The small town of Red Cliff, Colorado is the Wild West at its best. This quaint town of less than 300 residents is an access point to countless outdoor recreation opportunities in the mountains and streams surrounding it, including beautiful Shrine Pass on the White River National Forest. Clean water is a priority to the locals and visitors of this great town, not only for their own consumption, but also because of the life services it provides aquatic species and wildlife.
The abundant usage of the Shrine Pass area led to users creating illegal 4-wheel drive trails, which led to erosion and sediment loading issues for the numerous streams that start here. Cutthroat trout are an important native species in the local fishery where their habitat has been reduced to only 1 percent of their original range. Excess sediment threatened to destroy that small remaining habitat.
Through NFF’s Ski Conservation Fund and a partnership with Vail Resorts and their Epic Promise program the Eagle River Watershed Council, based in Eagle, Colorado, and the US Forest Service’s Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District were able to complete a watershed restoration project to combat these problems with great results!
A hired contractor decompacted the closed forest roads. The contractor intentionally left the roads rocky, lumpy and less recognizable and appealing as a 4-wheel drive route. On September 11th, 100 volunteers drove into the mountains for a day of hard work.
As ski resort employees, the group had fun labeling themselves with different skill levels, based on ski trail designations. The ‘Black Diamond’ crew was assigned the most challenging task: erecting a low fence around a sensitive meadow area. The ‘Blue’ group spread erosion control fabric and straw and placed gathered slash as they followed behind the ‘Green’ group who were seeding & fertilizing the excavated trails. The volunteers accomplished all of the work at a large primary site and were able to tackle the work at a secondary site, as well as some additional plantings.
During the introductions, the speakers added elements to educate the volunteers and drive home the importance of the work they were doing. The volunteers commented that they truly felt like they made a difference. This project was an inspirational example of the amazing results that can be achieved with collaboration, hard work and fun.