Camp Creek – the reason for this fall’s vegetation removal

       From a distance, the vegetation in recent years along Camp Creek through the Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge Ranch was not bad to look at, especially when it flowered.

A city-contracted crew pulls limbs and brush from the Camp Creek channel (dry this fall) and runs them through a chipper as part of a three-phase creek-clearing project that will be completed in the spring.
Courtesy of Bret Tennis

       So, when city contractors removed most of it this fall, some complaints about excessiveness were heard .
       But long-range vegetation viewers might have thought differently if they had seen that part of the creek up close, with interwoven tree roots and shrubs clogging the creek channel… or if they'd heard an explanation about how such growth can get tangled with any debris that washes down during times of high water.
       Camp Creek's worst vegetation enemy is a type of large shrub that's not indigenous to this area, called the New Mexican locust. “It's an extremely aggressive colonizer with big, nasty thorns that makes incredible thickets,” said Dennis Will, the city forester who coordinated the work. “But people are used to seeing it, so now that it's gone, they think removing it was excessive.”
       The locust is so tough that even chain saws have trouble getting at it. So for Camp Creek, which had about an acre of the stuff overall, the city contractor had to go in with a power unit called a brush hog, which basically consists of lawnmower blades on a four-wheel drive vehicle, Will elaborated.
       Other types of creek overgrowth included Siberian elms, cottonwoods, green ash and box elders, he said.
       Their removal was one phase of a three-phase project intended to free up the Camp Creek channel.
       The other phase, also occurring this fall, involved picking up debris, primarily stumps and tree limbs that had washed down the creek in a rainstorm following the Waldo Canyon Fire. “There was literally a ton of debris north of the bridge on Gateway Road,” Will said. “Stormwater engineers were concerned about bridges washing out.”
       Phase three, planned this spring, will involve spraying an herbicide to kill off the last of the New Mexican locust. Another aspect of that phase will be reseeding grass around the creek banks, where the brush hog made ruts, Will said.
       Funding for the cleanup came from private donations. The largest was $20,000 from the Friends of Garden of the Gods (FOGG).
       Flowing through U.S. Forest Service lands that were heavily burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire, Camp Creek flows through Queen's Canyon and past Glen Eyrie, the Garden, Rock Ledge and the Pleasant Valley subdivision before reaching Fountain Creek.
       In a separate project, large debris racks are to be built in Queen's Canyon.

Westside Pioneer article