With the memories of the Waldo Canyon Fire still haunting Colorado residents, Colorado College’s BreakOut club spent Saturday, Oct. 27, doing restoration work along the Upper South Platte River, an area affected by Colorado’s largest wildfire, the Hayman Fire.
BreakOut partnered with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte River (CUSP) to help prevent erosion along this river ecosystem. CUSP is an organization dedicated to protecting the 2,600-square-mile watershed that provides water to nearly three quarters of Colorado’s population. CUSP has been waiting to implement a service project along this section of the Upper South Platte for some time and teaming up with BreakOut provided the organization with sufficient volunteers to begin.
“I think what most struck me about the trip was the group of people that was already at the South Platte River when we arrived. They were kind, talkative, and grateful for any person that came to help,” freshman trip participant James Craig said.
Skyler Trieu, a CC sophomore and co-chair of BreakOut, decided to create a Saturday service trip for students who stayed on campus over second block break. In total, seven freshman and sophomore students and one alumnus piled into a CC van at 8:30 a.m. and headed up US-24 towards the Lake George area.
The Upper South Platte River is renowned for fly-fishing and is a popular recreation area. Although the water is again running clear and re-growth is occurring, the recovery process from the Hayman Fire is ongoing. The soil alongside the river has become hydrophobic, meaning that water collects on the surface rather than absorbing into the ground, and erosion is prevalent. In an effort to combat erosion, CUSP plants willow tree cuttings along the riverside.
“Willow trees are highly versatile and help prevent erosion,” Trieu said.
The CC students arrived at the site at 10 a.m., working for nearly five hours planting two-foot-tall willow cuttings along the river. This work consisted of trimming the cuttings of all twigs and leaves and then placing them in the ground where they can grow and help absorb water back into the affected soil. In addition, BreakOut worked to undo the damage caused by firefighting vehicles by loosening up the frozen soil and then planting native grass seed.
“CUSP is amazing. They take the time to explain what the ecosystem was like before the fire and what our service will look like ten years from now,” Trieu said.
BreakOut also sent out a trip over first block break to the Woodland Park area to help with Waldo Canyon restoration efforts. BreakOut has another service trip planned to help with restoration efforts in the Upper South Platte watershed this coming Saturday.
“[Post-burn areas] can’t be fixed with one or two trips. I’d like to see a commitment from both BreakOut and CC to help these areas. I mean, this is our home for four years,” Trieu said.
BreakOut sends out service trips nearly every weekend, as well as over block breaks and spring break. Many of the service trips are outdoor-oriented, although Trieu emphasized that the club is dedicated to providing different types of service to interest all members of the CC community.
“In whole, the trip was a wonderful way to get outside and do some service for the state,” Craig said.
Students interested in lending a hand should look into working with CUSP as well as Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Both organizations are always in need of volunteers and are currently implementing restoration efforts in the wake of this fire-filled summer.
Active Life Editor