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The Mulkey Ridge trail connecting Greenbelt Land Trust’s Bald Hill Farm to Fitton Green County Natural Area will be closed to all public access starting Monday. The closure is expected to last for the duration of the summer and into the fall as Greenbelt begins a multi-year forest thinning and restoration project.

An alternate route to Fitton Green from the lower Mulkey Ridge trail via Wynoochee Drive and Panorama Drive will remain open.

“Heavy equipment will be in use during this phase of the project, and the area will not be safe for members of the public,” said Greenbelt Land Trust Outreach Manager Matt Benotsch. “We are asking trail users to respect the trail closure for their own safety and not proceed past the posted signs or enter the project area.”

Greenbelt Land Trust acquired Bald Hill Farm in 2013 and in 2015, the adjacent Mulkey Ridge Forest property was acquired, preserving a public trail connection from Bald Hill Farm to Benton County’s Fitton Green Natural Area.

Both properties are at the core of Benton County’s Habitat Conservation Plan and were funded in part through the Bonneville Power Administration’s Wildlife Mitigation Program, with an agreement that restoration projects for priority prairie and oak habitats at these sites would be undertaken.

The forest thinning and restoration project will expand and connect ecologically important oak savanna, oak woodland and prairie habitats, decrease fuel loads and wildfire risk and increase access for wildfire response.

“Prairies and oak savannas are biologically diverse, fire adapted ecosystems,” said Greenbelt Stewardship Director Matt Blakeley-Smith. “Through their restoration we can provide habitat for imperiled species and a safer landscape for our community.”

Greenbelt is working with Trout Mountain Forestry under the guidance of a detailed forest stewardship plan developed with oversight from state and federal agencies, input from natural resources professionals and public feedback.

For more information and future public tours of the project, visit the Greenbelt Land Trust website.