Residents who want to lend a helping hand in the healing and restoration of Hermosa Creek where the 416 Fire blazed through can do so this Saturday.
A number of local nonprofits are hosting “Hermosa Resilience: A Community Event,” which will feature opportunities to repair trails, replant vegetation and learn about the damage done in the Hermosa Creek watershed.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the community to help the trails, forest and watershed recover,” said Brent Schoradt, executive director of San Juan Mountains Association. “This is a public event that gives people that opportunity.”
The 416 Fire broke out June 1, 2018, and went on to burn an estimated 54,000 acres of mostly San Juan National Forest land in the Hermosa Creek watershed.
The area, which features many popular trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, was closed to public access during the fire and didn’t reopen until May 1. Since, several agencies have worked to repair trails and improve safety in the area.
Mary Monroe Brown, director of Trails 2000, said that while there are portions of trails that were destroyed, the damage wasn’t as bad as originally thought.
“People are hopeful,” she said. “What they thought was lost, is not lost. It’s just different.”
Trails 2000 will lead the trail work portion of Saturday’s event, working to stabilize two sections, totaling about 500 feet, of the trail that was damaged.
Monroe Brown said people are asked to ride their mountain bikes about 4 miles to the work site where tools and crew leaders will be waiting. The trail work is not high intensity, she said, but requires physical work.
Amanda Kuenzi, with Mountain Studies Institute, said a guided hike will pull weeds along Jones Creek Trail. Volunteers will then replant the area with a seed mix provided by the U.S. Forest Service.
Also, volunteers will be given “seed balls” to disperse throughout the forest, a collection of mostly native grasses, wildflowers and one native shrub. The replanting aims to promote a healthy understory for pollinators to help the ecology recover.
Mountain Studies Institute coordinated with the Silverton School summer program, as well as the Mancos Public Library, to help make the seed balls, which are made of a clay, sand and compost.
Stephanie Weber, executive director of Durango Nature Studies, said summer campers have made more than 500 seed balls for the event. On Saturday, kids will have the chance to make more seed balls and disperse them around the forest.
Durango Nature Studies will also hold a presentation to explain to kids how rain and runoff moves through different landscapes, with an emphasis on how water interacts with burn scars. And, there will be a matchstick forest demonstration to show how fire moves through different ecosystems.
People interested in volunteering are asked to sign up at https://bit.ly/2KiirOP.
“We really want to have the community come and help heal from the forest fire,” Kuenzi said. “We all want to have a hand in making it a successful recovery.”