HTA seeks funding after second derecho topples thousands more trees
High winds earlier this month brought down tens of thousands of trees in Grand County, creating many hazards on trails as winter approaches.
The Headwaters Trail Alliance is working to clear the affected trails where both dead and healthy standing trees toppled Sept. 7 and 8. The group has pulled together more than $47,000 for an emergency blowdown mitigation project.
HTA approached the Grand County Commissioners for $26,500 in emergency funds as part of the endeavor. The money from the county’s Open Lands, Rivers and Trails Fund covers 55% of the project’s total budget.
Other financing comes from the HTA’s own funds and sawyer staff from the US Forest Service, along with work from Grand Adventures, Denver Water, Winter Park Resort, wildland fire crews and volunteers.
The project will clean up priority areas High Lonesome Trail, Monarch Lake and Jim Creek to make sure those are ready for winter use. The funding will help pay for professional sawyers, or people who saw timber for a living, to assist in clearing trees from roads and trails.
“There’s an obvious need to open up these priority areas,” said Anna Drexler-Dreis, administrator for the Open Lands, River and Trails Advisory Committee.
According to HTA’s application for funding, the organization removes 2,000-10,000 trees annually in Grand County with 20% of summer fieldwork dedicated to tree removal alone.
Typically, hazard tree removal costs HTA $50,000 a year, but this year HTA has already spent $65,000 on mitigation because of a June derecho storm. A derecho or microburst is a long-lived windstorm, and September’s was the second major one in the county this year.
“That storm was very damaging,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said. “I’ve been on two trails … in the last two weeks and personally experienced the effects.”
The county commissioners followed the recommendation of the advisory committee and approved the full amount. In their recommendation, the committee encouraged HTA to address hazard tree and wildfire risk in western Grand County for future grant requests.
The committee also mentioned the need for further conversations on county-based efforts to deal with wildfire risk, an ongoing issue due to limited funding for the US Forest Service.
“The forest service is just simply underfunded and has been for years,” Drexler-Dreis said. “This is an issue that is not going away anytime soon.”
Hikers on the affected trails are advised that they may have to navigate downed trees while other trails are completely impassable, so caution is advised. Always follow posted signs for closed trails as crews work to clear the areas.
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Surrounded by walls of flames, Grand County Sheriff’s Office deputies fanned out across the US Highway 34 and Colorado Highway 125 corridors to evacuate about 4,000 people from East Troublesome Fire on Oct. 21, 2020.