Bluffs Restoration

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This proposal aims to secure funding for the necessary materials to restore vegetative cover and treat gullies on the southernmost ridge of Austin Bluffs north of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs main campus. The ridge has been badly eroded by poor management of recreation activities along the trail and slope modifications for campus development. As part of a volunteer work day organized by the Restoration Club, students will plant blue grama seed and pine saplings, apply treatments to gullies and install drains along the trail. After the work day, these restorative efforts will be monitored for effectiveness. The results will be relayed to Susan Szpyrka for consideration and inclusion in planning for future trail restoration and management.

This project intends to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function to the scrub environment on the bluffs that has been gravely degraded through recreation and development. Soil erosion by water concentrates the sand content in the rills and gullies forming on the bluffs, which makes it increasingly difficult for vegetation to take hold as the soil is stripped of its nutrients, organic material and ability to retain water. Subsequently, the bluffs are ensnared in a positive feedback cycle where the loss of soil increases the energy and volume of runoff, which in turn, creates an ever increasing amount of soil erosion. Soil erosion can ultimately undermine the structural stability of buildings, roads, and bridges, increasing the likelihood that these infrastructures will have to be repaired or replaced sooner than if soil erosion was not a factor. Additionally, sediments deposited in streams downslope decrease the value of the streams as community resources and adversely affect local wildlife. Efforts to restore vegetative cover seek to mitigate the impacts of monsoonal storms by slowing the flowing of water and allowing it to infiltrate soils. Proper trail management incorporating drainage will also help to lessen the impacts of Colorado's summer monsoons.

The trail work day is a student-led effort organized by the UCCS restoration club. The project will enlist student volunteers to decompact soils, plant native seed, apply organic soil amendments or compost and lay erosion control matting to help establish blue grama grasses in areas that are totally denude of vegetation. They will also transplant two ponderosa pines and two piñon pine trees, as well as install erosion control socks that are filled with compost in gullies to slow the potential flow of water. Students will gain invaluable knowledge about the local landscape and learn about ways in which they can promote health in the land. So far, students from the residence halls, the Restoration Geography class, Restoration club and SEAS are planning to attend. Efforts to reach more volunteers are intended through the UCCS Earth Day event, advertising and social media. Additionally, a recent Geography alumni and current Geography graduate student will set up a research project to measure the impacts of the restoration efforts. This project will promote a greater appreciation for the local landscape by getting students involved and promoting the results of the volunteer work day.