City staff from several departments are collaborating to restore an area along Spring Creek in the southeastern part of the City. Work on the approximately 19 acres of city-owned property aims to restore the area to a more natural setting through trash cleanup efforts and the removal of a significant amount of invasive tree species, primarily Siberian elm, that are choking out natural resources along the waterway.
The property, located directly west of South Academy Boulevard between Pikes Peak Avenue and Airport Road, is difficult to access, which is why several departments are teaming up to address needs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A temporary access road has been created to allow heavy machinery, including forestry equipment, to enter the area. Starting the week of Feb. 22, grinding and chipping operations will begin while trash and tree removal continues.
Large machinery will be seen and heard from the adjacent neighborhood and road, and a high volume of noise can be expected during work hours. This work is expected to be complete by March 5.
Why are we doing this?
Conservation and water quality
This riparian area has become overtaken by Siberian elm, a non-native tree species which is attracted to waterways. These trees can grow as tall as 70 feet, have oblong, serrated leaves that are 1-3 inches long and green flowers that have a high rate of germination easily dispersed by the wind. The high prevalence of this tree is impacting native grasses and other plants that are critical to the long-term health of the creek and serve as natural water filtration.
Once removed, the ground previously shaded by the Siberian elms will quickly recover as sunlight reconnects with the area, allowing native vegetation, like herbaceous plants, wildflowers, cottonwoods and willows to naturally reestablish along the waterway.
City Forestry will utilize this opportunity to train additional park staff on chainsaw safety and tree felling techniques for various pruning and maintenance efforts on public trees citywide.
This area is known to produce large amounts of trash. While past cleanup efforts have been made, this is the most comprehensive effort, to date.
Initial cleaning efforts are underway, and 80 tons of trash have already been removed from the first section of the property. Crews estimate that by the end of this first phase of restoration, roughly 240 total tons of trash will be removed.
In the past, pileups of trash and other debris from this area have gotten caught in a downstream bridge, causing significant downstream flooding. Cleaning up the trash at the source will mitigate future public and private property damage, and by returning this area to a more natural state, future cleanup efforts should be easier and less costly.
While this first phase of restoration is focused on vegetation correction, the second will focus on re-stabilizing the banks of the creek and finalizing the reestablishment of native vegetation. The timeline for phase two has not yet been established.