Wildfire mitigation improves out of doors areas | Free Content material

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New benches and natural fences will be erected in popular recreation areas in the towns of Salida, Poncha Springs and Buena Vista this month as Southwest Conservation Corp completes a project funded by Great Outdoors Colorado.

Saw crews from the Southwest Conservation Corps cleared lodgepole pine stands in the surrounding forest to reduce the threat to wildlife. The wood was then used to make natural looking fencing and simple benches for the cities to protect natural areas, reduce erosion and provide a place for people to sit while enjoying parks and open spaces.

SCC’s Chaffee County High School youth team built the benches and set up six at the Vandaveer Ranch Open Space near Salida in June.

The benches have turned out really well and blend in with the landscape as they have a simple design meant to weather well over time, said SCC Regional Director Anna Hendricks.

Buck and rail fences are wildlife friendly and can protect habitats and wetlands. The youth team began this phase of the project by building over 150 feet of fence at Vandaveer Ranch in June.

Additional fences will be erected this fall at Vandaveer Ranch and new areas at the base of S-Mountain in Salida, Poncha Springs Disc Golf Course and popular recreational areas in Buena Vista.

In Buena Vista, the parking lot will be fenced off where Main Street ends near the community center. This parking lot is a major access point to the city’s trail system.

Each of these sites have been prioritized by city and city governments to prevent erosion, protect vegetation and minimize impact on water resources.

SCC provides challenging service and educational opportunities to youth, young adults and veterans through projects that promote personal growth and an ethic of stewardship of natural resources.

The Healthy Forests, Fences and Benches project fulfills the organization’s mission well, Hendricks said, because it includes public service components, from reducing wildfire risk to protecting wildlife and improving recreational areas for residents and visitors. “Any project that we take on has to have that piece of public good, it has to serve the ecosystems and also the communities we serve.”

The project supports priorities in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan by helping to manage the impacts of recreation growth, protecting water bodies and wildlife habitats from this use, and providing equitable access to nature.

In addition to the three communities, project partners include Lake and Chaffee Counties, Envision Chaffee County, Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative and the Chaffee County Fire Protection District, which transported materials from the forest reduction sites.

The San Isabel National Forest Salida and Leadville Ranger Districts, the Colorado State Forest Service and ARWC identified priority forested sites that were being thinned.

“It’s such a win when we come together as a community,” Hendricks said.