Red-hot job at Coal Seam restoration
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Volunteers from all over Colorado converged here Saturday to help replace thousands of trees lost in 2002 when the Coal Seam Fire raged across the wind-swept hillsides.
The idea was hatched a few months after the fire ravaged more than 12,000 acres of land in and around Glenwood Springs.
David Hamilton of Basalt, executive director of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, said the group selected the project on a small scale last fall.
“It’s been a wild ride, we have all these volunteers. We started out with a small project,” he said.
But that small project soon mushroomed into a huge
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undertaking, necessitating a partnership with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Organizers from the groups expected more than 5,000 trees and shrubs to be planted by Sunday night.
“The other wild thing that happened was all the local folks who called,” Hamilton said.
In all, he expected 300 volunteers on Saturday and 250 on Sunday.
“The highest number of volunteers we’ve ever had on a Roaring Fork project before was 85. In some ways, this was the most compelling projects we’ve ever done,” Hamilton said.
Volunteers from across the state dotted the slopes along West Midland Avenue in Glenwood Springs, in South Canyon and along Mitchell Creek on Saturday.
Bob Kinter, a member of Denver-based Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), stood in a wind-whipped South Canyon Saturday afternoon, talking with volunteers who just finished planting their allotment of trees.
“We were planting trees of different sizes along the creekbed,” he said. “I also picked up a lot of trash down there.”
Kinter said he enjoyed it and pointed out that the planting project was the VOC’s first project in Glenwood Springs in its 20 years as a nonprofit organization.
“I just wish we had some more trees to plant,” he added.
State Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, whose house nearly burned down in the Coal Seam Fire, volunteered on one of the crews Saturday morning. He thanked the volunteers for their help.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m glad you all are here,” Rippy said.
VOC crew leader Steve Austin said the South Canyon job “went faster than I thought it would.”
Another VOC volunteer, Montrose resident Pat Burns, said he’s done a lot of trail work for VOC but hasn’t done much tree planting.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s kind of good, hard work,” he said.
Glenwood Springs resident Tom Schickling said he was glad to see people banding together for such a worthwhile project.
“I helped with the grass seed last year,” he said. “It’s pretty cool coming out here with all these people.”
The types of trees planted varied, depending on the location. Along the river and creek banks, cottonwoods were planted the most. On the drier hillsides, volunteers planted gambel oaks, pinon pines, Rocky Mountain junipers and other trees and shrubs.
By the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus barn in West Glenwood, Boy Scouts were busy planting.
“I think it’s really hard because there’s rocks underground and you get stuck in them,” said Boy Scout Erik Skeim, who came up to Glenwood Springs from Arvada with his dad, Larry, and some other scouts from Troop 1876.
“It’s also hard to get the plants out of the boxes,” he said.
The scouts started planting around 9 a.m. and were still hard at it by 2 p.m.
“There’s about 25 total – that’s boys and parents,” Larry Skeim said. “They get community service hours.”
Incidentally, those community service hours are for the scouts, not the courts, Skeim said.
Boy Scout Kyle Shakely also said the dirt below the RFTA bus barn was a bit difficult to work with, and the job took longer than he expected.
“It’s OK, I didn’t expect it to be this long. I thought it was going to be over by lunchtime,” he said.
Ross Hadden, also from Arvada but hailing from Boy Scout Troop 600, said he’s been to Glenwood Springs before, but it was under much different circumstances.
“I was out here on vacation,” he said.
This time, it was for hard work.
“I think it’s a good idea. It’s pretty helpful to nature,” he said.
The project was the seventh time for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and VOC to partner on a project, and their first partnership with the city of Glenwood Springs.
The Colorado State Forest Service received a federal grant to buy trees and the effort was also aided by the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Native Plants and the U.S Forest Service. The project was sponsored by Williams energy company and Shell Oil Co.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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Glenwood’s Sunlight Mountain Resort opens full-time for the season Friday with all three of its lifts providing access to expanded terrain. Oh, and it’s supposed to snow!