Cottonwood Trail expected to reopen in December following restoration and trailhead improvements

ST. GEORGE — Following a fire that blazed through the open land surrounding Cottonwood Trail in July, the Bureau of Land Management hopes to complete a restoration project and improvements to the trailhead by December.

A shot of the aftermath of the Cottonwood Trail Fire in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Washington County, Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Habitat Conservation Advisory Committee, St. George News

The Cottonwood Trail Fire, which damaged the Cottonwood trailhead, started July 12 along Interstate 15 and burned more than 1,400 acres in the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. The total acreage of the fire was approximately 1,630, including private land and land management by the state of Utah.

This fire came just months before the BLM was scheduled to begin improvements to the trailhead, such as expanding the parking area and installing restrooms, a process they expected to begin in October.

In an email to St. George News, BLM Public Information Officer Christian Venhuizen said the work done at the Cottonwood trailhead is about 60% complete. They are working to both repair damage from the Cottonwood Trail Fire and complete trailhead improvements to make the trailhead a place that is safe and beneficial to all of its users.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we move forward and hope to have the work complete by December,” he said. “So far, we finished demolishing the previous fire damaged trailhead and we graded and surfaced the new trailhead and fenced the area. We started the vault toilet construction and will begin planting new vegetation at the trailhead and concrete paving.”

Cottonwood Trailhead after the rain, Hurricane, Utah, March 11, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

The fire did not impair the work at the trailhead, he said, but rather accelerated the timetable to repair the damage to the site. When the construction work is complete, the trailhead will provide more visitor parking and an improved traffic circulation design, a new vault toilet, a bike repair station and a new interpretive panel to educate visitors about the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise.

In terms of vegetation, the BLM is also planting 400 mature nursery-grown creosote, which is a fire resilient native species, around the Cottonwood trailhead, Venhuizen said.

“Also, another 100 mature Ephedra plants and 50 mature native buckwheat plants were planted to restore native species in the now fire-damaged area and to mitigate the permanent loss of 0.8 acres of critical desert tortoise habitat to the expansion and redesign of the trailhead.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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