The South Arkansas River riparian corridor in Poncha Springs received a facelift from 25 volunteers during a volunteer workday Friday.
Volunteers, along with students from Salida Middle School and Longfellow Elementary School, dug holes and planted willow, alder and chokecherry close to the river, while further away juniper and pines were planted as part of a riparian buffer.
“In a year or so, this will all look a lot different,” Andrew Mackie, executive director of Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas, said.
Along with removing brush, volunteers removed old car bodies from the banks of the river. Mackie said in the 1960s and 1970s putting car bodies on riverbanks was a practice used to prevent erosion.
Mackie said a steel deck also was removed on the 1,100-foot stretch of riverbank, all of which lies on private property.
Part of the rehabilitation involved creating eddies, which help trout catch food in pockets on non-rapid water, he said.
“The trout can sit in the eddy,” Mackie said. “The food flows into the eddy, which allows the trout to get the food without using a lot of energy.”
One of the property owners is Fred Klein, who said he comes from a family where fishing and the river are important. His father was a fish biologist, Klein said.
Klein said he got involved in the Murray Ditch, which he said brought water access to people without damaging the habitat. “It got me going in habitat rehabilitation,” he said.
“Logs which were used on the banks were locally sourced from property owners along the river,” Klein said.
The section of the river volunteers were working on was near the intersection of Chipeta Avenue and Shavano Street.
The estimated cost of the project when completed will be around $20,000, said Mackie.
The project is being conducted in conjunction with Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas, Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Colorado State Forest Service and other volunteers. Butala Sand & Gravel donated 142 tons of rock for the project.
Mackie said people who want to donate can send checks to SWAC, c/o LTUA, P.O. Box 942, Salida, CO 81201, or call 539-7700.