The Fremont Conservation District (FCD), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Fremont County Weed Management (FCWM) collaborated on the Rainbow Park and Portland Plant Riparian Restoration Project (Rainbow Park Project) in restoration of the Arkansas River Watershed in the Rainbow Park area of Florence, Colorado to the Holcim cement plant in Portland, Colorado. Over the years, this area has become invaded with Russian olive and Salt Cedar (Tamarisk) along the banks of the Arkansas River. With the removal of these species, landowners along the Arkansas River will see a healthier floodplain ecosystem and be able to better utilize their properties for recreation and agriculture. The project also restores the Cottonwood forest’s naturally open understory which benefits the corridors many wildlife species. This project was funded through Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) Invasive Phreatophyte Control Program in the amount of $80,000, which funded 7 private businesses and government agencies and one private landowner properties. Funding was also received through the NRCS Targeted Conservation Proposal (TCP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for 16 landowners in the amount of $118,492.00. Private landowners also benefitted from the CWCB funds in the chemicals used for spraying; grass seed, trees and shrubs purchased for vegetative restoration; and, streambank stabilization. The project goal is restoration of the riparian corridor through chemical and mechanical removal of invasive Russian olive and Salt Cedar and secondary invasive species. The project included use of chainsaw crews and / or mechanical removal with a Hydro Axe. There are 105 acres in this project area, with 71 acres in the EQIP funded area.
he project work began in late October 2016 with the Mile-High Youth Corp clearing 5 acres of fence lines and removing trees around permanent structures on the Penrose Water District property in preparation for the Hydro Axe. In late January 2017, chainsaw and chipping work began on the first property with chainsaw crews from Fire Shield and the Department of Corrections State Wildfire Inmate Fire Team (DOC S.W.I.F.T.). These crews then worked their way down river corridor between Highways 67 and 115, including all participating landowners. These crews piled the debris for the Hydro Axe to come through and masticate and shred, and then the Hydro Axe continued taking out the larger stands of Russian olive and Tamarisk that were not next to a fence line or building. Broadcast seeding was completed on each property before the chainsaw crews or Hydro Axe went through to ensure a better contact between seed and ground. Cut stump spraying occurred at the same time as the chainsaw crews and Hydro Axe were removing trees. Herbaceous weed control was also done as required for each property. Most of this work was completed by the end of March / middle of April. There were a few properties that had to wait until the water in the river receded enough to continue working in the area. These properties were completed in late summer and early fall of 2017 by chainsaw crews. There are currently three properties that need to be completed by the chainsaw crews this spring, with all work finished by the end of May 2018.
Streambank stabilization was also completed on three properties. The plans for stabilization were checked and approved by the Army Corp of Engineers. This was done to prevent any further erosion of the streambank with the larger Russian olive and Tamarisk trees removed. Pole plantings of cottonwoods and willows were done along the streambanks, as well as gallon pot trees and shrub plantings. In the spring of 2018, additional native shrubs and trees will be planted along the streambank to assist with further stabilization of the area. These plants will also assist the wildlife in the area with food sources and shelter
Landowners were pleased with the work that was accomplished along the river corridor. Most were surprised by how much more land they had to work with now that the invasive species are gone. Follow-up spraying will be done this spring by the FCWM for any sprout regrowth and any invasive weed species located. A second phase to this project has funded through the NRCS TCP / EQIP program for landowners who did not participate in the first phase, from Highway 115 to Ash Street in Canon City, Colorado. All in all, a successful project.