The fellowship continues, with only three weeks left! Last week was filled with visits to El Paso County properties: Christian Open Space, Schreder Property, and The Pineries Ranch. The first two sit along Fountain Creek, marked by towering cottonwood forests and lush, grassy understories. Yellow warblers and northern flickers seemed to be enjoying the abundant forage and mature ecosystem. I also spotted my first monarch butterfly of the season on a patch of showy milkweed! Walking the property with Patrick Salamon, I learned about plans to extend a new trail from Fountain Creek Regional Park into Christian Open Space, making the property publicly accessible for the first time. Stay tuned for that opening in the coming year, as you won’t want to miss the chance to explore the property yourself.
I closed the week with a visit to The Pineries Ranch in Black Forest. As you may know, the public property burned in the 2013 Black Forest Fire. Unfortunately, the fire set the county back years in their plans to open the space for public enjoyment, as they had to divert their sparse financial resources toward mitigating fire damage and clearing dangerous trees from future trail corridors. Three years later, however, the property has regenerated phenomenally. Native grasses and wildflowers form a thick blanket under the more open sky, and many of the trees deemed dead have sprouted new growth. The county is beginning to pursue the trail project again, pending more forest clearing and funding. Although the fire was devastating to many in the area, it also appeared to be badly needed in some of the dense, overgrown patches of forest.
Throughout this summer, I’ve thought a lot about weeds, as they are likely the most common concern on our properties. It’s bizarre to think about how far they have come, unintentionally (and intentionally) whisked around the world by traveling humans. In El Paso County alone, we have about 100 weeds of high to moderate concern, with hundreds more that are of minimal worry. For property managers, it is a hard balance to strike between letting the land change naturally over time and intensively managing it to prevent new invasions. The particularly challenging element for most, of course, is money. While most land owners would be happy to host only native plants, it can be difficult or impossible to find the resource to eradicate every single noxious weed. The Pineries Ranch, for example, is over 1,000 acres, and would take hundreds of hours to scour and clear of weeds. I don’t have any simple solution to this issue, but we can continue to try our hardest. Weeds are most manageable when addressed early and consistently, even if complete eradication is unrealistic. Again, if you’re interested in preventing the spread of invasive weeds in and around your own yard, explore El Paso County’s noxious weed guide!