Mulch is the backbone of restoration. It insulates the soil around plants and seeds and allows for the newly planted vegetation to retain moisture. Every restoration site at Rocky Mountain National Park uses mulch, either around planted shrubs, trees, grasses, flowers, etc. or on top of a seeded area. Without mulch, plants are more likely to die and the seeds more likely to blow out of the restored area.
In 2012, The Park rerouted 0.9 miles of Bear Lake Road away from Glacier Creek in an effort to reduce impacts on the wetlands and riparian habitats along the creek. As part of the contract, the contracted construction crew removed trees to create the new road and chipped the removed trees into mulch for The Park. The construction crew brought the trees to a location near the Glacier Basin Campground, known fondly amongst the Vegetation Crew as “The Pit.” Once at The Pit, the construction crew chipped the trees into a gigantic pile, easily accessible by the Vegetation Crew for various restoration projects.
This week, the Veg Crew moved about 14 truckloads of mulch from The Pit to a staging spot near the Beaver Meadows Entrance for a future restoration site. The Park updated about 50 miles of its waterline through the park and the Veg Crew restored several areas along it last season and will continue to restore the waterline this season. The mulch we moved this week will be moved from the location where we unloaded the trucks to a site about 300 yards from the road along the waterline. A volunteer group will fireline the mulch from the road to the waterline using five-gallon buckets.
After four seasons of hauling mulch to restoration projects, the once enormous mulch pile is dwindling. As we scrape the bottom of the pile, we start hitting heavy pieces of decayed wood and wet soil. It is an exhausting job to move mulch, whether it be shoveling the mulch into empty flatbed trucks, shoveling it out of the truck beds, or fire-lining it from one location to another. An exhausting, but very important job. One that builds character and brings a team together. Who says we need to do icebreakers to get to know one another – we have mulching.