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Pond planting to take place on Saturday

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times

The stage is being set for a big planting effort this weekend at a new stormwater wetlands area next to Rio Grande Park.

On Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., kids and adults with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will assist employees of the city of Aspen’s Parks and Open Space departments with the installation of native seeds, wetland plants and riparian trees and shrubs at “Pond 5,” a new extension of the wetlands area between the park’s main playing field and the John Denver Sanctuary.

The pond, in the shadow of the permanent Theatre Aspen tent, was still under construction Tuesday, but officials say it should be ready Friday when the city partially fills it with water to make the dirt suitable for the Saturday planting effort.

The wetlands area just to the east of the theater tent was completed last summer. The new wetlands area just south of the tent, which includes Pond 5, will be finished sometime in September. Both areas are part of the city’s overall Rio Grande Park stormwater project, which aims to clean the water that flows from the downtown area toward the Roaring Fork River by use of a natural filter: the rocks, plants, soils and grades that make up the man-made wetlands.

Scott Chism, project manager for the city’s Parks Department, said there are other aspects of this year’s phase of the project aside from Pond 5 and the new wetlands, including a restroom building for park users and a pump system that will use filtered water resting in the pond to irrigate the entire park and the cultured gardens next to the John Denver Sanctuary.

Actually, the entire wetlands area is an extension of the sanctuary, as was noted last year when Annie Denver, ex-wife of the late Aspen singer-songwriter and world-renowned recording artist, said a few words at the dedication ceremony for the first phase just east of the theater tent.

That phase has filled out nicely over the past 12 months, with an abundance of healthy plants at the water’s edge and wildflowers among the boulders above it.

“What we’re doing, in a very basic way, is sewing the seeds of habitat in the space between the Rio Grande Trail and the river,” Chism said. “That (first area) is established and is a functioning habitat now, and it’s doing its job now to clean the water. That was the idea.”

The wetlands area east of the tent has become even more of a visitors’ destination than before, when there was only a trail leading to the lyric-inscribed boulders that made up the original area of the John Denver Sanctuary, Chism added.

“Lots of people are coming down there to see the gardens next to the sanctuary or the amphitheater steps next to the wetlands or to the theater itself for performances,” he said. “It’s become a much more active community space.”

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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