Monthly Archives: March 2012

Minutes from the Board Meeting have been posted.

See FOMP Board of Directors Meeting Minutes March 12, 2012 for the PDF.

Friends of Monument Preserve

P.O. Box 634

Monument, CO  80132-1216

Board Meeting

March 13, 2012

I.  Call to Order and Attendance:  The Board meeting of the FOMP began at 7:00 p.m. in the Fire Center Classroom.  Members present were Jon Nordby, president; Diane Strohm, treasurer, Marianne LaRivee, secretary; as well as Diane Bandle, Brian Mullen, Joe Ennis, and Hermann Spielkamp, members at large.  Nancy Spielkamp, Doug Bandle, Jeff Steinhoff, Dan Cuvala, Candace and Dana Duthie, and Terri and Robert Erickson were also in attendance.  Jane Fredman and Susan Davies represented the Trails and Open Space Coalition.


II.  Issues:


A.  Elections:  All officers volunteered to serve another term.  Thus, Jon Nordby is president, Chris Tirpak is vice president, Diane Strohm is treasurer, and Marianne LaRivee is secretary.  Members at large include Brian Mullin, Bill Bensen, Diane Bandle, Joe Ennis, Hermann Spielkamp, and Heidi McClure.


B.  Hot Shots Potluck:  The potluck dinner is scheduled for Monday, 23 April 2012 at 5:30.  Diane Bandle passed around a sign-up sheet for casseroles, side dishes, and desserts.  All who missed the meeting are welcome to call Diane to volunteer their culinary skills.


C.  Mel Rezac Memorial Tree Planting:  is Saturday, 7 April 2012, at 10:00.  Snow date is 14 April 2012.


D.  New Camping Regulations:  Joe Ennis reported a change in camping regulations for the Pike/San Isabel National Forest.  The Forest Service has closed all open camping in Buffalo Creek, off  Rt 550.  Camping is now allowed only in posted areas.  This is potentially good news for our area, if the USFS is willing to restrict camping/parking along Mt Herman, thus removing the opportunity for shooters.


E.  Occupy Mt Herman:  Jon Nordby pointed out that to keep shooters from endangering hikers and bikers on Trail 751, we would necessarily have to close four separate pull-outs along Mt Herman.  Diane Strohm noted that a new district ranger will be selected within months, so we may have an ally to help close those pull-outs, discouraging both campers and shooters.


F.  Willow Springs Ranch:  Two members of the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC), Susan Davies and Jane Fredman, announced an informational meeting Thursday, 15 March in the Monument Town Hall at 6:30 to measure local interest in turning the 250 acre Willow Springs Ranch property into a green space.  Upon default of the original developer, the bank that owns the property is willing to sell it (all or in part) to a community group that would preserve the area for trails, open space, and possibly ball fields for the school district.


G.  Crew Leader Class:  Susan Davies also announced a 2½ day Crew Leader Training Class 20-22 April 2012 sponsored by TOSC and similar groups to teach volunteers the art of trail maintenance and rehabilitation.  Information is available on their web site,


III.  Adjournment.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.

Restoring the Forest

Area of the Berry Fire near Mt. Herman By Diane Strohm

Planting a New Forest

The “Berry” Fire, also called the Mount Herman Fire, occurred nearly 23 years ago.  At a quick glance, much of the landscape appears to be still largely denuded of trees. The Friends of Monument Preserve, along with help from local Scout troops and other volunteers, has planted nearly 2,000 pine seedlings over the past five years alone. Due to the drought which started in late 1999 and continues to this day, mortality of these seedlings has been fairly high and growth on the survivors relatively low.  But an estimated two-thirds of these seedlings are still focusing on developing healthy root systems, and should show soon vigorous crown growth.

Planting in portions of the burn area is essential, since much of the seed source was destroyed. The predominant ponderosa pine produces heavy seeds, which typically disseminate within 75’ of the parent tree, unless carried by birds or other animals. With good cone crops averaging once only every five years, ponderosa pine produces a limited amount of seed for new regeneration.  When coupled with dry conditions the following spring, natural seedling establishment from existing pine trees is tenuous, and may take considerable time.  Perhaps decades. High hopes for plentiful new seedlings from a strong pine cone crop in 2009 were dashed by one of the driest springs on record in 2010.

To facilitate establishment of a robust and genetically-adapted forest across the burn area, ponderosa pine seedlings are grown from seed that was collected on the Pike National Forest. Colorado is divided into seed transfer zones which reflect physiographic, climatic and geologic similarity. Seed collected from the same seed zone at a comparable elevation (+ 400’) to the planting site is grown into healthy young seedlings by the U.S. Forest Service Bessey Nursery.   The one-year old trees that are planted this spring should be producing their own cones within 15 years, bolstering establishment of the future landscape.

FOMP plans to plant 200-300 trees this spring, and will be looking for enthusiastic volunteers to assist with this! Project date will depend on soil moisture conditions, but is tentatively scheduled for April 7 at 10:00 am, with a backup date of April 14.

Freeing The Fledgling Young Forest

It would take a keen eye to spot the thousands of young Douglas-fir seedlings that have established naturally across the burn area. A more moisture loving species than ponderosa pine, Douglas fir is found primarily on north slopes and scattered ridges in the area. Fir can grow under heavier shade than ponderosa pine, and has thus been able to germinate and establish under thickets of Gambel oak that have re-sprouted since the 1989 fire. Douglas fir has more frequent heavy cone crops at every 2-3 years. Its featherweight seeds can travel considerably farther on the wind, resulting in more widespread natural regeneration.

But oh that oak! While a mature landscape in this area boasts beautiful clumps of huge Gambel oak stems with a soft grassy understory interspersed with scattered yellow-barked ponderosa pine, most of these old oak stands were knocked back in the fire and replaced with dense impenetrable oak thickets. These have proliferated greatly in the last 20 years. Although Gambel oak will always be an integral part of this ecosystem, much of this juvenile oak will eventually succeed to conifers. Eventually is the key word here. In the meantime, it will likely choke out at least half of the hopeful young Douglas-fir (and a few scattered young pines), significantly slowing natural succession. Many of these seedlings would have soon succumbed due to the overtopping brush, with annual terminal growth decreasing to just an inch in some cases.

Our job here is to cut back just enough of the competing oak to give these young seedlings a fighting chance. Focusing on oak stems that most compromise sun-light, we exercise care in scattering cut brush to address aesthetic and fuel load concerns. A passerby would have to look long and hard to notice where this activity has taken place. The occasional old-growth oak pockets that survived the fire are a treasured part of the landscape, and would not be affected by this project. But there is no shortage of second-growth young oak, claiming a vast majority of the 1,000-acre burn area.

Volunteers are needed to help to release these seedlings. It is hard work but a lot of fun – akin to a treasure hunt. Very tangible and rewarding, one can almost sense the new lease on life realized by the handsome young seedling seeing the sunlight for the first time in years. We plan to release seedlings on our monthly Tuesday work evenings starting in May, in addition to a Saturday or two this spring if interest warrants.
For more information on reforestation projects in the Preserve, please contact Watch for FOMP emails to see when various projects will be taking place.

Blue Bird Trail

Western Blue Bird  By Hermann Speilkamp

As in previous years around the end of March, the 4H kids from Black Forest and I are planning to do a day of repairing and cleaning the blue bird houses in the Preserve to get them ready for a new season.

During the winter, the 4H group works under the guidance of Frank Puckett in their woodwork shop/class to build these bird houses to specifications published by Donald and Lillian Stokes, authorities on the subject.  The bird houses are built with raised metal screen floors to keep parasites at bay, ventilation holes, slats on the inside below the entry hole for the young ones to climb, and small entry holes with predator guards to keep bigger birds from accessing the houses and robbing the brood.  Even so, the gentle Blue Birds have to share the houses with Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Nuthatches and Wrens which all seem more aggressive.

Most of the frequent hikers in the Preserve excitedly share the news with each other about the first spotting of the Western Blue Bird. They may not be the swallows of Capistrano, but for the Preserve they are the messengers of spring.

Over the last 15 years that I have monitored the nesting boxes, the “blue bird trail” has grown to over 20 bird houses. It is very enjoyable to have these colorful birds around.


The Loss of a Founder

Mel Rezac By Jon Nordby

This past year we lost Mel Rezac, one of FOMP’s founding members.  Mel spent most of his career with the USFS across the West, finishing as the Forester at the Air Force Academy. Mel had a lifetime of knowledge about trees, soils, noxious weeds, livestock, history, and all things “ecosystem”: he knew how they worked together and was a perfect mentor to the newly formed FOMP group.  Mel’s retirement was our blessing, and he brought his knowledge and work ethic to bear serving FOMP, the Sioux Tribes in South Dakota, and the community around him.

Mel and his wife, Donna, helped found and form FOMP’s charter with Mary Carew and other local residents concerned about the Preserve. Mel’s talents made him a natural to help address noxious weed issues in the Preserve, often picking knapweed with Donna by hand after the rainstorms loosened the roots.  His soils knowledge helped guide and route some of the early trails that will be used in the Preserve for many years to come. He and Donna also helped gather and catalog much of the historical information we have on the origins of the Preserve as a seedling Nursery, including priceless maps and photos. Mel and Donna, their house backing to the Preserve near the southeast boundary, surely had some exciting hours in 1989 when the Berry Creek fire burned less than one-third mile from their house, through the Preserve and up the face of Mount Herman.

How better to honor a forester, and steward of the land, than by continuing his and FOMP’s effort to restore the fire damage by planting seedlings and trimming oak out from around existing pine seedlings in the burn area?   Please plan on joining us to honor Mel’s life and important FOMP contributions during our tree planting project, scheduled for Saturday April 7 (backup date April 14) at the Main Trailhead Parking Lot.


Monument Scout Troop 17 & USFS Trail 715

Zach Newton working on Trail 715 By Jon Nordby

Despite the abundance of trails we enjoy and maintain in the Monument Preserve, only USFS Trail 715 is officially recognized on official Pike National Forest maps. The official trailhead is just a few hundred yards inside the gate at Schilling and Lindbergh , where TR 715 begins a meandering path that heads generally West towards Mount Herman before heading South out of the 1000 acres that comprise the Preserve. It’s journey continues South, staying below Mt Herman Road, before climbing steeply West up the North Beaver creek drainage under the power lines. Finally crossing Mt Herman Road (MHR), the trail heads back toward Palmer Lake through Limbaugh Canyon, looping around the Front of Mount Herman back to preserve.

Trail 715 is rugged, and purposely unimproved to retain that feel. Equestrians are common on the ride “Around the Mountain”, and are largely responsible for the early route.  Runners and hikers have always been frequent users, and mountain bikers are now enjoying the challenge. This is a challenging trail, with many rock and root obstacles known to pull a shoe off a horse and scrape up hocks, turn an ankle on a distance runner, and rip a derailleur off a mountain bike while flipping the rider over the bars. The challenge is the purpose of this trail, but as waist-deep erosion ruts formed over the years, it became clear we had to step in.

FOMP has worked on 715 extensively to prevent deterioration of the trail while preserving the “unimproved” and remote experience this trail provides. We strive to leave natural obstacles in the trail bed, plan reroutes that are maintainable while still challenging, and trim oak back in a way to where trail-use won’t widen the bed.  I think we’ve mostly met that goal, for there are 1000’s of hours invested in that trail over the past decade from volunteers comprised of school groups, church groups, USFS personnel and firefighters, corporate employees, and local businesses.

One group in particular, Troop 17 of the Boy Scouts of America, has made an enormous impact on this trail over the past 10 years, implementing 9 Eagle Scout projects extending from the trail head, over into the Limbaugh section of trail.

Upcoming newsletters will provide a brief history on various Eagle Scout projects devoted to maintaining this special trail.