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Volunteers Wanted to Restore Watershed in South Park

Illegal motorized recreation in restricted watershed areas puts fish populations at risk and pollutes drinking water. (Pixabay)
Illegal motorized recreation in restricted watershed areas puts fish populations at risk and pollutes drinking water. (Pixabay)
July 26, 2017

DENVER - Volunteers and U.S. Forest Service staff are headed back into South Park's Farnum Roadless area to restore critical watershed, native plants and wildlife habitat.

Misi Ballard, broadband leader for the group "Great Old Broads for Wilderness," led an effort earlier this month, checking on a project south of Tarryall Reservoir, and will be helping close off national forest lands damaged by illegal motorized recreation on Aug. 2, a week from today.

"The Pike-San Isabel is basically Denver's backyard," she said. "Within an hour of the metropolitan area, you can be in a wilderness - and as such, it gets pounded, every weekend."

More than 2,000 square miles in the Pike and San Isabel national forests have been set aside exclusively for motorized off-road recreation, and Ballard said people often aren't aware they've entered protected areas. Volunteers will be posting signs and fencing, and reseeding to help the land heal.

Ballard noted that unauthorized "bogging" - where jeeps and other all-terrain vehicles ride around in muddy areas - not only puts fish populations at risk but also pollutes drinking water. The Upper South Platte River watershed and South Park's North Fork Valley supply water to 60 percent of communities along the Front Range.

"Our water is only as good as our headwaters," she said. "There is no redundancy in Denver Water's system. Things happen in the upper reaches of the South Platte watershed, and it impacts Denver's water."

Once people understand why closures are important, she said, they tend to follow the rules.

"There's been a lot of positive comments on the closures," she said, "especially from hunters, saying that they have had bad hunts for many years because of the presence of motorized recreation."

Ballard said helping restore wilderness areas is fun and a way for her to give back for the many years she's enjoyed Colorado's outdoors.

Those who'd like to join her and other Great Old Broads for Wilderness in their efforts can call 817-939-4239.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO