Several of the tasks set forth by the project are either underway or completed. Unofficial social trails have been closed to motor vehicles via placement of boulders and construction of fencing. This is allowing for the recovery of delicate riparian habitat. Signs have also been placed to reinforce the designation of these areas.
The Park Creek watershed has historically received a high amount of dispersed recreational use. In addition, the area is part of an active cattle allotment and has seen a relatively high amount of timber harvest in the past. The cumulative impacts of these activities have resulted in less than optimum watershed conditions, including high sediment input to the stream, compacting of soils, and degradation of riparian vegetation.
A gravel unloading area for OHVs will be established in the future. This will help concentrate motor vehicle traffic to hardened areas. An existing creek crossing (FSR 390) will also be hardened to create a safer, long term crossing and prevent sediment loss. Additional boulders will also be added to supplement existing barriers, and riparian vegetation will be planted to help stabilize creek banks. Finally, educational signs will be placed to inform visitors of restoration efforts, as well as promote "Leave No Trace" principles.
Located in the Divide District of the Rio Grande National Forest, the Park Creek Watershed was identified by the Upper Rio Grande Watershed Assessment as a priority location for restoration. We partnered with the Forest Service to formulate solutions to the negative effects of heavy recreational usage in the area around Park Creek. Natural barriers such as boulders and split rail fences will be placed to limit motor vehicle access to damaged areas. Along with this, a designated OHV-unloading zone and hardening of other high use areas will also prevent further habitat degradation. The end result will be improved water quality and riparian habitat, reduced erosion, and stabilized streambanks and roads.
The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project
Rio Grande Forest Service, Divide District
US Forest Service
Colorado Water Conservation Board
San Luis Valley Conservation Connection Initiative.