Southfork Campground near Ruidoso to welcome back campers Friday

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RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – The Little Bear fire was one of the most destructive fires in state history. It not only burned thousands of acres but destroyed more than 250 structures near Ruidoso in 2012. Now one of the campgrounds that were damaged is about to reopen.

The Southfork Campground is one of the oldest campgrounds in the Lincoln National Forest and was nearly destroyed in 2012 when the Little Bear fire tore through the Walt Smith Canyon. Eight years later the National Forest Service is opening back up to campers.

“The little bear fire burned through portions of this campground and then it’s taken that many years for us to get things back,” said George Douds, district ranger for the Lincoln National Forest.

It has taken workers eight years to clean up the area. That includes clearing out downed trees, ash and restoring the campground area. The burn scar left behind added more problems as several flash floods have left more damage to clean up. Now everything is completed.

“You know, we’re thinking, we’re getting it close to getting it back on and then we have some flooding,” said Douds.

The campground will be back open Friday but it will limit the number of people as the campground will adhere to all current health orders. “So there won’t be, it’s not going to be wall to wall people, we still have to follow the rules that the governor has in place and this is what we’re doing, so 50% capacity in here,” Douds said.

It will be $10 a night for campers to stay at the campground and guests will have to comply with social distancing and mask-wearing. The Forest Service replaced damaged and destroyed picnic tables, fire rings, and also replaced the outdated water system in the bathroom and shower areas.

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