For people looking to recreate in the Ahtanum State Forest over the Fourth of July weekend, the South Fork Ahtanum is an option once again.

Gated closed by Department of Natural Resource officials on March 31, the South Fork was reopened in late June following an extensive clean-up effort, including two weekend-long work parties. That largely volunteer campaign resulted in the removal of some five tons of garbage and at least a dozen downed trees, many of them killed by being shot hundreds or even thousands of times by target shooters.

“It looks really, really good now,” said Jeff Jones, recreation manager of the Ahtanum State Forest. “We had the opportunity to rehabilitate those areas, and we’ve provided a parking area at that site.

“It’s not a DNR-sanctioned shooting area — the DNR has rules for shooting on DNR property — but there’s an area to pull off and recreate. We’ve also provided some barrier rock to keep folks on the Green Dot road, and out of the South Fork Ahtanum Creek Creek and mudding areas.”

Jones lauded the volunteer efforts of numerous South Fork community members, many of them recruited and organized by Mike and Barbara Holford, as well as organized groups such as the Jeeping Nomads, the Backcountry Horsemen of Central Washington, and the Yakima chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington.

The DNR spent upwards of $10,000 from the agency’s public abuse fund on the cleanup process.

Whether the South Fork Ahtanum will remain open longterm depends on the people who use the area, Jones said.

“DNR will continue to monitor the abuse,” Jones said. “If the abuse and vandalism continue to to occur, the gate could be closed.”