Perhaps now more than ever, parks, trails and open spaces are providing our community with a much-needed benefit to sustain both our physical and mental health. These are the places that are helping us all cope with the uncertainty of this public health crisis that has disrupted our daily lives and left us feeling stuck inside. Our commitment to you is to keep these areas accessible, maintained and benefiting our community as long as it’s responsible to do so. However, in order to do this, we all need to do our part to use these areas in a way that respects each other and public health guidance.
You may recall when you were a youngster, having proudly stated to your friends, you were part of something that was important to you. It could have been a team, church, scouts, or a class play. Some, usually the jealous ones, would respond with “So what?” or “Who do you think you are?” Well fortunately, as adults, we have grown past that, but you may still ask it of yourself when you participate in and support a group like the Black Forest Trails Association (BFTA). So what? Who do you think you are?
I am the current President of the BFTA, so let me tell you who I think you are! As a member of the BFTA, you are greatly valued by your BFTA Board of Directors and the Black Forest community at large! Let me tell you why:
We in Black Forest are blessed with an assortment of county parks that provide ample opportunity to get out and explore the great outdoors! Whether you hike, jog, bike, ride horses or play on the swings, we all benefit. A sampling of our local parks include:
These gems are there for the taking and the county does all they can to render them safe, fun and useful. Despite their best efforts our county is budget limited and relies on citizen groups to help bridge the gap. These groups are called Friends Groups.
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