Once upon a time, all the homes in Black Forest were built by individual land owners, usually on five acres or more in very rural isolated forest settings. Those days are long gone! Beginning with the Cathedral Pines, there have been over ten major housing developments constructed in Black forest over the last 20 years. These developments have subdivided vast swaths of our beloved forest into 1⁄2 to 5 acre housing sites with paved roads and houses in sight of one another becoming the norm.
That darn fire! Upfront, of course, it changed many lives and destroyed our own and our neighbor’s property and possessions. However, it quickly became apparent, the lasting challenge was that it left victims with a seemingly overwhelming task to reclaim their lives and reconstruct their homes in the forest. Remarkably, after only five years, much has been accomplished. Our community rallied around the victims and markedly sped up the recovery. To date, over half of the nearly 500 homes lost have been rebuilt and much of the vacant land has been sold to new neighbors intent on building their own place in the forest. In the not too distant future (10-15 years) most of the homes will be rebuilt and the residual “blacksticks” will be gone. The land itself though, is operating under a much slower recovery timeline largely dictated by Mother Nature. Left to its own design, it will take many, many decades for the land and beloved forest to fully recover. What can we do to speed up that recovery? Just as we helped our neighbors return to normalcy sooner, perhaps we can we can also give Mother Nature a hand. Reforestation is one of the answers! Fortunately it is happening on many fronts!
Recently El Paso County Parks and District 20’s School in the Woods sponsored planting of several hundred seedlings along Volmer Road. They went the extra mile to insure increased survivability by establishing shade barriers and plastic sheeting to draw water into the seedling. You can check out their handiwork next time you drive to town or hike section 16’s Partnership Trail.
Black Forest Regional Park also recently received some much needed tender loving care. El Paso County Parks provided 1500 seedlings that Rocky Mountain Field Institute volunteers planted in the worst burned portion of the park. This effort covered over 10 acres and will jump start the forest’s recovery and get our biggest park back on its feet much sooner.
Our own Black Forest Together has recently expanded their operations to include transplanting young 6-10 foot trees, donated from overgrown properties, directly to burned properties left without trees. This is a fantastic outreach that not only brings trees back to traditional forest ground but thins areas that need mitigation as well. Spreading these older trees around will also greatly facilitate cone production and natural reforestation on tree barren properties. BFT equipment allows them to move up to 11 trees at a time which keeps costs down for the recipient. Call them to set up a delivery and installation to jump start your own reforestation project.
Many individual landowners are also to be applauded for their effort to plant thousands of seedlings each Spring courtesy of the Colorado State Forest Service Seedling program. Every year hard working landowners plant many of these baby trees with an eye toward the future health of our forest!
In short, get on board via one of these programs, and do your part to reforest our Black Forest! If you are a burned property owner spend some time healing your land. If you were one of the “lucky ones” donate your time and help replant our parks and neighbor’s land. We don’t need to wait a 100 years to see a beautifully recovered landscape. With your help we can cut that time frame to less than 50 years. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!
Larry Fariss President BFTA
BFTA 2018 Strategy
By Larry Fariss, President
Each year your Black Forest Trails Association develops a strategic plan for the upcoming year. This is necessary to insure our limited resources -- time and money -- are spent in a way that best benefits our membership and meets our mission:
"To create a safe legitimate non-motorized, multi-use recreational trail system that connects Black Forest neighborhoods to each other and to the El Paso County regional trail system."
To that end your BFTA Board adopted the following strategic priorities for 2018:
1. Finish Pineries Open Space
2. Restore Black Forest Regional Park
3. Map Regions Private Trails
4. Encourage New and Existing Friends Groups
Pineries Open Space remains our number one priority. Currently slated for partial opening by Fall 2018, this will be the biggest improvement Black Forest trail users have seen since the opening of Section 16 over 25 years ago! Thousands of acres of open space and over 15 miles of trail will greatly enhance our outdoor experiences in Black Forest. This ambitious El Paso County project is very important to our community and membership and we pass that on to county park officials regularly to insure it remains a high priority.
Black Forest Regional Park was devastated during the 2013 fire. Work has been ongoing since then to fall trees, remove debris, prevent erosion, and repair trails. We are grateful for the resources El Paso County has applied to that end. The common area is fully restored, many trails are open, and trail traffic has increased. Now is the time to relocate the trails in drainages to ridge lines so future erosion does not damage park trails. The county has a plan to accomplish this and we will work along with them to accomplish this task.
Private trails, that land owners allow neighbors to use, are the real "Gem of the Forest". Unique to our area, they foster friendly neighbors and allow users to get off the "beaten path" and have a more intimate nature experience. Old timers know where these gems are located, but our newer members are often in the dark for years. With owners concurrence we will map these trails and post them on our website. Also we will hold a yearly Trail Exploration Hike where an old timer will take new members to trails in their neighborhood.
Friends Groups are needed for several parks in Black Forest. BFTA is the Friends Group for Section 16. Fox Run Regional Park and Homestead Park have existing groups as well. These groups watchdog trails in their domain and lobby with the county for scarce maintenance resources to repair and restore existing trails, improve facilities, and highlight problems that users face. Examples of Friend Group successes are are the benches installed on trails, grading and water culvert installations, toilet facility and dog park improvements. BFTA will assist any and all organizations that want to fill this need for Black Forest Regional Park and the Pineries Open Space.
By Larry Fariss
Private Property Trails Key Link!
We are lucky within Black Forest! Like many American communities, we have a series of parks that allow us to move about in the woods, but we also have civic minded property owners that have allowed Black Forest Trails Association to establish a series of trails across private properties to link the neighborhoods and roadways throughout Black Forest. The paths run along fence lines and right of ways, through pastures and forests, and through rural and urban settings. This open access concept is embraced by generous land owners that keep paths clear and maintained, allowing the public to walk, ride or bike whenever they wish without objection by the land owner. In addition to encouraging members of the community to exercise in the outdoors, the paths serve to strengthen our community bonds as neighbors get to know each other better and we encounter folks “from the next street over”! How did this happen?
A trail can come about in a myriad of ways. I’ll give you three examples of new trails that were established this past year...as you’ll see the Fariss Trail, Didleau Trail and the Bissell Trail all came about in different ways.
Fariss Trail: Property owner approached BFTA with a plan to link Juniper and Danford Roads
Didleau Trail: BFTA contacted the property owner about re-linking Meadow Glen and Forest Heights
Bissell Trail: BFTA member linked up the property owner to BFTA to link Wildflower and Huntsman
Bottom line is these wonderful trails came about due to someone’s initiative! Don’t wait for someone else to initiate. You could be the next person who helps our community with another networking trail! To date, with your help, approximately ten non-motorized trails have been established. This is a wonderful concept the BFTA is embracing seeking to expand in several ways:
To jump start this expansion though, we need it to begin with Black Forest property owners. I am asking each of you to join BFTA in examining your property and if you see an opportunity for a linking path across your (or a friendly neighbor’s) property to contact us directly. At your invitation, a BFTA Board member will swing by to meet with you to review your concept. With your help we seek to expand the community trails tenfold in ten years! With our larger land holdings and rectangular shaped acreage, Black Forest is in position to have the best trail linking network in the Pikes Peak region!
Please feel free to contact any board member if you have ideas that help us meet our mission: To create a safe, legitimate, non-motorized, multi-use recreational trail system that connects Black Forest neighborhoods to each other and the El Paso County Regional Trail System.
Sincerely, Larry Fariss President BFTA