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Glenwood Springs mobile home park owner says trees cut for flood mitigation

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The owner of a Glenwood Springs mobile home park that has seen the removal of dozens of trees along the banks of the Roaring Fork River said the reason behind the cutting was to protect the residents who live there.Joe Corda, owner and managing partner of River Meadows Mobile Home Park, said “the whole purpose of the tree cutting is flood mitigation.” “Unless you are from Mars, record runoff is predicted,” Corda wrote in an e-mail to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The furor over the chopping of the trees erupted over the weekend and on Monday. Resident Deborah Hord has complained that the move was done with little notice or regard for the landscaping she has done on her or her neighbor’s properties, and that the destruction of the trees has caused serious implications for the animal species who live in the area. Corda said Karen Price, resident manager of the mobile home park, has called Glenwood Springs city officials about flood mitigation efforts for the residential community, but they have all passed “the buck.” “Maybe the mayor and City Council can help us get some help from local authorities for flood advice?” Corda wrote. “Right now, I am kind of shooting in the dark here.”The city does not require permits for property owners to cut down trees, according to city officials. Corda said that he contracted the job of removing the trees with ABC Tree and Lawn Care, which is directing the cutting of the trees, Corda said.And on Tuesday, the work of cutting the trees continued, Hord said.”At this point, we can’t do anything about them cutting down the trees,” said Hord, adding that garden snakes that once thrived near her home are now gone. “I just feel hopeless. Where I hurt is that it is really affecting the environment here, and the animals and the birds.”

In Corda’s e-mail, he wrote that many decks that have been built into the river have created potential dangerous conditions “with a high-rapid flowing river” and that he has spent $7,000 for an engineering flood analysis and $40,000 for the tree removal in the mobile home park.Further costs could include sand bagging, berms and possible concrete highway barriers, Corda wrote. He added that if residents are so upset by the tree cutting, they are free to move.”The safety of my residents, park tranquility, residents’ peace of mind, minimization of property damage and disruption of people’s lives are more important to me than grandstanding politics,” Corda wrote. “This will not be another Hurricane Katrina with empty buses waiting for government help after the fact.”Corda added that he thought the City Council would praise private property owners like him for taking action to “save lives.” “I have to allow for the worst-case scenario,” Corda said in a follow-up interview with the Post Independent. “This might be overkill. I would rather side on overkill and protect my residents. You can’t replace a human life. A tree will grow back. The issue is protecting people’s lives and properties.”In response to Corda’s comments about river water penetrating the community, Hord said that there is a “50-50 chance” of flooding. But she added that in the seven years that she has lived in the mobile home park, the Roaring Fork water’s level has never gone up near her home.”I have landmarks out there to watch (the water level) daily,” Hord said. “Nature is doing what it should do right now. Nothing drastic is going to happen unless all of a sudden it turns 110 degrees out here. But that is very unlikely. It is like, do you see the glass half-empty of the glass half-full?”Despite Corda’s comments about protecting residents in the community from possible flooding waters, Hord called the destruction of the trees a “dirty shame.””I don’t see that (Corda and the property manager) have compassion for any living thing, much less than human beings,” Hord said.

The Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs was flowing at 1,790 cubic feet per second at noon Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. At noon on March 30, the river was flowing at 642 cubic feet per second (cfs) on March 30. A week ago, the river was flowing at 1,560 cfs at noon, the USGS data showed.Flooding of the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs will occur at about 11,800 cfs or a gauge height of about 8 feet, according to information from the National Weather Service. NWS data as of Tuesday showed the river gauge height at about 3.9 feet.But runoff from melting snow is expected to push the river’s water level higher, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).”Our forecast for the Roaring Fork River from last month was pretty high,” said Chris Pacheco, assistant snow survey supervisor with the NRCS, which is currently forecasting river volume from snow runoff for April through July.Snow data from an April 1 NRCS forecast showed that the Roaring Fork Valley would flow at 148 percent of average during the April to July period, Pacheco said. “That is the highest forecast we issued in the Upper Colorado River basin,” Pacheco said.The agency is expected to issue another forecast for the Upper Colorado River Basin based on snow data the agency is currently collecting, Pacheco said.



Joe Mollica, who is in his third-term on the Glenwood Springs River Commission, said cutting down trees along the edge of the of a river system destabilizes the roots and makes “an erosion problem worse.” “It is an act of stupidity,” Mollica said. “You could have easily sandbagged along in between the trees and made a better barrier against the water. What the (mobile home park) did is not flood mitigation.”Mollica said the felling of the trees also goes against the city’s goal of reducing carbon emissions. He said reducing 30 to 50 tall cottonwoods is the equivalent to adding 30 to 50 heavy-use automobiles to the area’s roads.”Those trees pump an enormous amount of carbon out of the air,” Mollica said. “Who in their right mind would cut down 30 to 50 cottonwood trees and not think it would upset some people?”

Tim O’Keefe, education director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the riparian zone – which is the area along a river or other body of water – is important for wildlife, but that is also an important barrier to help protect people’s property. “The native willows and cottonwoods do an excellent job of preventing bank erosion,” said O’Keefe, adding his organization was not taking any position over the current dispute in the mobile home park. “The trees are flexible when floods come and bounce back. They do respond well to flood waters.”For more information about living in a riparian zone, go to http://www.roaringfork.org/sitepages/pid268.php.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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