You can picnic in the Bull Pen, but don’t get caught after dark.
The Bull Pen Ranch, located at the extreme west end of the West Clear Creek wilderness area, was reopened on Saturday, Nov. 2, as a day use only facility; it may, however, still be used as an overnight parking area for backpacking excursions into the wilderness.
The “Bull Pen,” as it is generally known, was a popular camping area before its closure in May, but the U.S. Forest Service has determined that it is unsafe for camping due to several “hazard trees” and the fact that the area where most people were camping is located on a floodplain.
“It wasn’t originally designed as a camping area, so people have gone down there and camped in places that haven’t been typical camping areas,” said Deputy Public Affairs Officer Dean Jones of the Forest Service. “There were trees with huge overhanging limbs, and there were a lot of areas that the Forest Service determined would be unsafe for campers to use.”
After its closure, the Forest Service conducted a risk assessment of the area, which included an emergency consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of the presence of sensitive species — most notably the yellow-billed cuckoo — to determine how to make it safe for use again.
In its assessment, the Red Rock Ranger District decided that it would need to cut the limbs and the tops off some of the trees to make them safer, so they brought in Forest Service certified cutters and an arborist, and also hired a contractor to help do the work.
But Jones said that District Wildlife Biologist Janie Agyagos had determined during the assessment that the least impact on wildlife would be made if the cutting was put off until October.
“We waited until the fall to protect [the yellow-billed cuckoo] and have a minimal impact to their nesting,” he said. “They’re very active during the summer, so she determined October was the best time to do that.”
For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Nov. 13, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra and Camp Verde Journal.