Campgrounds and trails have been impacted by scores of large trees that toppled over in the Catalina Mountains following storms and high winds in recent months.
The fallen trees have kept some roads closed and caused damage at Girl Scout and Boy Scout camps in the mountain range north of Tucson.
Coronado National Forest officials say plans are underway to clean up tree trunks and branches that crashed to the forest floor.
“A large number of trees, many trees, have come down in a large area — most of the forested areas” of the Catalinas, said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the forest.
“The Rose Canyon Lake area was heavily impacted.” A road leading to the popular lake begins at mile marker 17 along the Catalina Highway .
Four trees fell at a Boy Scouts camp in the Catalinas, said Ken Tucker, executive director for the Boy Scouts in Southern Arizona.
“They hit a few smaller structures that we’ll have to rebuild,” including a handicraft shelter and sleeping structures, Tucker said, noting that the camp is scheduled to open for the season at the end of May.
“We have worked with the Forest Service to identify another 16 or 18 trees that are hazardous and need to be taken down,” he said. “We’ve already started taking them down.”
Some trees also are down at the site of a Girl Scout camp in the Catalinas.
“We have four large trees down in the main central area of the camp,” said Marsha “MacGyver” Tank, chief property and logistics officer for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. “We’re very fortunate that we did not have any structural damage.”
Tank said the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona are responsible for removing the trees.
“We don’t have an idea of how many trees are down because we can’t cover the entire forest,” Schewel said. “It occurred across the entire mountain. It wasn’t localized.”
The number of fallen trees could be in the hundreds forest-wide, based on observations by a Star reporter and Star photographer who made separate visits to the Catalinas in recent days.
Campgrounds in forested areas high in the mountains aren’t yet open for the warm-weather season.
The Coronado Forest announced last week that several other areas remain closed due to hazardous conditions, including downed trees, ice and snow. They include:
- Bear Wallow Road.
- Bigelow Road.
- Marshall Gulch Picnic Area.
- Organization Ridge Road.
- Mt. Lemmon Recreation Site (above the ski area).
Travelers in vehicles and on foot in the Catalinas are advised to be on the lookout for possible dangers.
“Use caution,” said Schewel. “If it’s a windy day, be very aware of your surroundings because there could be additional blowdowns.”
CAUSES AND CLEANUP
“There was a storm three or four weeks ago, so the downed trees could be due to high winds from strong weather or a microburst” — a violent downdraft often associated with storms, Schewel said.
She said another possibility is that trees might have been vulnerable as a result of insects.
“We are talking to forest health experts to determine if it could be because of trees weakened by insect infestation,” Schewel said. “But we don’t know yet if that’s what it is.”
She said it’s unlikely that heavy snow caused the trees to fall. “That’s because of the widespread nature of the damage,” which extended to areas that didn’t receive especially heavy snow.
Cleanup efforts will focus “primarily on areas of heavier use,” Schewel said. “Work will start with initial efforts at Rose Canyon so we can get that done” before the lake area is opened for the spring and summer.
She said no timeline has been established for the overall cleanup effort.