Sage Hills trails system will close for four months starting Dec. 1 to provide winter sustenance and quiet range land for mule deer and other wildlife. The area will re-open for outdoor recreation around April 1.
At last count, mule deer are already moving into their winter refuge in the Wenatchee Foothills, said Von Pope, senior wildlife biologist with Chelan PUD. The numbers of deer in the area typically increase in December and peak in March, he said.
“There’s been a groundswell of support from the community to protect this area, and we’ve seen fewer reports of winter trespassers in recent years,” Pope said. “We are grateful. It takes all of us working together to be successful.”
Chelan PUD owns about 960 acres in the heart of the Sage Hills and manages the area as a wildlife preserve as required by its federal license to operate Rock Island Dam.
Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and the City of Wenatchee also close public access the trailheads north of Fifth Street, including the Horse Lake trail system and the side trails of Dry Gulch Preserve.
As conditions allow, several alternative trails will remain open for winter exploration, including Saddle Rock, Jacobsen Preserve and Castle Rock. Be sure to leave no trace, and avoid areas where the ground is soft to prevent lasting trail damage.
This year, an unprecedented number of people flocked to the foothills for access to nature and recreation close to home, said Hanne Beener, Trails Program Manager at Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. As winter settles in, wildlife need a break from the crowds to stay healthy as temperatures drop.
“I hope that all trail users, new and familiar, will respect this seasonal closure out of appreciation and a sense of good stewardship for these trails,” Beener said.
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