All hands help restore Fourmile road near Midland recreation area

Mini-grant supports BLM, volunteer effort to address growth impacts

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers Projects Coordinator Julie Finley throws handfuls of seed over the restoration area during a work day in September 2020.

Julie Finley grabs a handful of seed from a gallon-sized Ziplock baggie then flicks her wrist over a two-track road at her feet. Releasing the seeds like tossing a Frisbee, she’s going for about 100 per square foot to get the best distribution. With a bit of luck, new grasses and forbs will start to grow by springtime.

Behind her, multiple Wildlands Restoration Volunteers use rakes to lightly cover the freshly placed seed with a bit of dirt. Others follow with armfuls of wood straw, sprinkling it over the seeds to keep them in place, hold moisture in and protect them from rodents.

In Fourmile’s arid environment south of Buena Vista, it will take several years for the old road to begin to look natural. “You really can make a road disappear if you do a good job,” says Wildlands Restoration Volunteers Program Manager Morgan Crowley. To reduce erosion, water bars, baffles and check dams made of natural rock were installed along the half-mile stretch of closed road.

BLM Seasonal Park Ranger Riley Reed spreads wood straw over the ground after volunteers used rakes to lightly cover freshly placed seed with a bit of dirt.

The restoration project supported by a Chaffee Common Ground mini-grant helps direct recreation to less sensitive areas and allows the deteriorated area to recover. The trail is no longer used by mountain bikers or hikers, since the new, more sustainable Bacon Bits trail nearby was built by the Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition.

Common Ground mini-grant funds were applied as a match to a Bureau of Lands Management investment in restoring the area. The award of $3,812 helped fund about one-fifth of the project costs.

The mini-grant program started in 2020 is for one- or two-year projects requesting $5,000 or less that advance Common Ground program goals, which include protecting landscape and watershed health from the negative impacts of outdoor recreation. The intent in offering mini-grants was to support small projects and allow more participation through a simplified application process.

Read more Stories of Impact from Chaffee Common Ground.