Hazard trees in Hunter Creek to be focus of forest project | AspenTimes.com

Hazard trees in Hunter Creek to be focus of forest project

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy John BennettFor the Forest and Forest Service officials visit the Four Corners area above Hunter Creek in November and discover a number of hazard trees near or suspended over the trail.

ASPEN – The U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit For the Forest will team up to cut hazard trees along a number of trails in the popular Hunter Creek Valley near Aspen, the organizations announced Wednesday.

Under Forest Service direction, For the Forest will cut dead pine, fir, spruce and aspen trees that pose a potential safety threat to hikers and bikers.

Without the nonprofit’s help, the Forest Service would not be able to undertake the work, said Bill Kight, acting Aspen/Sopris District ranger, in a press release.

For The Forest is a local nonprofit dedicated to promoting forest health and sustainability. The organization was formed initially in response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, and has focused its energy and resources on addressing the pine beetle’s spread into the Roaring Fork Valley.

The organization will host a free public symposium on the afternoon of Dec. 17 at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome ballroom that will include preliminary results of the tree removal and beetle treatment work performed earlier this year on Smuggler Mountain near Aspen. The symposium will also include comments from Gov. Bill Ritter and a panel discussion led by Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest supervisor. (Go to http://www.fortheforest.org for more on the event.)

The planned Hunter Creek project is ” just the kind of public-private partnership that is needed to address this very large issue,” said John Bennett, For the Forest executive director, in the press release.

During a recent walk-through of the Four Corners area above Hunter Creek, Forest Service and For The Forest officials found more than 700 dead hazard trees along just two miles of trail.

“We were surprised at the number of hazard trees in a short distance, and the majority were fir trees rather than pines,” Bennett said. “The spreading fir decline in our valley is yet more evidence of the today’s forest health challenges.”

The work will be funded by For the Forest, which is seeking additional foundation help. An agreement between the two entities will allow the Forest Service to direct the manpower and financial resources provided by For the Forest to complete trail protection work that would otherwise have taxed the White River National Forest’s resources, which are currently focused on more immediate safety issues raised by the mountain pine beetle epidemic in Eagle and Summit counties.

The collaboration could expand as the Forest Service identifies more areas around the valley for protection. “Eventually, we hope to work in a variety of other areas of our valley, from Maroon Creek to the upper Fryingpan,” Bennett said.

Among the lengthy list of trails in the Hunter Creek Valley that will be the focus of the tree removal are: Shadyside, Sunnyside, Sunnyside Plunge, Hobbit Trail, Repeater Road, Teapot Trail, Gandolf Trail, Hobbit Trail, Van Horn Park Trail, Hunter Creek Trail

Hunter Valley Trail, Iowa Shaft Trail, Grand Turk Trail, Smuggler Cutoff, Hunter Creek Road, Four Corners Road, Bald Knob Road and Van Horn Park Road.

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