A technique used to improve safety for winter drivers has had an unintended impact on the Straight Creek watershed in Summit County.
Traction sand laid on Interstate 70 near Dillon has made its way into Straight Creek.
“That sand has to go somewhere and it is the nature of sediment to go downstream with water,” said Jon Hare, fisheries technician for the Dillon Ranger District.
The urban nature of the Straight Creek watershed has made it a subject of special interest to a variety of stakeholders, including local biologists, transportation professionals and government officials.
The public can play a part in the ongoing study of Straight Creek on Sunday by participating in an educational volunteer event sponsored by the Forest Service, the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and the Greenlands Reserve Land Trust. Volunteers will contribute data to the research about the health of the stream.
Volunteers can expect to get a little wet and muddy as they help collect fish and bugs from the creek on the Greenlands Reserve Land Trust site, organizers said.
“These critters are super vital to stream health and really tell a story about the stream,” said Sarah Slaton, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District program manager.
Volunteers will assist the event organizers in capturing macroinvertebrates by scrubbing the bottoms of rocks in the creek.
“There are bugs and other biotic components that are living underneath those rocks in the river,” fisheries technician Hare said.
The matter scrubbed from the rocks will flow downstream and hit a net placed across the creek. From there, insects will be collected in bags and brought to a laboratory to be examined.
“They are a very good indicator of the biology and health of the stream,” Hare said.
Fish are another important species providing evidence of the health of a watershed.
On Sunday, a human-operated electro-probe will temporarily stun fish in Straight Creek, allowing volunteers to collect and gather important information about the species.
Hare said the volunteer event will give participants an inside look into what a Forest Service fisheries crew does every day. It will also help him satisfy his target of species collection from Straight Creek for the season, he said.
Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees are studying and working to improve conditions in Summit County almost every day during the summer, Hare said.
The fisheries technician said his job has two main parts. The first is sampling and identifying species that are living in watersheds. The other is trying to restore areas that have been impacted by human use and making them more sustainable for the future.
Volunteer events like the one on Sunday can help contribute to this mission by educating people about their local environments.
“We have an amazing aquatic environment in Summit County, and there are minor things the everyday user can do to protect the environment and enjoy the forest,” Hare said.
FDRD’s Slaton said she enjoys the Straight Creek project because of the variety it gives the organization’s volunteers.
“We really like this project because a lot of people think we are just a trails organization, but we do a lot of other stuff too,” she said. “Fixing a 40-foot section of trail makes a difference, but it’s a different kind of impact. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind as far as forest and community health goes.”