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Pancakes, Volunteers & A New Sledding Hill
Bill Hudson | 10/21/10
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Whole wheat pancakes.  A hillside full of middle-aged volunteers.  A “dog haired” forest primed for a possible beetle infestation.  And some big ideas.  Continued...
volunteers clearing sledding hill on reservoir hill
Some of the volunteers who took part in the Reservoir Hill project last weekend.  Photos by Mel & Darlene Cassio.
Put them all together, and you get a morning full of productive work on Pagosa Springs’ downtown park on Reservoir Hill, as 40 some volunteers cleared brush and logs from two of the park’s gullies, in hopes of creating a safe and usable sledding hill just east of the Healing Waters Resort (formerly the Spa Motel) — and a snowboarding “pipe” just uphill from the Post Office.  That project — an all-volunteer effort spearheaded by the Town Tourism Committee (TTC) and numerous private citizens and construction companies — made some major headway on creating the new sledding and snowboarding hills last Saturday, October 16.

Click here to view the Daily Post video.

The work resulted from a collaboration between the Pagosa Springs Town Tourism Committee (TTC), the Town Parks and Recreation Department, and local arborist Chris Pierce of Arborilogical West — plus a handful of volunteer heavy equipment operators and chainsaw professionals.

Oh yes, and a kitchen full of pancake makers and sausage fryers.  Continued...
volunteers clearing sledding hill on reservoir hill

volunteers clearing sledding hill on reservoir hill

volunteers clearing sledding hill on reservoir hill

volunteers clearing sledding hill on reservoir hill
The initial concepts for the project came from the Town Tourism Committee’s “Thinking Outside the Box” subcommittee, when long-time friends Jim Smith, of Jim Smith Realty,  and Norm Vance, editor of The Journal on the Pagosa.com website, brainstormed on some ideas for enhancing the mostly-undeveloped 110-acre park and made a presentation to the TTC last March.  We reported on that meeting in the Daily Post.

A few of the drawings Mr. Vance had created for that presentation showed a dramatic sledding and ski hill complex etched into the western slopes of Reservoir Hill Park — the type of well-groomed ski hill that would be visible from the main highway running through town, and that might cause a family passing through to stop and spend the day — or multiple days, perhaps?  After all, the ultimate goal of the TTC is to lure visitors into our local hotel rooms.  Continued...
reservoir hill proposal by norm vance
Concept sketch by Norm Vance.
When the work actually got started last week — beginning with the marking of weak and diseased trees by arborist Chris Pierce, and felling of trees by several chainsaw experts — the results of this preliminary phase were much less dramatic.  In fact, I doubt that anyone glancing casually at the hillside would be able to notice any trees missing from the two gullies.

According to Mr. Pierce, the hilltop park deeded to the Town of Pagosa Springs in 1965 was once a healthy pine forest — perhaps 100 years ago — but after being logged, the trees grew back in an over-crowded forest.  The original forest, centuries ago, had included maybe 10 trees per acre.  The modern re-grown forest has 600 trees per acre, a situation that creates unhealthy conditions and a possible magnet for future pine beetle infestations.  A few miles north of Pagosa Springs, the spruce forests are right now in the midst of an ongoing attack by spruce beetles, and entire mountainsides full of spruce trees have been devastated.

So this tree removal project — a very small step towards thinning the entire 110-acre park — has two purposes: a healthier forest, and a safer place for families to enjoy sledding and snowboarding during the winter months.

TTC chair Bob Hart, owner of Hart Construction, estimated that the week-long volunteer effort probably would have cost the Town about $10,000, had the work been bid out to a construction company.

Some of the logs taken from the hillside gullies will be cut up into firewood and distributed to needy local families, with the assistance of the Archuleta County Department of Human Services.

Incidentally, the blueberry pancakes used a recipe provided by TTC volunteer Larry Fisher, owner of the Ski and Bow Rack, and were made with fresh ground whole wheat flour.  They were delicious.
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