Aspen will get a new `swamp’ |

Aspen will get a new `swamp’

Aspen will soon get a new swamp.

The city parks department will soon create a wetland in connection with a pond at Snyder Park in Aspen’s east end to give nearby residents more natural landscape in their neighborhood and to create new wildlife habitat.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, of Basalt, is recruiting volunteers to help with the project, which will also involve the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) and the Roaring Fork Watershed Coalition.

A volunteer work day will be held Saturday, May 22. The project has been under way since last fall.

Jeff Woods, director of parks for the city of Aspen, said the other groups are providing technical expertise and education during the project. “They really have a strong partnership role in this,” Woods said.

The lake where the project is located will include two acres of open water and a full acre of traditional wetland. The wetland will be vegetated with native rushes, spike rushes, sedges and some shrubs, such as willows, alders and birches. “We’re confident we can create a high-quality wetland,” Woods said.

Stephen Ellsperman, forester for the city, said though the project is described as a restoration, no wetland previously existed on the site. An existing pond on the site was man-made, fed by the Riverside Ditch. The property, now owned by the city, was previously the grounds of a private residence.

Woods said only low-quality fringe wetlands existed at the edge of the water. Creating a wetland there will have numerous desirable consequences, he said, even though no wetland existed there previously.

The wetland will enhance wildlife habitat and the visual quality of the park, and it will provide an educational opportunity for children and adults in the neighborhood, Woods said. Besides the wetland construction, the pond has been enlarged and deepened to provide better trout habitat.

The wetland will foster insect populations that are an important food source to the fish. Woods said the pond, and others on the site, will create a place where children can go to fish in their own neighborhood.

One of the parks department’s intentions with this and other planned wetland projects is to compensate for marshes and wetlands that have been drained and filled in the valley during previous decades. Though wetlands now make up only about 3 percent of Colorado’s land area, Ellsperman said 80 percent to 90 percent of the state’s wildlife use them at some time in their life cycles.

The east end is Aspen’s most densely populated neighborhood, Woods said, and it lacks the volume of parks of other areas in town. The improvements at Snyder Park have been well accepted by residents for that reason, he said.

“This has been overwhelmingly supported by the neighborhood,” Woods said. The park will serve the entire neighborhood and is not directly related to the affordable housing project planned for the Snyder property.

Ellsperman said the design of Snyder Park, with a naturally functioning landscape linked to a smaller, formal, mowed grassy area represents a new direction of park design in Aspen. “It’s a new standard for our parks,” he said.

The Snyder wetland is the second one built recently by the parks department, joining a smaller project built on the Marolt property. A third project, larger still, is planned for the Maroon Creek bottomlands near Highway 82 this year.

The entire Snyder project, Ellsperman said, will cost about $300,000. The wetland project will incorporate about 200 wetland shrubs, and around 6,500 wetland plants. Woods said nurseries that specialize in native plants will supply the stock.

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