State Forest and Park Service officials are warning visitors to tread carefully at many of Maryland's parks, wildlife management areas and forests because hanging limbs, uprooted trees and muddy trails pose dangers for adventurous hikers.
And although many are ready to accept guests, not all the amenities and recreation facilities are available because of damage caused by Tropical Storm Isabel and the heavy rains Tuesday.
"We have people clamoring to get into our more popular parks, which may not be prepared to accept them on a facility basis," said Rusty Ruszin, assistant supervisor for the State Forest and Park Service.
Staff members are still assessing damage at Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary's County, which was under several feet of water for a long time, Ruszin said.
"From where I sit today, I don't see it reopening in the near future," he said Thursday.
On Millers Island, North Point State Park experienced shoreline erosion. Some of the waterfront amenities are also gone, he said.
The situation was similar at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County, Ruszin said. The Dundee Marina and boat ramp have been significantly damaged, he said.
Saturated soil and high winds caused timber to fall in many parks. Rocks State Park, which suffered wind damage, was among the first to reopen, Ruszin said.
Park staff have tried to mark paths that are completely impassable, he said. But even on trails that are clear, officials are concerned about the possibility of long-term environmental damage.
"The thrill of splashing through is a very attractive thing," Ruszin said, but he encouraged visitors to practice "leave-no-trace" ethics by avoiding walking or riding on wet or muddy trails.
"That's going to make trail conditions even more vulnerable," he said. "Some people tend to forget the erosion and compaction and trail destruction that results from that."
But merely stepping aside does not solve the problem, he said. When the water dries, "then you simply have a widened trail with a widened mud spot," he said.
Staff have been running on adrenalin since preparing for the storm and were operating in rescue mode during it, Ruszin said. Afterward, they "were really trying to reopen facilities that many people were demanding still be opened," he said.
"Many of them haven't had a day off," Ruszin added. "Some of them have been on duty ... during the course of that time."
The demand for use of some parks is still high, however.
Assateague State Park is open, for example, but high water breached a dune in three locations, submerging three camping loops.
"You're in a prime camping period still for that ocean campground," Ruszin said.
Statewide, no new campground reservations will be accepted through Tuesday, although many sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations made through Sept. 17 will be honored, he said.
Many events scheduled for this weekend have been postponed, such as the Maryland Watermen's Association's Bay Appreciation Day at Sandy Point State Park. Forest Service officials suggest calling parks directly to confirm events.
Patapsco Valley State Park experienced severe flooding in the Avalon area Tuesday after a rainstorm the night before, said assistant park manager Kim Lloyd. "It was the worst I had seen it in 20 years," she said. "Three-foot diameter trees were washing over [Bloede] dam."
The waters had receded by Wednesday, park manager Gary Burnett said. Park staff dragged a chipper along roads, trying to clear drains and to remove timber blocking access roads, he said.
Some state parks, forests reopen
These state parks and forests had reopened as of Saturday. According to the State Forest and Park Service, all Wildlife Management Areas have reopened except Deale Island and Fairmount. All Wildlife and Heritage Service-managed islands on the Potomac River are also open.
No new campground reservations will be accepted through Tuesday, although sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For up-to-date information: http://www.dnr. state.md.us/publiclands/.
Elk Neck State Forest -- day use, campground
Elk Neck State Park -- day use, campground
Fair Hill NRMA
Gunpowder Falls State Park -- day use, Central , Northern Central Rail Trail and Hammerman areas, Dundee Marina
Morgan Run NEA
Patapsco Valley State Park -- selected day-use areas only at Avalon, Glen Artney, Hilton, Hollofield, Pickall and McKeldin and Hollofield campground
Rocks State Park -- day use
Seneca Creek State Park -- pavilion rentals, disc golf tournament (undeveloped area only); day use remains closed
Soldiers Delight NEA -- day use
Susquehanna State Park -- day use, campground
Assateague State Park -- day use, campground
Choptank River Pier -- day use
Janes Island State Park -- day use, campground, cbins
Martinak State Park -- day use, campground, cabins
Pocomoke State Forest
Pocomoke River State Park -- day use, campground, cabins
Somers Cove Marina
Tuckahoe State Park -- day use, campground, cabins