McKee picnic area reopens

The historic McKee Bridge picnic area, closed in the spring both for renovation and to rid the site of rowdies, reopened on Monday.

The day-use site reopened with a full-time camp host and a strict prohibition on alcohol, according to Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The alcohol ban was imposed to ensure a family atmosphere in the popular picnic site, she said.

Prior to its closure, the area had gained an unwanted reputation for fighting, drinking and drugs. The presence of the camp host is meant to prevent that from recurring.

The historic site overlooking the upper Applegate River was closed because of safety concerns, with initial plans to reopen it in the spring of 2010. However, local residents petitioned the agency to reopen the popular picnic area this summer.

The park is immediately downstream from McKee Bridge, a covered bridge constructed during World War I. The picnic area, including the stone work, was built by young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

As part of the work, the agency removed about 30 deteriorating concrete picnic tables, Burel said. It also removed safety hazards in the form of steel re-bar sticking out of the ground in some areas, she added. Five CCC-era camp stoves that were safety hazards have also been removed.

Four picnic tables are at the site now with more expected, Burel said.

"We are waiting for a delivery of additional picnic tables and fire rings to replace what we took out," she said. "We're opening the day-use area to the public so they can bring their families and enjoy the swimming hole and picnic grounds."

The picnic area is expected to be closed temporarily next spring to allow a mason to use the dismantled 1930s-era camp stoves to reconstruct and repair the camp stove sites, Burel said.

In addition, foot bridges spanning the historic irrigation ditch crossing through the picnic area will also be repaired at that time, she said

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