Hoosier National Forest to propose camping closures due to damage

Hoosier National Forest to propose camping closures due to damage

The Hoosier National Forest is home to rolling hills, towering trees, waterfalls and dozens of species of fauna and flora. But the public land in some spots is now being overused and damaged.

Some roadside campsites may be closed along Hickory Ridge Road within the Hoosier National Forest after unorderly campers, overuse and rogue campsites caused damage. Of the 19, a new proposal would retain nine campsites, shut down eight and repurpose two for small parking lots for hikers.

“It reaches a point where you want folks to enjoy the forest, but we have to manage the land responsibly,” Forest Recreation Program Manager Stacy Duke said. “These actions will hopefully mitigate some of the issues that we’re having with overuse and resource damage.”

The Hoosier National Forest is over 200,000 acres, spanning nine counties and comprising about half of the public forest land in the state. The affected area of ​​Hickory Ridge Road is in the northern part of the forest just south of Lake Monroe. The forest offers free dispersed roadside campsites on a first come, first served basis.

Hoosier National Forest to propose camping closures due to damage

These affected campsites are considered “primitive,” meaning there are no resources like electricity or water. However, Duke said some of the sites were not in a sustainable place to be protected. That means there may be an area designated for wildlife or other environmental factors make it unsuitable.

Some of these sites have human-created damage. Trash left behind is one problem, but Duke said she has seen whole campsites left behind. Past campers have tried to cut trees at some sites, she said, and their cars and trucks have compacted the soil.

Pictured is a campsite off Hickory Ridge Road in the Hoosier National Forest.  This site has resource damage, specifically with soil compaction.

In the past, Duke said “user created campsites” sprung up in the area, but the Forest Service allowed it. This new plan is meant to promote better recreational opportunities and use of the area, she said. Sites that are still open would be marked with clear signage indicating whether camping is allowed and how to properly use the site. Posts would also be added to distinguish camping and parking areas as well as gravel for parking and campsite entryways.

Duke said the hope is the effort and new improvements will indicate to campers how to correctly use the sites and that the area is monitored. This will likely reduce dumping and vandalism, she said.

Pictured is a campsite off Hickory Ridge Road in the Hoosier National Forest.  At this site, wood pallets are left behind and spray paint is seen on the tree.

The Forest Service intends to rehab some sites by adding top soil and wood chips. Damage to foliage, like trees, will take longer to grow back.

Jeff Stant has seen this damage himself and how increasingly popular the area has become since the ’70s and especially in the past decade. He’s seen campsites with cars parked too far off the road, trees cut up from axes and lots of trash left behind. But, he also has seen people respect the land and leave those spaces clean.

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