Located in the Divide District of the Rio Grande National Forest, the Park Creek Watershed was identified by the Upper Rio Grande Watershed Assessment as a priority location for restoration. We partnered with the Forest Service to formulate solutions to the negative effects of heavy recreational usage in the area around Park Creek. Natural barriers such as boulders and split rail fences will be placed to limit motor vehicle access to damaged areas. Along with this, a designated OHV-unloading zone and hardening of other high use areas will also prevent further habitat degradation. The end result is improved water quality and riparian habitat, reduced erosion, and stabilized streambanks and roads.
The Park Creek watershed has historically received a high amount of dispersed recreational use. In addition, the area is part of an active cattle allotment and has seen a relatively high amount of timber harvest in the past. The cumulative impacts of these activities have resulted in less than optimum watershed conditions, including high sediment input to the stream, compacting of soils, and degradation of riparian vegetation.
Unofficial social trails have been closed to motor vehicles via placement of boulders and construction of fencing. This is allowing delicate riparian habitat to recover. A graded gravel unloading area for OHVs has been established, helping concentrate motor vehicle traffic. An existing creek crossing (FSR 390) has also be hardened to create a safer, long term crossing and prevent sediment loss. Educational signs have been placed to inform visitors of restoration efforts, reinforce trail closures, and provide information on National Forest regulations.
The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project
Rio Grande Forest Service, Divide District
US Forest Service
Colorado Water Conservation Board
San Luis Valley Conservation Connection Initiative.