Forest Service Project Begins Tuesday
While historic snow levels this past spring postponed the initial work schedule, starting next Tuesday, Sept. 3 the US Forest Service will begin work on a restoration project below the Sugar Loaf Dam that will put into place local road closures.
According to a media advisory released by the USFS, the camping area located west of Leadville on Lake Fork Creek downstream of Turquoise Lake and County Road 4 will benefit from a major restoration project which is anticipated to improve the overall aquatic habitat of the stream.
“This project should improve fish habitat and the angler experience in Lake Fork Creek,” stated Janelle Valladares, San Isabel National Forest Fish Biologist. “By improving the habitat, we expect to see more and bigger fish in the stream in the next couple of years.”
The restoration work entails strategically placing large boulders, whole trees, and smaller rocks and logs in a manner that mimics natural features of a stream. Banks and areas where excessive erosion has occurred will be stabilized and planted with native willows, grasses, and sedges. When complete, the project should reduce erosion and sediment that clouds the water and create more deep pools where fish feed over winter.
Leadville Today met up with Valladares on August 30 as she was posting notices in the popular recreation area concerning the upcoming closure. The giant rocks which began systematically appearing on the Dunn Ditch Road began to create their own news in the popular access area.
But when pictures of the mailbox stuck in among the rocks popped up, it was time to start asking questions.
“Yeah, we asked about that too,” Valladares chuckled, “but that’s how our contractor for the project receives the invoices for the boulders after they are dropped off.”
Overall this area along Lake Fork Creek has seen an accelerated increase in use, especially among campers since it is a dispersed recreation area, which by definition mean no services; such as trash removal, tables, fire pits or bathrooms are provided. It’s worth noting that there is a 14-day camping limit in place but that is only enforceable if there are boots-on-the-ground to enforce it. Like many in the Colorado high country, the USFS faces its own labor shortage and staff turnover. The Leadville Ranger District has seen four new top rangers in the past two years. As a result, the woods haven’t been as regularly monitored by USFS officials, although Valladares did confirm that they recently did a sweep of the area, and tagged a few violators, all who moved on without incident.
But come this Tuesday, the entire area will be cleared out because this project will require heavy machinery. For this reason, the area will be closed to all public use during implementation. Camping and entering the area will be prohibited from September 3 through November 1. Campers should consider using the eastern side of Forest Road 113 (closer to County Road 4) during this timeframe. Valladares emphasized that the camp areas to the east of the Dunn Ditch Road will still be open during this time, good news for hunters.
“It’s just the campsites between the road and the creek that will be closed,” she stated. “Everything on the other side (east of Dunn Ditch) will be open and can be accessed on the other side during the road closure.” The full text of the closure order and a map can be found on the website.