Vail Resorts launches forest restoration work |

Vail Resorts launches forest restoration work

Julie SutorSummit County correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Peter M. Fredin/APVail Resorts, Inc. employees Randi Briandt, left, and Diane Hagen plant a long-stem willow during a restoration project in an area of the Hayman Fire area near Westcreek on Monday. VR is partnered with the Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation working to revegetate and restore forest lands damaged during the 2002 blaze which was the largest in Colorado.

PIKE NATIONAL FOREST, Colo. – More than 80 Vail Resorts employees rolled up their sleeves Monday to plant willows and reseed native vegetation in an area devastated by the 2002 Hayman Fire. The reforestation work was the first of several volunteer days the company is contributing toward the $4 million Hayman Restoration Project, aimed at undoing the damage created by Colorado’s largest-ever wildfire.Vail Resorts has committed 1,500 volunteer hours and $750,000 to the three-year restoration effort, expected to be complete by 2012 – the fire’s 10-year anniversary.”It was definitely an excellent day,” said Frank Papandrea, Keystone Resort’s environmental manager. “It was very rewarding to get out there and help the forest.”Most of Monday’s efforts were geared toward stream-bank stabilization and erosion control. In addition to the planting and seeding, the volunteers constructed a fence to keep off-road vehicles and other disturbances out of the area. The work will help reduce sedimentation of creeks and streams that feed the Upper South Platte watershed, which serves as a primary drinking water supply for the Front Range.”At the end of the day, all of us gathered in one area to plant willows,” Papandrea said. “With the whole group helping in one large area, it was really exciting to see everybody getting dirty and getting lot of work done in a short period of time.”Vail Resorts has partnered with the National Forest Foundation (NFF), the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and the U.S. Forest Service for the restoration work.”The health of the Upper South Platte River is vital to a lot of forest resources and millions of Colorado citizens,” said Bob Leaverton, forest supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests and the Cimarron and Comanche national grasslands. “The jump-start we are receiving from this partnership will help the forest accomplish critical restoration that would otherwise take years to complete.”The total project area spans more than 115,000 acres, with work focused on 45,000 acres of the most severely affected waterways feeding into the Upper South Platte River. The organizations involved in the partnership have brought in the expertise of Dave Rosgen, a leading expert in stream restoration. Rosgen is recognized worldwide for his expertise in restoring natural stability to streams after major disturbances.Work this year will include trail maintenance, trail construction, road decommissioning, invasive species treatment, thinning brush and small trees, tree planting and hazardous woody debris removal. The majority of the work will take place during the summer field season.”Our goal with the Hayman Partnership has been to focus our efforts on the highest priority for the future of Colorado – water,” said Rob Katz, CEO and chairman for Vail Resorts.For 20 days in the summer of 2002, the Hayman Fire burned a total of 137,760 acres in Colorado’s Pike National Forest. The fire destroyed 600 structures, burned forest vegetation and wildlife habitat for threatened species, damaged recreation sites, trails and roads, and resulted in frequent closures of Highway 67. To this day, the fire’s aftermath continues to severely impact the water supply for more than 75 percent of Colorado residents. Lacking forest vegetation cover, severe erosion in the badly burned areas of the Upper South Platte River watershed has led to significant sediment deposits in streams and reservoirs and loss of fish and other native species.”It’s pretty clear when you’re down there that the area needs some restoration effort,” said Breckenridge Resort’s Dave November, who participated in the volunteer day. “For the most part, it’s a very barren landscape right now.”