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Revegetation Along Trail Corridors

The five right things to do to reclaim plants when building trails and greenways.

By Jim Von Loh

Revegetation and reclamation of disturbed sites is a fun and challenging thing to do, but to actually write about it constitutes one of the seven deadly sins. As a biologist, I firmly believe that we are, or should be, responsible for our actions, and we should all consider the words of modern day philosopher, Spike Lee: "DO THE RIGHT THING!".

The first right thing to do is inventory the plant communities within which you are working, so that you know which species are native, which species are dominant, and which species you will use to reclaim disturbed areas. An inventory of plant communities will allow sequencing, a thought process where the first consideration is avoidance of sensitive communities (wetlands, riparian habitat, habitat for rare plants and wildlife, etc.). The second consideration is the minimization of impacts to all communities to the extent practical, and the third consideration is restoration of disturbed sites.

The second right thing to do is determine if the existing vegetation (adapted to the site), to be disturbed by development, can be used in the reclamation efforts. Some grassland sods, shrubs and small trees, and/or seeds and cuttings can be saved and/or collected. But, these must be properly stored during construction, so they are viable upon reintroduction. This could mean the use of temporary shading, watering, etc., to insure survivability.

The third right thing to do is purchase seed or rooted stock of native species adapted to the environment in which you are working. Many seed wholesalers and nurseries have native species available, and any competent landscape architect or biologist will be able to provide seeding ratios, rates, and information on shrub placement, irrigation needs, etc.

The fourth right thing to do is monitor reclaimed sites, because it may take two or three growing seasons to determine if plantings will be successful. Erosion control is always a concern on disturbed sites, particularly steep sites and erosive soils. Remember, minor erosion control is easier than gully control. And oh, them nasty, weeds! Weed management may take many forms and is entirely dependent on the guests encountered.

The fifth right thing to do is ask questions if you are unsure. University Botany departments offer an excellent source of expertise. Many organizations and agencies concerned about our natural environment exist, some of which include:

Colorado Native Plant Society (303) 482-9826 (Horticulture and Restoration Committee)

Colorado Natural Areas Program (303) 492-3960

Denver Botanical Gardens (303) 331-4000

City of Boulder Open Space Department (303) 494-2194

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