While contractors are cutting hazard trees along roads and trails in the Winter Park area, forest managers and community leaders are looking toward the next project on the books.
The Tunnel Hill Fuels Reduction Project, which could begin as soon as next week, will create a fire break between the towns of Winter Park and Fraser, Winter Park Resort and the Arapaho National Forest. Funded in part by Denver Water as a watershed improvement project, the work will treat some 350 acres over two years. Roughly half of this work will occur in the first year.
"The Town of Winter Park has been working with the Forest Service for the past several years to get projects such as this one completed in order to protect our community," said Winter Park Town Manager Drew Nelson. "With the significant fire issues that Colorado and our community faced this year, this project will serve as one more effort to address the impact of the pine beetle devastation."
Hand crews with chainsaws will work along steep slopes to reduce hazardous fuels by cutting lodgepole pine trees 5 inches in diameter and greater.
Smaller material will be piled to burn and larger material will be lopped and scattered. Young green pine, fir, spruce and aspen will remain. Forest managers expect aspen to respond well to this treatment as it has other areas around town where similar work has been completed.
Chipping will also occur in older cutting units along Twin Bridges Trail and Ice Hill Trail.
During the course of this work, Tunnel Hill Road will remain open; however, minor delays should be anticipated as work is completed immediately adjacent to the road. Intermittent trail closures will also occur while work takes place immediately adjacent to trails in the area, including Ice Hill, Lower Cherokee and Serenity.
Check the information posts at closure points to determine whether trails might briefly close that day before heading out on a hike or ride.
Work adjacent to roads and trails in this project area will not take place on weekends.
"The Town of Fraser looks forward to this important wildfire mitigation project," said Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin. "While there may be some inconveniences, the protection of our communities from wildfire outweighs any temporary inconveniences. The town encourages users to take advantage of this opportunity to explore many of the other exceptional recreational experiences we have throughout the Fraser Valley."
A group of Winter Park and Fraser town officials and special interest group representatives from Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, Headwaters Trails Alliance, Winter Park Resort and the Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce met Wednesday to review details of the project and discuss how to share information with the public.
"It is a welcome change to see the landscape continuing to transform from dead, gray trees to green, healthy stands along with the benefit of creating safer trails," said Headwaters Trails Alliance Executive Director Maura McKnight.
Piles created will need to cure for a year before being burned and burning will occur only on days when there is sufficient snow cover and the weather allows for good smoke dispersal.
"I want people to know that there will be slash piles on the landscape, and it will take us some time to get them burned," said Sulphur District Ranger Craig Magwire.
"We ask that the community be patient with the Forest Service as they complete this project including the burning and clean-up efforts," Nelson added.
Sign up for updates by emailing SRDUpdates@fs.fed.us; stop by the Sulphur Ranger Station at 9 Ten Mile Drive in Granby; visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/sulphurupdates; or follow the forest on Twitter: www.twitter.com/usfsarp.