Record crowds work, play at joint Rock Ledge, GoG Earth Day
But where are last year’s Red Rock plantings?

       A year ago, on May 7, Colorado Springs Parks organized a major Arbor Day project at which more than 100 volunteers spent a few hours each planting 2,800 small trees and shrubs on an upper and lower mesa in the northern part of the city-owned Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
       Today, only minimal signs of those efforts remain - a 10 to 20 percent survival rate, City Forester Jim McGannon estimated in a recent interview. He conceded that the city needs to “reassess” what needs to be done in that 20-acre area, which has an off-leash dog loop around each mesa's perimeter.
       “We knew it would be a tough site,” he said. “It was a disappointment to us, but not a big surprise.”
       He blamed the lack of good topsoil - the site had been bulldozed by the Bock family ownership before the city bought it in 2003 - as well as dry weather and wildlife appetites. “The deer browse there like crazy,” McGannon said.
       According to city plans during the 2005 project, the goal was to replicate the indigenous growth of the Red Rock area by planting three-leaf sumac, mountain mahogany, gambel oak and ponderosa pines.
       After the Arbor Day event in 2005, McGannon had said he did expect some losses to drought or nibbling deer, but added, “I hope to come back in 10 years and see 10 feet of growth on some of these.”
       The plantings, many of them seedlings, went in with polymer around the roots to retain moisture. Also, the city sent a water truck to the area a couple of times afterward, McGannon said. But this was not enough to withstand what he termed “one of the worst winters we've had” in terms of moisture, followed by a spring that's had scant rain so far.
       The cost for the 2,800 plantings varied from $1 to $3 apiece, paid for by the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) fund. “It was not that expensive a project,” he said.
       And, even if the plantings did not do well, the volunteers still had a significant experience that helped “instill ownership” in them regarding Red Rock, McGannon said.
       He added that he plans to talk to City Parks Development Manager Chris Lieber about future revegetation strategies at Red Rock in the coming months. “We'll keep picking away at that place,” McGannon said.

Westside Pioneer article