After hundreds of hours clearing debris, most of the trails and campgrounds in the Athens District of the Wayne National Forest -which includes Washington County- have reopened to the public.
But there remains plenty of work to be done in the wake of the massive storm cell that hit the Valley June 29.
"We've cleared over 1,000 trees so far just off the trails," said Dawn McCarthy, Athens assistant district ranger with the Wayne National Forest. "It's been pretty extensive, some areas worse than others."
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Reagan Sands, left, gestures to Mark and Patty Sands as they enjoy an evening of camping at Leith Run Recreation Area in the Wayne National Forest Tuesday evening. Leith Run was one of several forest sites closed by damage from the storm that hit the Valley June 29.
The Marietta Unit of the Athens District for the Wayne National Forest has eight trails that remain closed to the public due to severe damage from the storm.
All told, Wayne National Forest employees have spent approximately 500 hours clearing debris. That figure does not include the countless volunteer hours area organizations have also donated to the cleanup effort for local trails and campgrounds.
Leith Run Recreation Area, one of the most popular sites in the Marietta Unit, reopened to the public July 9, McCarthy said. More than 10 recreational vehicles were set up Tuesday evening as travelers and local residents spent a few days along the river.
What remains closed in the Wayne National Forest (Athens District):
- Kinderhook Horse Trail
- North Country Trail
- Archer's Fork Trail
- Covered Bridge Trail
- Shay Ridge Trail
- Ohio View Trail
- Jackson Run Trail
- Lamping Homestead Trail
Source: Wayne National Forest
Despite the damage from the storm, which meant forest employees had to clear roadways to allow some campers to escape the campground immediately afterward, there was little evidence left at Leith Run Tuesday.
"They've got a lot of wood stacked here, which is obvious they had a lot of downed trees," said Joni Hildenbrand, of Zanesville, who along with her husband, John, brought their three grandchildren to Leith Run this week.
Hildenbrand's 10-year-old grandson even pulled in a 22-inch catfish Tuesday morning during the trip.
"He was one happy little camper," Hildenbrand said.
Phyllis Parrish, 71, of St. Louisville, Ohio, located just north of Newark, was at Leith Run when the area was flooded in September 2004.
Parrish has been camping at Leith Run regularly for the past 15 years, and her husband's family even holds a reunion at the grounds located off Ohio 7 each year.
Having fled the campground just hours ahead of the flood waters in 2004, Parrish returned the summer it reopened, but expects this year to be her last trip to the facility after her husband passed away.
"My husband and I found this place about 15 years ago and he loved it," Parrish said. "This place is gorgeous. A lot of nice people camp here."
The pristine scenery of the forest remains flawed by debris at several of the Wayne's trails, however.
Kinderhook Horse Trail, North Country Trail, Archer's Fork Trail, Covered Bridge Trail, Shay Ridge Trail, Ohio View Trail, Jackson Run Trail and the Lamping Homestead Trail all remain closed, according to Wayne officials.
They said they hope to have Kinderhook and Ohio View open by the end of the week and potentially even Archer's Fork.
Much of that is due to the efforts of volunteers, as the Washington County Chapter of Ohio Horseman's Council and the River Valley Mountain Bike Association (RVMBA) have donated more than 200 hours of work to clear the trails.
On trails that were clear prior to the storm, the RVMBA has cut 76 trees and tossed out thousands of pieces of garbage debris.
"In 18 years it was the worst I've seen it," said Bill Lane, vice president of RVMBA, which has spent 120 hours working to clear 13 miles of trail. "Before the storm, there wasn't a tree (down) in that section. It was clean."
The Washington County Chapter of the Ohio Horseman's Council has put in about 100 hours of work on the Kinderhook trail to get it ready to reopen, said President Arden Sims.
"It's a lot of manual labor, just cutting up the trees and moving them off the trails," Sims said.
Much of the Athens District of the Wayne National Forest was closed on June 30 when Supervisor Anne Carey issued an Emergency Closure Order for more than 130,000 acres of the forest.
"We had pretty much completely closed the whole district," McCarthy said. "Not just recreation sites, but interior forest as well."
Along with the eight Marietta Unit sites, five sites in the Athens Unit - Stone Church Horse Trail, Long Ridge OHV Trails, Wildcat Hollow Hiking Trail, North Country Trail and Lakeview Trail - also remain closed.