Part of Clemson Experimental Forest reopening May 4 after tornado tore through property
After 160 mph winds from an EF3 tornado downed trees and powerlines through the Clemson Experimental Forest just after Easter, parts of the forest will reopen for public use beginning May 4.
Debris from the BorgWarner plant – a manufacturing plant damaged in nearby Seneca – were found scattered through the forest, which had already been closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 17,500-acre forest "suffered tremendous damage," but Clemson University plans to gradually reopen the forest for public use, according to forest manager Russell Hardee.
The Fants Grove section of the forest will open to the general public beginning Monday, May 4. All other areas remain closed due to the tornado damage, according to an email sent to Clemson employees and students.
The forest closed March 27 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other outdoor recreational areas at the university closed due to the pandemic will reopen in coming days, according to a university release.
"We have a plan for gradual reopening in phases," Hardee emailed. "However, there are too many variables that prevent us from giving a date."
The Clemson Botanical Garden will reopen Monday, May 4 from 9 a.m. to sunset and the Walker Golf Course will reopen Friday, May 1, according to the university release.
Tee time reservations for the golf course will begin Thursday, April 30.
People using the public recreation areas will have to adhere to social distancing guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control, according to the release.
The Clemson Experimental Forest is a collection of forests, hiking trails, waterfalls and lakes used for recreation and education by the university and surrounding areas at no cost.
Hardee said there is not a section of the forest – which has properties in Pickens, Anderson and Oconee Counties – that wasn't damaged in the storms.
The forest closed to the public in late March, along with Clemson's other recreational areas, due to increased demand that made it difficult for law enforcement and first responders to monitor the sites, a Facebook post from the Experimental Forest said.
And although the forest has been closed a month, hikers and bikers still seek out the miles of trails.
"While we have officially been closed to recreation since 3/27, there continues to be people that disregard that," a Facebook message posted the day of the Easter tornado stated.
Hardee said the Experimental Forest will announce which parts are open on their Facebook page, Clemson Experimental Forest.
Zoe covers Clemson for The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @zoenicholson_