With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, officials of the Umatilla National Forest aim to help weekend campers and nature lovers have an enjoyable stay.

Brian Goff, Umatilla National Forest fire and aviation staff officer, said that on national forests that starts with wildfire prevention and keeping fireworks at home.

"Forest regulations prohibit possessing, discharging, or using any kind of fireworks, including sparklers and smoke bombs, on national forest lands," Goff said in a written statement. "Also, please be careful with campfires, cigarettes, and chainsaws," he added.

Forest rangers and state police will fine violators. Further, if authorities find someone responsible for starting a forest fire, that person can be held liable for costly fire suppression expenses.

Campers will find all Umatilla National Forest campgrounds open and operating for the holiday weekend. However, the Forest Service advised that late spring snow has delayed the opening of several high elevation roads and trails. Before setting out, then, check with the local ranger district for the latest conditions.

Visitors also can expect to see improvements underway at several forest campgrounds across the Umatilla National Forest, thanks to recreation site fees. Larry Randall, forest recreations staff officer, said workers are finalizing the installation of two new flush toilets and two new vault toilets at Jubilee Lake Campground, along with new vault toilets at Bull Prairie Lake and Olive Lake Campgrounds.

The Forest Service also has scheduled to install vault toilets later this summer at Woodward Campground. And boat dock accessibility improvements and ramp repairs at Olive Lake will take place this summer as well. Further, workers have replaced or will replace a number of picnic tables, fire rings and grills at several campground sites.

"Some of these facilities were long overdue for maintenance and were excited to be catching up," Randall said,

Beginning Wednesday, the Forest Service also will charge trailhead parking fees at eight trailheads in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. Visitors who park at Elk Flats, Meadow Creek, Panjab, Teepee, Three Forks, Timothy, Tucannon or Twin Buttes trailheads will have to pay a $5 per day parking fee or display a current Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Senior Pass or Interagency Access Pass in the window of their vehicle. Randall said there are fee tubes at each trailhead site for easy payment.

The Northwest Forest Annual Pass costs $30 and can be used at any National Forest in Oregon or Washington. The Interagency Senior Pass is a $10 lifetime senior pass for U.S. citizens 62 years or older and the Interagency Access Pass is a free lifetime access pass for citizens with permanent disabilities. All three passes are available at any Umatilla National Forest office.

Four forest campgrounds also will join the fee program this summer. The Forest Service will charge $8 per night for overnight camping at Winom, Ladybug, Panjab and Midway campgrounds.

According to the Forest Service, 95 percent of all funds it collects at recreation fee sites remain on the Umatilla National Forest to help fund much needed future improvements.

For more information about the status of forest campgrounds, trails and roads, please contact the Umatilla National Forest offices below or visit the Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r6/uma.

Supervisor's office, Pendleton, 541-278-3716

Heppner Ranger District, Heppner, 541-676-9187

North Fork John Day Ranger District, Ukiah, 541 -427-3231

Pomeroy Ranger District, Pomeroy, Wash., 509-843-1891

Walla Walla Ranger District, Walla Walla, Wash., 509-522-6290

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