3-year boost complete for GoG’s Central Garden

       The Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) wrapped up its fall season - and a three-year focus on the Garden of the Gods' Central Garden - with its project Nov. 16.

Joe Lavorini of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute stands in front of a Central Garden area in the Garden of the Gods that's benefitted from RMFI improvements: a split rail fence that guides people along the trail and the filled-in, revegetated area behind the fence that used to be a drainage gully.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “The biggest accomplishment this fall was completing construction of the Upper Loop Trail,” said RMFI's project leader, Joe Lavorini. “We will move to a different part of the Garden in the spring.”
       The main part of the three years has involved drainage improvements on the roughly half-mile, hiker-earmarked trail (including dozens of timber-riser steps). A big part of that has been filling gullies in a two-acre area of the Central Garden through which the Upper Loop Trail passes. Sometimes several feet deep, the gullies developed from natural erosion as well as from people making their own paths (also called “social trails”).

Some of the 49 Air Force Academy cadets who joined the Nov. 16 RMFI project coordinate on a bucket brigade hauling dirt up the trail to another gully infill area.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “Sometimes we call it the 'Garden of the Gullies,'” Lavorini quipped.
       The fill soil is typically seeded and covered with “erosion control matting” that helps the seeds germinate, he explained. Another step that's been taken lately is to put up split rail fence along the main trail to discourage people from social-trail use. Not everyone likes that, he said, but noted that fenced trails are commonplace in national parks, and the Garden (which has no admission fee) gets as many visitors as many such parks do. Also, naturalists are noticing an increase in wildlife in the Garden, Lavorini said.
       RMFI, a nonprofit trail restoration and environmental education entity based on the Westside, has been coordinating with Colorado Springs Parks on Garden upgrades for over a decade. The group schedules its workdays there in the spring and fall.
       RMFI also carries out projects in other areas of the region, but the work at the Garden is funded chiefly by the Garden of the Gods Foundation and other grants.
       RMFI will be back at the Garden in the spring. Details have not been finalized, but one focus will be the North Gateway area, where drainage issues have worsened along the concrete trail leading down from the big parking lot off Juniper Way Loop. Another area of attention will be the east side of the park, some of it adjacent to the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, where RMFI has observed “a lot of social and redundant trails, gullies and habitat disturbance,” Lavorini said. “That's going to take many years.”
       About 900 volunteers joined the Garden workdays this fall on weekends starting in mid-September.
       The Nov. 16 workday consisted of 70 volunteers, including 49 cadets from the Air Force Academy and students from UCCS and Colorado College, Lavorini said.
       The work can be labor-intensive. On Saturday, dirt to fill in one gully was only available in a pile about an eighth of a mile away. Cadets formed a bucket brigade along the Upper Loop Trail to move the dirt up to the gulley location.

Westside Pioneer article