No shortage of volunteers
Funds are main limit on RMFI workdays at Garden

       The Garden of the Gods is more than 1,300 acres in size. With some 5,000 people volunteering 30,000 hours over the past seven years, The Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has fixed erosion problems in 20 of them.

Volunteers form a “bucket brigade” to get rocks into an erosion area during a 2008 Rocky Mountain Field Institute workday at the Garden of the Gods. The non-profit organization has been repairing drainage problems in parts of the Garden in conjunction with the city since 2002.
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Field Institute

       “We can only work on a small portion,” said RMFI associate director Eric Billmeyer in a recent interview. “There's so much more to do and the city budget is so limited.”
       This year the Westside-based non-profit agency, in cooperation with Colorado Springs Parks, will again work mainly in the Spring Canyon area (in the south part of the Garden) fixing extensive erosion on and near trails.
       One of the focuses will be the Strausenback Trail, which is regularly used by riders from a horse stable south of the Garden. “The impact of the horses is pretty tremendous,” Billmeyer said. “Even the trails we're building need maintenance. The horses' hooves kick all that stuff up.”
       The Garden as a whole is inviting to visitors - about 1.7 million a year - with a number of them creating social trails that become “drainage patterns” that in turn cause erosion, according to Billmeyer
       There's been no shortage of RMFI volunteers. Last year the entity offered 27 workdays and “we had to turn people away,” he said. “There's a demand out there, but we run into problems with funding and staff limitations.”
       He lauded the Garden of the Gods Foundation, established by Lyda Hill, which gives money to City Parks for Garden upkeep. “Essentially the only money for the Garden of the Gods comes from that foundation,” Billmeyer said.
       He's hopeful that grants he and his staff are writing will allow an expansion of RMFI's scope. In any case, “I'm encouraged about the future,” he said.
       Currently, RMFI also leads volunteer workdays in other locations, including Pikes Peak and Fountain Creek (a restoration project in Manitou Springs).
       The group holds its workdays in the spring and fall. The first this year at the Garden are scheduled in April (see adjoining story).

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