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Across Jeffco Open Space parks in the foothills and mountains of Jefferson County, a mosaic of ponderosa pine savannas, aspen stands, mixed conifer forests, and other woody vegetation provide shade for park visitors and habitat for dozens of native wildlife species. However, these iconic forests are negatively impacted by stressors such as wildfire, habitat fragmentation, pests such as mountain pine beetle, and long-term changes in precipitation. In response, the Natural Resources team plans and implements a range of forest management projects to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, enhance wildlife habitat, and maintain aesthetic and ecological values in our forested parks.
Management actions are initially based on forest inventories and surveys, during which forest conditions are comprehensively assessed and both goals and objectives for the project are defined. Management actions are then refined through consultation with stakeholders, state and federal agencies, and technical specialists. Implementation often involves a combination of Natural Resources staff, private-sector contractors, and researchers assisting with long-term monitoring and evaluation.
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park 2023-2024
Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) will be performing forest health work on approximately 240 acres of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park. This work will begin in August 2023 and conclude in Spring 2024. This project was identified in the JCOS Forest Health Plan and will focus on reestablishing a healthy forest while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire that could severely impact the natural environment and surrounding structures. It will also contribute to achieving our Conservation Greenprint goal for improving forest health on 1,000 acres of JCOS lands by the year 2025.
- Alderfer/Three Sisters Park 2023-2024 Forest Health Project Factsheet (PDF)
- Alderfer/Three Sisters Park 2023-2024 Forest Health Project Presentation (YouTube)
Elk Meadow Park 2022-2025
JCOS treated approximately 50 acres of ponderosa pine forests in Elk Meadow Park. This is Phase 1 of a multi-phase project that will treat approximately 285 acres at Elk Meadow Park between 2022 and 2025.
White Ranch Park 2022-2023
JCOS will treat approximately 40 acres of ponderosa pine forests in White Ranch Park.
Meyer Ranch Park 2021-2022
JCOS treated approximately 37 acres of ponderosa, aspen, mixed conifer, and lodgepole forests in Meyer Ranch Park. Wildlife and noxious weed management is still ongoing.
- Watch a Video Describing Forestry Strategy & Methods at Meyer Ranch Park (YouTube)
- Meyer Ranch Park Forest Restoration Fact Sheet (PDF)
Partnering Programs and Agencies
Alderfer/Three Sisters Park
In 2021, JCOS conducted wildfire mitigation and forest restoration in Alderfer/Three Sisters Park (Web).
More information: Alderfer/Three Sisters 2021 Forestry Fact Sheet (PDF)
Flying J Ranch Park
In 2017, JCOS and Denver Mountain Parks (DMP) jointly received funding from the State Fire Assistance program to implement a forest management and restoration project at Flying J Ranch Park (Web). The project focused on reducing the density of overgrown mixed conifer stands, promoting aspen stands, and restoring ponderosa pine savanna. The risk of catastrophic wildfire was reduced, while both visitor safety and wildlife habitat enhanced.
Flying J Ranch Park Forest Project Fact Sheet (PDF)
- JCOS received $64,964 for the treatment of 50 acres. DMP received $129,928 for 100 acres. By applying jointly for the grant, together we were able to treat a larger area of the community and also encourage neighbors to treat surrounding private property.
- In summer and fall of 2018, the JCOS Natural Resources team conducted baseline forest inventories to identify treatment areas and to develop specific management objectives. Tree removal began in October 2018 and the project was completed by Winter 2020. DMP completed their tree removal in 2020 and removed remaining equipment and material off-site in spring of 2021.
- JCOS treated 62.9 acres total during this project. 21.1 acres were lodgepole patch-cuts, with 43.14 acres of ponderosa pine treatments. DMP treated about 70 acres at Flying J Ranch Park and their remaining acres across the street at their West Jefferson property adjacent to West Jefferson Middle School.
- Over 570 cords of firewood were removed and utilized by the community through two public firewood sales. JCOS also donated ~20 cut-and-split cords to the nearby Conifer Community Church’s Community Firewood Program, which was distributed to lower income and generally elderly residents of Conifer. Additionally, Elk Creek Fire Department helped JCOS deliver over 100 log rounds to Marshdale Elementary School to be used as seats for the schools outdoor, covid-conscious classes.
Regular forest maintenance activities will occur as needed and JCOS will continue to monitor for noxious weed, erosion, off trail use, and other issues.
Below are before and after treatment photos of three spots within Flying J Ranch Park: