Thursday, June 17, 2010


If you've not seen the Poudre River in the past few days you might want to take a look. Excessive snow melt and consecutive days of rain have lead to extremely high water levels along riparian areas in and around town. A great example of this happens to be the ELC, situated directly in the middle of the Poudre River.

Many of the trails at the ELC have become flooded and washed out with the rise and fall of water levels over the past weeks and will need to be repaired once the river falls back to its normal flow.

Washed out trails have made it difficult for this week's summer camp, Front Range Safari, to take place without getting slightly wet while hiking around the short loop. Most of the long loop, and still some sections of the short loop are underwater.

If you do decide to adventure across the bridge to reach the trails at the ELC, please do so with extreme caution. We recommend that you proceed to the right on the short loop rather than the left, as it is no longer flooded. More information regarding high water will follow in the coming weeks. Stay safe!

Evil Little Things...

As part of the ELC's promise to remain a public nature center providing access to protected areas, much of the work we do involves maintaining the landscape of the Environmental Learning Center. A fundamental part of keeping our ecosystems healthy and beautiful is our ongoing battle with invasive and exotic plant species on our trails.

The ELC is home to a wide variety of weeds, thistles, vines, and toxic shrubs. Some of these species are relatively easity to manage and prevent, however some take years and years before they can even begin to be reduced. In order to provide visitors with information regarding many of the ELC's invasive species, we've prepared a small list of things you might find during these summer months.

Perhaps the mose widespread species currently infesting the trail system of the ELC is Leafy Spurge. This invader grows an extensive root system, and cannot be controled by pulling, burning, or grazing with animals. In addition this species crowds other native species and degrades suitable habitat for wildlife.

Tamarisk is another widespread invasive species throughout the west. Growing mostly on the banks of rivers and riparian areas, Tamarisk, or Salt Cedar, consumes extremely high amounts of water and alters soil salinity for native species.

Russian Olive is an invasive tree species that also grows on the banks of streams and rivers. These trees can grow extremely large and have thorns that make removal and treatment difficult, they also crowd native willow and cottonwood species in riparian areas.

Musk Thistle grows in patches throughout the ELC's trails, and spreads across the landscape when its flowers bloom and seeds are carried by the wind. Management of thistle at the ELC has included removing the flowering heads before they bloom.

Canada Thistle is another invasive thistle species at the ELC. Unfortunately, Canada Thistle cannot be managed by removing flowers because it also reproduces through its root structure and must be treated chemically.

Dalmatian Toadflax currently grows in small patches in random areas of the ELC. Its yellow flowers and tall stalks make it unique among native plant species.

Wooly Mullen is yet another widespread invasive species found at the ELC. A biennial plant, this species spends its first year as a leafy base before shooting up stalks during the second year. Mullen stalks contain hundreds of thousands of tiny seeds and must be burned after removal.

Teasel is a newly discovered invasive species at the ELC, and must be managed in the same way as Mullen. Teasel's spiky flowers and stalks make it a difficult species to remove and dispose of.

Cheatgrass, or Smooth Brome, is an invasive grass species currently dominating the ELC's landscape. Cheatgrass outcompetes native grass species and crowds nearly all open areas, its early growing season and resistance to fire and grazing make it extremely difficult to manage.

Other invasive species such as Dame's Rocket, Hounds Tongue, and Bindweed have also been identified at the ELC, but as of now not enough is known about these species to properly manage them.

Seize the Carp!

While our annual volunteer extravaganza "Carpe Diem" had absolutely nothing to do with seizing carp, as most of our event fliers and advertisements would have you believe, it did have everything to do with accomplishing a great deal of volunteer service learning in the form of many projects in a single morning. In case you missed this year's ELC "Carpe Diem"(Seize the Day) Volunteer Day, we've created this post to help you experience much of what went down while you were asleep the morning of Apri 17th, 2010.

The began early on a cold Saturday morning as ELC staff frantically prepared final arrangements for the volunteer crews arriving later that morning. Coffee flowed freeley from the ten gallon containers ,courtesy of Starbucks Coffee, and staff members mixed over breakfast snacks donated by local Sunflower Market. Bossman Brett Bruyere, seen here, administered yellow head protection to staff members in order to both foster a false sense of safety and set staff apart from the rest of the crowd.

Nicole TimmonsStafford works furiously to count volunteers as they arrive, over 150 volunteers were recorded at this year's Carpe Diem event.

Volunteer groups from both Colorado State University and the Fort Collins community participated in the various service projects throughout the morning.

Groups were assigned to projects such as trail construction and maintenance, native tree and shrub planting, removal of an old bridge, the construction of a nature viewing area, removal of invasive species, and a river access trail.

Additional projects took place in the compost, greenhouse, and organic garden preparing seedlings and irrigation lines for Spring and Summer.

Groups met at noon for lunch ,provided by Pudge Brothers Pizza, for a brief break from service learning and to reorganize volunteers to projects that would need more help in the afternoon.

Two former CSU Alternative Break groups, one CSUnity group of Collegiate Scholars, CSU Greeks from Pi Beta Phi and Kappa Sigma, students fro Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism Class 331, and a multitude of good-hearted individuals and families mingled over cheap pizza refreshments before returning for the second half of the service day.

Below(left), volunteers work to break new trail in the place of an old and rotting bridge.

Above(right), volunteers dig up Canada Thistle along the Wetland Wonder trail at the ELC.

Overall, "Carpe Diem" 2010 went as well as it could have. Plenty of volunteers participated despite forecasts of snow and rain, and nearly every project was completed before the end of the day when the weather began to turn. Members of the ELC staff would like to thank our donors, local community volunteers, and CSU students for their help in making this year's "Carpe Diem" celebration a success!