Volunteers create new wetland area | AspenTimes.com

Volunteers create new wetland area

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado
Brendan Pollard of Basalt and Linda Schuemaker plant arctic rushes at Jennie Adair Wetlands in Aspen during a rehabilitation project on Saturday afternoon. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN ” Aspen’s stormwater basin looked like a Vietnamese rice paddy Saturday as some 60 volunteers tromped in knee-high mud to plant the Jennie Adair Wetlands.

“I feel like I’m planting rice,” said Steven Cronin, a summer parks department worker who placed handfuls of bright green shoots in the deep mud.

Designed to filter city stormwater spilling into the Roaring Fork River, the new wetlands is the “capstone” of a $1.4 million voter-approved project to improve the quality of city runoff, according to Stephen Ellsperman, the city’s parks and open space director, himself covered in mud to his knees and elbows Saturday.

Volunteers planted 13,000 bull rush, iris, bunch grass and blue joint plants that thrive in the thick, mucky soil, as well as 1,000 riparian trees and shrubs. The greenery alone, grown specially at a local nursery for the project, cost $30,000, Ellsperman said.

But the community effort buoyed the project’s budget.

Members of the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, an area nonprofit enlisting thou­sands of volunteers for projects, joined vol­unteers from the Maroon Corps, a group of 20- and 30-somethings who support envi­ronmental causes, as well as a few members of the Youth Conservation Corps, a group of young summer workers with the Aspen Parks and Recreation Department.

Some were paid parks department staff who earned themselves a day off in coming weeks, Ellsperman said.

“It’s my first time making a wetland,” said Brian Long, an Aspen parks and open space ranger volunteering his time. But many of the planters Saturday had already helped out on some of the nine other created wetlands projects in the Aspen area.

The seven-acre Jennie Adair Wetlands, located just below the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, is fed by two city storm drains ” water which has already been cleaned in mechanical filtration sys­tems before it trickles into the tiered wet­lands, Ellsperman said.

“Is this mud going to work like sun­block?” asked a mud-covered Brian Flynn, open space and special projects manager for Aspen.

“This has been really fun. We’ve all real­ly enjoyed coming out and getting muddy,” said Maroon Corps member Aron Ralston.

Liz Delorme, also with the Maroon Corps, joked she was being careful not to get too messy before her afternoon shift at an Aspen art gallery, but she said she loved the mud and the chance to do something for the community.

“At first it was a big pit of dirt, and now it’s taking shape,” Bo Welder, 16, said as he surveyed the rapidly greening wetland site.

Welder is working with the Youth Con­servation Corps ” a far better summer job than slinging ice cream or selling movie tickets, he said ” and he’d been on the Jen­nie Adair site all week. The work is not only a chance to be outside, but it felt good pitch­ing, knowing he’s helping the environment for “people now and who will come after me.”

The volunteers promised a mudfight sometime before dinner.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com