. NONE-NOT ONE PENNY! USFS have been hiding, misleading and scrabbling over the real reason for this closure and when confronted with questions about this flood issue Jennifer replied "haven't you heard about what happened in Arkansas?" I was unfamiliar with the story that happened over 4 years ago so I researched it and now I know the 11 lawsuits filed by victims family's blaming the FS for the deaths of their loved ones from a flash flood that over took a campground in Arkansas is the real reason. Thank you Jennifer. Now what is the next step to reclaiming this treasured CAMPING AREA?

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: Karen Warren

The National Park Service cites an average of 12-15 deaths per year at Yosemite, mainly due to climbing half dome and plummenting off waterfalls. Yet, Yosemite stays open. The Darwin Awards showcases people who do things so stupid (accident?) they die. I haven't been to the Bull Pens in 30+ years, but when I did go we were well aware of the natural dangers without signs to tell us what was dangerous (rattlesnakes, shallow water, excessive alcohol etc). So I say open the gates! Put up signs warning the dangers, but don't use words! Use pictures with a line slashed over the images. The Darwin Award Winners aren't big readers. Citizens take back your government, elect responsible representation. Meanwhile call your congressperson and COMPLAIN!

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013
Article comment by: Charlie Armiger

The trees that are a hazard are General Sherman Cottonwoods and make for very poor fuel wood. They rot from the center which makes taking any of these trees down very dangerous. This kind of operation is far from trimming your back yard hedges. So if you want to take the chance of having a friend or loved one injured or killed you will not be able to sue the Forest Service because you have been warned

Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013
Article comment by: Dennis Lockhart

80 trees. ...just became "hazardous" all at once this year??

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: Paul Revere

Lets rally on the Fourth of July at the BullPen. Throw off the shackles of this oppressive government. I will bring my family to the BullPen. If the government sees fit throw us in jail so be it. Citizens take back our Forest!!!

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: Mav Rick

But....but.....but....the trees are full of birds. LOL The forest service is full of -----. We need the protection like we need another hole in the head. GOOD GRIEF!!!!!! Is there no end to it?

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Article comment by: Brian Coley

Just exactly what trees are a hazard to the public and what is the hazard. Your story is not very informative on that fact.

I would appear that the Coconino National Forest are just making excuses to close an area for any reason to reduce their operating costs more than any REAL hazard to the public. More information is need to make the public understand what the real reasons are for closing the Bull Pen.

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: possible solution

Seems to me a HARD working and willing small group of citizens could be issued a "special permit" by the forest service for cutting wood, and this 80 tree problem could be cleared up in a week or so with a special condition that ALL salvaged is cleared within guidelines of the "special permit".Upon inspection by the proper athourities, in this case the USFS. The group doing the clean up can keep/sell the firewood, the hazardous trees will be removed, the community will have it's swimming hole back....sounds like a very easy "problem solved" win win to me...right?? I should point out to that this could all be done VERY soon before the heat index skyrockets and the fire hazard becomes too great for cutting, and the swimming hole becomes too tempting to get the job

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