Wildfire mitigation and trail improvements continue in Summit County as summer comes to a close | SummitDaily.com

Wildfire mitigation and trail improvements continue in Summit County as summer comes to a close

A view of condominiums from Ryan Gulch Road in Wildernest, Colo. on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2021. Various volunteer groups came together in August to help with a multi-year forest thinning project to help with wildfire mitigation.
Liz Copan /Summit Daily News archive

As summer slowly heads toward a close, outdoor projects to reduce wildfire risks and extend the life of local trails continue. 

Earlier this month, volunteers gathered to thin forest areas near Wildernest in order to reduce potential wildfire fuels near resident areas. Doozie Martin, programs manager of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, said that the work days are a first step. 

“It’s a location that we’re kind of hoping to use as sort of a classroom, if you will — something that we can go back and see progress on from season to season,” Martin said. “So we did a few transplants, but a lot of it was geared around thinning. When you kind of looked up at the plot of land we were looking at, it didn’t seem like there was all that much to do, but when you really got in there, there was plenty to be accounted for.”

Joe Newhart, who helped with the project, said that the project will take multiple years. In total, 32 acres will be treated once it is finished. In 2022, there have been two field events for volunteers to help treat the area. 

“I think one thing we did see is there’s a nice grove of aspen (trees) in there,” Newhart said. “We took out lodgepole in the aspen groves, and down on the north end of that plot, there was a lot of spruce and fir.”

This summer, over 10 projects were planned by the Dillon Ranger District, and, in total, about 120 acres will receive this kind of treatment. Some of those include work near neighborhoods, including planting trees where the Peak 2 and Buffalo fires were; thinning and maintaining past treatments in the North Barton, Frey Gulch, Ophir and Heaton Bay areas; and continued fuel reduction work in the Peak 7 neighborhood. Last week, a large-scale urban-wildland interface project continued in the Ruby Ranch neighborhood, which was at risk of wildfire damage because of its close location to wilderness. Since July, crews have continued to thin lodgepole pine trees in the area, which are now stacked for controlled burns in the winter. 

In addition to forest thinning and fire mitigation, the district also planned several recreational projects to upgrade and maintain trails in and around Summit County. Those included trail construction on the upper part of Spruce Creek Trail and more upgrades to Miners Creek Road, which has had work done to it for the past three years. 

Howard Hallman, who serves with the Forest Health Task Force, said that several years ago, the groups talked about greater opportunities and possibilities for volunteers to do work in areas that needed fuels breaks next to neighborhoods in order to protect or mitigate against wildfire hazard.

“Those areas, as I understand it, have (three) purposes,” Hallman said. “No. 1 is to reduce fuel when they’re next to homes. The No. 2 purpose is to take out dead trees and trees that aren’t doing so well. The third is to allow access for firefighters in case there is a fire wherever it is.”

For the rest of the summer, those interested still have opportunities to contribute to mitigation and trail projects in the county. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up via the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District calendar or they can volunteer with the Forest Health Task Force. 

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