Manitou Springs, Colorado is a beautiful and historic city at the foot of Pikes Peak. It was home for the first five years of my residence in Colorado. That made it particularly disturbing to witness the flooding that took place there in 2013 as a result of the Waldo Canyon Fire. The fire burned over 18,000 acres and destroyed record numbers of homes the previous year. The heavy loss of trees and other vegetation left nothing to hold back the soil that had developed a hydrophobic layer due to the heat of the fire, making it conducive to erosion and creating flood prone conditions.
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) (http://www.rmfi.org/) is one of the organizations working to ameliorate these conditions. I volunteered with them to make log erosion barriers (LEBs) to redirect the flow of water for post-fire flood mitigation. Williams Canyon is adjacent to Waldo Canyon and that was the site of the LEB project. We created LEBs by placing burned trees along the contour line and in relation to each other so as to direct rainwater down the slope in a more controlled manner. We dug trenches to place the logs in, making them as level as possible, packed dirt in front of and behind the logs, and installed end caps made of rocks or smaller logs. Then we pounded stakes in to secure the logs. Finally we raked, seeded and tamped down the ground.
Earlier this year I participated in a skills training workshop conducted jointly by RMFI, The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC), along with the Flying W Ranch. We learned about LEBs and seeding. I had gained experience we these flood mitigation methods from volunteering with CUSP after the Hayman Fire, which occurred ten years before the Waldo Canyon Fire, but the training was a good refresher. One of the requirements for attending the workshop was that each participant volunteer for at least three project workdays with any of, or any combination of, those organizations. This project fulfilled a part of that requirement, as well as the internship requirement, and was beneficial to the environment. It was also a step toward ensuring that I will be able to make my way up and down Ute Pass this summer! The best part for me was the nostalgic memories that were triggered by the project, and knowing that our work was going toward a necessary and important cause. The most challenging part was reconciling the slight variations in methodologies employed by the different organizations. Actually it was carrying tools while climbing back up the hill at the end of the workday.
Another bit of community service I participated in with Keep Woodland Park Beautiful (KWPB) http://www.keepwoodlandparkbeautiful.org/, a city committee, was the annual Woodland Park city-wide clean-up. As a member of KWPB I helped plan and conduct the event, and picked up trash too. The best part was seeing the immense amount of trash picked up by the many volunteers. The worst part was realizing that there was that much trash to be picked up.
From these community service projects I gained a feeling of satisfaction that I had made a small contribution toward improving the condition of the environment. It was also encouraging for me to see so many young people who actually care enough to step up and do their part. This experience gave me greater motivation and inspiration to participate in more of these types of projects.