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Bateman Island continues to recover months after fire

Officials say the reason the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Richland are holding off opening Bateman Island to the public is to allow new plant life to grow in the burned sections.

It's been almost seven months since a large wildfire burned on Bateman Island in Richland, scorching trees and several acres of untouched land.

The fire also forced the City of Richland to close the island to the public.

City of Richland’s Darrin Sweeney, who’s the project manager for parks and public facilities, says, "It was an interesting fire in that it sprung up in a lot of different places, so it's not just one big area that was charred. There's a lot of different areas throughout the island that the fire popped up."

Firefighters spent several days battling the flames.

Sweeney estimates that about a third of the island burned in last year's fire.

Now more than half a year later, Sweeney says there's already new plant growth in the burned sections.

"We actually started seeing that at the end of last year. That's how quickly the new growth started to come back and so we think that this spring and summer season are going to be really, really important for the island."

What's also expected to help is this fairly mild winter. Sweeney says compared to last year, they're hoping the spring growing season will start earlier this year.

But the exact date for when the island will reopen is still up in the air.

Sweeney says the reason the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city are holding off opening Bateman Island to the public is to allow the new plant life to grow in the burned sections.

Giving the general public access to the island too soon could damage those sensitive areas.

"What we don't want is perpetual bare areas out on the island because of too much human traffic on it,” says Sweeney.

Sweeney says the next assessment will likely take place further into the spring.

For now, Bateman Island will continue to be closed off as it recovers on Mother Nature's timeline.

While the public is still not allowed the visit the island, officials have allowed a few tours on the island, including a group of bird watchers back in the fall.

The island has been closed off before because of fires.

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