Mt. Lemmon downgraded to “READY”, roadway still closed to public

Mt. Lemmon closures following Bighorn Fire

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Mt. Lemmon/Mt. Bigelow areas, including Summerhaven and Willow Canyon, have been downgraded from “SET!” to “READY”.

Even with the reduced fire danger, Mt. Lemmon Highway remains closed to the general public.

Officials say the closure is due to roadwork. Pima County Transportation crews have begun to replace guardrail posts damaged by the Bighorn Fire.

“As soon as it’s determined to be safe by the Pima County Department of Transportation, we intend on reopening the road,” said Deputy James Allerton, a public information officer for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

The Pima County Department of Transportation would not say when construction is expected to wrap up.

It’s frustrating to businesses that rely on the traffic.

“Our business is down probably 85, 90 per cent,” said Grey Carpenter, the owner of the General Store in Mt. Lemmon.

Still, Carpenter considers himself lucky.

“We actually have customers even if there are not very many,” Carpenter said.

Businesses, like Sawmill Run Restaurant, cannot say the same. 

“It’s not cost-effective to reopen,” said Jennifer Zimmerman, who manages the Sawmill Run Restaurant. “There’s not enough residents to actually sit there and wait for a resident to come in for a hamburger. I totally understand it’s a liability for Pima County and the Sheriff’s Department [to let visitors up], but it has been almost three weeks and for them to not even -- we don’t even have a date.”

The U.S. Forest Service closed most of the mountain until November, but private property and businesses will be accessible to the public once the roadwork is complete. Many hope it’s enough to attract more business.

“What [the fire fighters] did to save to save the town, what they did to save the forest around us is quite spectacular,” said Carpenter. “So, I think that will be reason enough to come up here.”

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