Bobcat Ridge Natural Area Expected to Reopen in Summer 2021
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area has been closed to visitors since mid-October after facing significant damage from the Cameron Peak Fire. City of Fort Collins officials recently announced that they don't anticipate a reopening until the summer of 2021. The location remains closed, not only for the safety of visitors, but also to allow the area to recover without interruption.
According to the City, the footprint of the fire is estimated to be at least 75% of the natural area, with the north and west sides of the site experiencing the most extreme burn damage. Many fallen and burnt trees will need to be cleared from the trails before they are accessible again.
Portions of the Powerline Trail and north boundary will need to be restored, because a bulldozer was used to create 1/2 mile of fire break.
Several trail bridges and other infrastructure will also need to be repaired and replaced. The "wishing well" located at the historic cabin at the north end of Valley Loop Trail was destroyed, but the cabin only had minor roof damage. Both the handicap horse ramp and the surrounding single rail fence in the parking lot were burnt. At least one of the wildlife cameras and the boardwalk at Mahoney Park were damaged. In addition, the area used as the ranch dump was disturbed and needs to be remediated.
While most of the mountain mahogany and rabbitbrush shrubs burned, they are actually fire-adapted species and are expected to vigorously resprout in most of the areas. Along the same lines, even though nearly all the grasses and forbs were left charred, they were mostly non-native species, so Natural Areas Dept. staff says it presents a great opportunity for restoration. However, the vegetation in drainages was significantly impacted due to intensely hot flames. Some smaller pockets of ponderosa pine were severely affected, but a large majority of taller pines are likely to survive. The ecological restoration will begin in the spring.
Because the rebuilding process will take some time, the natural area may have to reopen in phases. Other factors that could impact the timeline for reopening include winter weather and COVID-19 protocols.