Professor: Continued need for restoration work at Garden

       From a distance, the Garden of the Gods looks as pretty as ever, but up close there are some major problems. This was a key aspect of a presentation by Colorado College biology professor Jim Ebersole in a presentation last month at the college as part of the Garden of the Gods Foundation's Summer of Celebration activities.
       The two-square-mile Garden is threatened by five conditions, he said:
       1) The soils are highly erodable.
       2) The slopes are very steep.
       3) The trails and off-trail areas are impacted by heavy use (the city park gets an estimated 2 million visitors a year).
       4) Exotic species of plants are moving in (hurting indigenous plants).
       5) Insect infestations are killing drought-weakened trees and shrubs.
       He suggested that people can help take care of the Garden by staying on designated trails, helping with revegetation and erosion-control projects, volunteering on restoration workdays or making donations to make reclamation projects possible.
       Restoration work at the Garden of the Gods is continuing this year, led by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) in conjunction with City Parks. Workdays for the past two years have focused mainly on improving drainage in the park's Scotsman area. RMFI volunteers have been building small check dams to slow the flow of storm water and trap sediment. This involves moving tons of small rocks and soil by hand.
       “The erosion is very, very severe,” according to Mark Hesse, president of RMFI. A restoration report the group wrote for the city in 2000 (with Ebersole's help) estimated $3 million to $5 million worth of work was needed. “Based on the work we're doing now, that seems conservative,” Hesse said. “We're trying to recreate vegetation communities that were there before the land eroded away, but even with the involvement of volunteers, it's going to involve significant resources and money.”
       Upcoming RMFI workdays are June 11, 19 and 26. For information about volunteering, call 471-7736.

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