Weller parking lot looking less barren | AspenTimes.com

Weller parking lot looking less barren

Naomi Havlen

The Independence Pass Foundation is busy this fall with projects that revegetate barren areas along Highway 82, including one old dirt parking lot.The old Weller Trail parking lot used to be where motorists parked before using a Forest Service bridge across the Roaring Fork River leading to the trail to Weller Lake, about nine miles east of Aspen.The bridge was relocated downstream more than 15 years ago, and the trailhead to Weller Lake was relocated to a new parking lot about a quarter-mile to the west. Most drivers now explore the area by parking in a well-marked paved lot, and the old dirt parking lot and attached trails that lead to the relocated bridge are rarely used.But according to Mark Fuller, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, the unpaved parking area degrades the water quality of the river when it rains, and silt from the lot (not to mention oil and grease from cars parked there) runs into the river. Fuller said information on the water quality and resulting poor fish habitat came from Dee Malone, who has been working on the Roaring Fork Stream Health Initiative over the past few years.As a result, over the past few days the Independence Pass Foundation has revegetated the old parking lot, near mile marker 49.5, by adding several loads of topsoil, purchased from the Pitkin County Landfill’s composting operation. Aspen Earthmoving delivered the soil, which was spread over plastic netting that holds the soil in place until vegetation is established.A native grass mix and native plants including aspen, willows and various wildflowers and shrubs were sown into the soil. A labor crew from the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, which the foundation uses regularly as a form of free labor, did most of the work.”We use them every year from four to six weeks,” Fuller said. “They’re great, they work hard and don’t complain, so they’re a super asset to us. And they enjoy it – compared to their day-to-day life, this is a real benefit to them.”The reclamation of the parking lot means one less place to park along Independence Pass, but Fuller said it hasn’t been used much since the new Weller Lake trailhead parking lot was built.The foundation has also added a split-rail fence at the lower Lost Man Loop parking lot to keep hikers from trampling vegetation. At Weller campground the foundation has completed some tree protection work by putting chicken wire around aspen trees to stop beavers from decimating the aspen grove.In coming weeks, middle school students will plant some native vegetation around the Grottos area and Lincoln Creek Road.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com