RMFI plans more work on Garden erosion

       Continued repairs to the Garden of the Gods trails and drainages are planned by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) at least through the year 2010. A map from the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI)
shows its three-year plan for erosion-control projects at the Garden of the Gods, and photos of past work efforts.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Field Institute
       A talk by RMFI associate director Eric Billmeyer at the Garden's Visitor & Nature Center last month outlined past and future work by the non-profit agency to reverse soil erosion - chiefly human-caused - in the city park.
       With the aid of about 5,000 people volunteering 23,000 hours of work, the Garden of the Gods Community Stewardship and Restoration Program has upgraded over 2 miles of trail and 14.5 acres of park land since the RMFI started it in 2002, in conjunction with Colorado Springs Parks, Billmeyer said.
       This year, work will focus on two segments of the Strausenback Trail and the terrain around them, an RMFI map shows. In 2009, a northerly part of the Strausenback will be worked on, along with the Balanced Rock Trail. The following year shows improvements to part of the Palmer Trail up to the Siamese Twins Trail, as well as that trail in its entirety.
       Past work has occurred in the Scotsman and Spring Canyon areas, with work around the Strausenback picnic area starting last fall. Showing pictures of volunteers putting rocks in drainages, Billmeyer laughingly talked about the hard work involved on the Strassenback “hill” and fixing its series of social trails. Topsoil “with stuff that plants like” was later brought in over the rocks, and a matting put over that to encourage vegetation, he said.
       People don't realize the damage they do in creating social trails, especially down drainages, Billmeyer pointed out. Over time, such unofficial paths become worn in, wiping out plants and creating new routes for water and causing erosion.
       The problems are ongoing because the Garden is so popular with tourists as well as locals. Billmeyer displayed a chart showing that it gets an estimated 1.7 million visitors a year. That's almost half as many as Rocky Mountain National Park, with the difference that the Garden is roughly 1/200 the size.
       The RMFI will begin its 2008 volunteer season in April. Crew leaders are also needed, with training also provided in April (see story below).

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