The U.S. Forest Service has closed, for now, those areas of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands that were scorched by wildfire over the past week.
But there is good news, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Battered, but ready to welcome visitors, Chadron State Park reopened Thursday (Sept. 6).
Another area attraction, Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Research and Visitor Center, will reopen Saturday with limitations.
The Forest Service’s closings are being done to protect the public and natural resources while the impact of the fire is assessed, according to a statement Thursday. The forest will be reopened in stages.
Chadron State Park has been closed since last week, when a wildfire swept up to its boundaries.
Crews set a backfire at the park to deprive the wildfire of fuel, and it worked, said Dave Kinnamon, park superintendent. The park’s roughly $7.5 million in buildings and recreational facilities were spared.
“It was a great effort,” he said.
The controlled burn was set to save the state park and was not part of the larger effort to protect the city of Chadron, said Kirk Nelson, western region parks manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
“We were totally absorbed in saving the park,” he said.
Nelson credited the fire crews that fought the wildfire with saving Chadron.
In reopening the park, the commission cautions that air quality could be a problem, especially if winds kick up the ash. Workers are cleaning the cabins, which should be ready for rent next week.
Many of the trees at the state park were damaged by fire, but people still will find beauty there, said a neighbor.
“The place didn’t burn down — things will regenerate,” said David Wyatt, who lives next to the park and walks there daily. “We have lots left. It’s still beautiful.”