Park Lake remains closed; dead trees remain hazard

The sounds of happy campers won’t fill the shores of Park Lake this Fourth of July weekend — or for the rest of the summer for that matter — as the popular recreation area southwest of Helena remains closed for a second year due to hazards posed by standing dead lodgepole pines.

Up to 95 percent of the lodgepoles in and around the Park Lake campground are dead, and the ground is littered with those that already have fallen. Some are uprooted, while others were cracked in half by strong winds. One tree lies across the Forest Service road that leads to the lake, and the paved loop around the campground is thick with the red needles fallen from the pines.

This is the second year in a row the 22-site campground has been declared off-limits to the public by Helena National Forest officials because of fears that the trees killed in the current mountain pine beetle epidemic will fall on people, injuring or even killing them. The Park Lake site also was closed in 2005 while the lake was drained and a 105-year-old dam was repaired.