Storm aftermath hurts Earth Day turnout

       The Earth wasn't friendly enough on its “day” for some folks, based on noticeably reduced turnouts for the combined April 18 annual event at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center and Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.

Earth Day scenes... ABOVE: Despite rain sprinkles and cold weather, volunteers plant new apple trees in the orchard near the Rock Ledge House at Rock Ledge Ranch. In the background, surrounded by a makeshift fence, is an ancient apple tree, and farther back is the blacksmith shop. BELOW, BOTTOM LEFT: Also planting Tobas are Elana Muzzy (left), Mattie Monson, Devin Muzzy and Braden Muzzy. Mattie and Devin are Brownies and Howbert third- graders; their Girl Scout troop donated the tree with proceeds from Girl Scout cookie sales. BOTTOM RIGHT: Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center volunteer Lee Tatum (right) shows animal pelts to visitors inside the center.
Westside Pioneer photo


       Drizzling rain on the heels of a snowstorm seemed to keep crowds away, according to Bonnie Frum, director of operations at the Visitor Center and Andy Morris, manager of Rock Ledge Ranch. Frum estimated center attendance at about 1,750, compared with 4,400 at the sunnier 2008 event; while at Rock Ledge the numbers dropped to about 300 from 900 last year, Morris said.
       Nevertheless, nearly all the planned events went on, including the planting of 17 trees at Rock Ledge. “We don't have any namby-pambies out here,” Morris laughed.
       Some weather adjustments were made at the Visitor Center, with the cleanup event cancelled and the American Indian dance performances relocated from the parking lot to the theater.
       Both Morris and Frum said there was a bright side to the lower attendance, with both using the word “quality” in terms of the experiences of those who did brave the weather.
       Led by City Forestry workers with volunteer assistance, the trees were added to a Toba Hawthorn grove near the chapel, to an apple orchard near the Rock Ledge House and to two cherry tree groupings (in the traffic “island” near the preschool and by the pond). Four benches also were installed.
       Shoveling hard around one Toba was a family from Falcon. The tree was a way of honoring Lisa Dower, who recently died of a brain rupture, said her sister, Laurie Woodard. She was joined by her husband Terry and children Austin, Aften and Hayley.
       The other trees and the benches were purchased with the help of donations from Mrs. Valerie Feld (honoring her husband, who died of cancer), Bret and Ron Wright, the Living History Association, Pleasant Valley Neighbors, Howbert Elementary, Howbert Principal David Morris, Donette and Craig Brunner, Club 9 (a group of chefs that helps organize Rock Ledge's annual Fiddles, Vittles & Vino event) and the Broadmoor Garden Club.
       “Trees love this,” said Morris, as scattered raindrops splashed down. “Snow and rain and thunder are part of the Earth too.”

Earth Day scenes... Johnny Hearlson (left) of City Parks helps 4-year-old Nicholas Grim plant a Toba Hawthorn near the Rock Ledge chapel.
Westside Pioneer photo

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