Work will begin soon to restore an old-growth wetland at North Star Nature Preserve.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has contracted with Diggin’ It Riverworks to plug a drain that is contributing to the drying of the wetland. Ditches were created decades ago, when North Star was under private ownership, in an attempt to dry up the spot for agricultural purposes. Though the drain was not entirely successful, it did alter this area of ecological importance. The wetland’s restoration will improve wildlife habitat and its ability to store groundwater.
North Star Nature Preserve, located southeast of Aspen along the Roaring Fork River, was a ranch before its acquisition as open space. The 14-acre wetland, or fen, is at least 6,000 years old, though it could be significantly older. Rare in Colorado and the Rockies, fens are groundwater-fed wetlands that develop over thousands of years as layers of peat accumulate. The North Star fen, in the northwest corner of the property, is at the heart of the lake that forms in years when North Star floods.
The restoration project will involve plugging a small portion of the main ditch that connects the fen to the Roaring Fork River. Two smaller ditches will be plugged with straw bales and wattles (cylinders of straw) to slow the outflow of surface water from the area. Construction activities will be excluded from the fen itself, while work in the two smaller ditches will be done entirely by hand. The work is timed to avoid wildlife migration, mating, calving, critical foraging and nesting seasons at North Star.
The reclamation will use local topsoil and native seed mixes for revegetating the area. Next spring, Open Space and Trails hopes to involve the community to help with wetland plantings that will complete the project.
The cooperation and support of nearby private landowners has helped this restoration become a reality.
Contact: Liza Mitchell, Open Space and Trails natural resource planner and ecologist, firstname.lastname@example.org | 970-309-6228