Ecosystem recovery after the Waldo Canyon Wildfire

With a slice of our beautiful Colorado Springs backdrop, including Blodgett Peak Open Space, marred by the Waldo Canyon Fire’s path, you might be wondering what is to become of these natural spaces. According to Colorado State University NE Extension Office Regional Range Specialist Dr. Casey Matney, plants, grasses, flowers and weeds will be among the first to recover. Some will have survived the fire and will come back quickly, but there are also likely to be many seeds in the soil that will allow new plants to return in 2013. Some shrubs will resprout, but most may take a few years to return from seed. For the most part, heavily burned trees will not recover. However, there also are likely seeds in the soil and over years, trees too will return. Animals and birds will return to the burned area, some immediately after the fire, and more and more as new plants begin to grow. Channel areas will accumulate ash, soil and debris. This can be unsightly to begin with and water quality will be impacted until the majority of upland areas have stabilized. (Downstream flooding is a serious concern, please click here for more information.) Over time, sediment in stream beds will accumulate and be colonized by plants. Restoration efforts can also move these processes along more quickly. For the time being, Blodgett Peak Open Space remains closed. Once it and other burned areas reopen, users should take special care to avoid walking off trail while the landscape recovers. Not only will walking off trail be less safe than before, but disturbing the soil and rocks can make it difficult for new plants to take hold. If dogs are allowed, owners will want to keep them on short leashes to avoid hazards and help decrease soil erosion. Click here to visit Dr. Matney’s web page dedicated to land recovery after a wildfire. (Photo by Kerri Greer/US Forest Service.)

UCCS students map Colorado Springs' food deserts

Three University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Advanced GIS students, Josh Hendrickson, Sherissa Buck and Brandon Zimmerman, recently completed a class project that located three Colorado Springs areas of focus in relation to food deserts. The students identifies areas where more than 20% of the households have an annual income of less than $25,000 and are located more than a mile from a grocery store with presumed access to affordable and nutritious foods:

  1. East of downtown Colorado Springs
  2. Southeast Colorado Springs, near the Colorado Springs Airport
  3. The area surrounding the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

The purpose of the study was to inform local service providers for the most effective use of resources. The students noted that increasing healthy food assistance programs, home gardening education, building community gardens or attracting grocery stores to serve these areas would add food security to some of the most vulnerable areas of Colorado Springs. One of the students, Hendrickson, feels this study is just the beginning and hopes to focus his thesis research exploring connections between public transportation, socio-economic data and other calculation methods. Click here to download the study.

Community centers promote whole and healthy youth through gardens

The Meadows Park, Deerfield and Hillside Community Centers’ Whole and Healthy Youth program address the disparities that ensue when children lack access to engaging science programs, have deficient diets and lack opportunities to engage in healthy lifestyles. Gardens are an essential element of the new program and provide an interactive educational model for health and sciences, mitigate the systemic causes of childhood obesity and address food security. Hillside Community Center now has a preschool garden. Deerfield Community Center has expanded the number of community garden plots available to surrounding neighbors. Meadows Community Center has created pilot curriculum for preschool and summer camp programs that incorporate gardening, food prep, nutrition information and cooking. The gardens are supported by El Polar, Scotts Foundation, the Give 2012 campaign. Through demonstration and educational gardens Colorado Springs youth are learning healthy habits and how to be a giving part of our community - some of the food they grow also supports the Stratmoor Hills Community Center Food Pantry.

City Hall spices it up with salsa garden

For the third consecutive growing season, a (mostly) organic demonstration garden at City Hall is growing food for Care-n-Share. This year, all the fixings for salsa are in the ground, garlic chives, onions, cilantro, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers along with some proven winners: Swiss chard, parsley, purslane (high in Omega 3s), basil, rosemary, strawberries and edible flowers. City employee Nick Hellbusch volunteers his time and hopes that some of the veggies will be producing at the same time so the garden can serve as a micro-business case study bringing a product, in this case salsa, directly to market. (Proceeds would go back into expanding community gardens or starting up new ones). Yet even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, the veggies go to support Care-n-Share and the Stratmoor Hills Community Center Food Pantry. In fact, Nick and Office of Innovation and Sustainability Intern Allison Plute will make a Stratmoor Hills Community Center trip later this month using some of the veggies to teach how to make fresh salsa.

SCAMP brings creativity to Shooks Run Trail underpass at Pikes Peak

The public is invited to have some fun and be creative between 9 a.m. and noon on Monday, July 16 thru Friday, July 20 helping create a more inviting Shooks Run Trail experience with an underpass mural at Pikes Peak Avenue. It’s an example of how arts can deepen a sense of place and increase vibrancy. The non-profit Concrete Couch, City of Colorado Springs, and private business and organization sponsors are teaming up on SCAMP, a Summer Community Art and Mural Program. The South Shooks Run project is sponsored by Blue Line Engineering. Participants aren’t required to come every day, but will learn the most and be the biggest help if they do. Kids 12 years and under must bring an adult. All programs are free. The paint is reused and donated from The ReStore and El Paso County’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. A September bike tour will visit the 2012 SCAMP project sites (some are pictured) throughout greater downtown Colorado Springs.

ULI's path for a Downtown renaissance

In late June, a panel of experts with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) made a series of recommendations to help downtown highlight and leverage its assets to affect a downtown renaissance by identifying high payoff actions and improvements. The group identified three big ideas to tackle:

  1. Residential: They felt housing is critical to creating vitality stating that pent-up demand may exist for 250-300 units. The short-term goal should be to increase density through market-rate mid-rise rental housing in the core area and affordable, workforce housing. Both would spur economic development, expand the tax base and set the stage for a more family-friendly environment.
  2. Culture and Entertainment: Begin with creating an anchor through a creative/entertainment-focused mixed-use village to spur infill retail targeting a residential base, incubator/co-work spaces, and possible outdoor/baseball entertainment space. Enhance and create attractive gateways, the greenway loop and connections to target wellness, fitness, health and sports for families and visitors alike.  
  3. Develop Capacity: Create and foster an organizational structure with the capacity to lead and implement the Downtown renaissance.

A final report from the ULI is forthcoming.

Behind the scenes green at the London Games 2012

Colorado Springs is proud that locally-trained athletes are participating in this summer’s Olympic Games. Obviously, we want to know that they have a healthy environment in which to compete. The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games (LOCOG) has gone to a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure this as well as an environmentally responsible event. Their overall strategy ‘Towards a One Planet 2012’ set out five sustainability themes - climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living to be addressed by four key issues - food, carbon, waste and air quality. For example, 90% of the 14 million meals served will use locally-sourced beef, lamb, poultry, eggs and dairy (including cheese) and Fair Trade bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate. The games are anticipated to generate 8,818 tons of waste, yet LOCOG is attempting to meet a zero waste to landfill goal during Games time. Years ago they estimated that the Games would generate 2 M tons of CO2 emissions, 50% of that from construction. To minimize this impact, they use a low emission fleet and set construction targets above industry standards – with a big emphasis on sharing lessons learned to help advance the entire industry. In addition, LOCOG has incorporated sustainability requirements into sponsor contracts. The overall result of LOCOG’s efforts has contributed to the development of a new international sustainability event management standard to help future event organizers reduce carbon emissions, waste, manage the biodiversity of venues and achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s called ISO 20121. While not all their efforts will be visible to our athletes, it’s nice to know that LOCOG has done its part to make their health and sustainability a part of the vision for London 2012.  

City Green Bag Lunch-n-Learn July 18: What's a sustainability certified business?

Sustainability certifications are growing, but how’s a business person or customer able to know what they are and how they can be valuable? Attendees to the Wednesday, July 18, Green Bag Lunch-n-Learn will get an overview of business certifications out there, find out how the Pikes Peak Sustainable Business Network’s (PPSBN) certification works and have a chance to ask a panel of certified business employees about their experience getting certified. Executive Director Darlene Jensen will present PPSBN certification, a program of the Catamount Institute, along with Catamount’s Ken Brickman, PPSBN Program Manager and Chris Aaby, Communications Director. Certified businesses are those who have implemented sustainable practices in: Energy, Water, Employee Wellness, Social Responsibility, Materials Management, Procurement, Operations and Transportation. Panel participants from PPSBN-certified businesses include:

  • Kathy Thierry, Green Team Captain, and Aaron Briggs, Principal and Planner from HB&A Architects and Planners
  • Brian Calhoun, Principal, and Patrick Orefice, Architect and Green Team Chairman from RTA Architects

The lunch-n-learn runs over the noon lunch hour, from 12:11 to 12: 49 p.m., at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada, in Suite 102. Attendees are encouraged to bring and enjoy their lunches during the presentation. Those who come have the opportunity to win a door prize tote bag made from reused City banners (pictured). Each month, the City Office of Innovation and Sustainability sponsors a lunch-n-learn topic on an environmental issue.

Going Greener

Environmental Sustainability E-Newsletter from the City of Colorado Springs

Question? (719) 385-CSGN (2746) or cmccausland@springsgov.com.

This e-newsletter funded by the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs and City of Colorado Springs.