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By Jim White
Forest Service volunteer
Special to The SUN
Between 2009 and 2012, the San Juan National Forest and BLM received about $14.9 million dollars in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for a backlog of deferred maintenance projects created by declining budgets.
According to the forest supervisor’s office, approximately $4.5 million was spent on local district projects around our community. The U.S. Forest Service has always been an important part of our community, supporting recreational activities, road systems, commodity production (timber, mineral and cattle) and archeological resources in Archuleta, part of Hinsdale and part of Mineral counties.
Made possible through the Veterans Green Corps (VGC), the SJNF used ARRA funds to oversee 48 hired veterans forestwide on a variety of projects. Wildland/urban interface clearing projects around Pagosa Lakes subdivisions, Chimney Rock and Ice Caves Ridge were accomplished on this district to reduce fire fuels. Veterans were also trained as firefighters.
ARRA funds were used on Piedra Road, the highest traffic volume road on the SJNF, to repair pot-holed and wash-boarded segments with about two miles brought up to county standards. Culverts were replaced, gravel was added from an existing forest service pit and magnesium chloride applied. Additional ARRA funds were transferred to Archuleta County to help maintain Piedra Road. Old timber sale forest roads that have safety and other problems were decommissioned using ARRA funds.
East Fork Road, which provides recreational access to historic Elwood Pass and the East Fork of the San Juan, was reconstructed with ARRA funds after a catastrophic 2008 landslide wiped out a large section. Slide stabilization by subsurface drainage was accomplished, culverts were installed and other drainage work done, and the road is now open to traffic.
Price Lakes Road, which had been severely damaged by massive landslides in the past, was repaired. Culverts were installed and 7.6 miles of gravel replaced.
Approximately 4.1 miles of Jackson Mountain Road received gravel.
In preparation for Chimney Rock becoming a national monument, ARRA funded several projects at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area that will help preserve cultural resources, improve facilities and enhance visitor experience. About 15,000 visitors come to Chimney Rock each year. The fire tower that had blocked views of astronomical alignments the prehistoric inhabitants incorporated into their layout of the site was removed, and walls in the area were stabilized,
Resolving the greatest public relations problem with forest service campgrounds, ARRA funds replaced 18 old, outdated toilets in eight campgrounds and picnic areas and at one boat ramp on the Pagosa District. New, reinforced concrete, maintenance-friendly prefab structures that incorporate the latest odor-free technology were installed. These structures were designed to look like traditional forest/national park structures, which blend in with their forest environment, reduce maintenance costs and are being used as a standard region wide. Water systems at five campgrounds were improved and upgraded to provide safe drinking water.
Approximately 80 miles of trail was maintained using 30 crew weeks and ARRA funds at a cost of $382,000, allowing nine different trails to be opened. Many of these trails are in wilderness areas and in high demand for use by local and summer forest visitors.
Almost 20,000 acres of the Pagosa District was inventoried for noxious weeds, with 684 acres treated in Archuleta County to date using ARRA funds.
These funds relieved a longstanding need for strategic investments in Archuleta County and forest infrastructure and also provided work for 34 different private contractors. Tight budgets for the county and forest service were relieved to accomplish work that could not have otherwise been accomplished.
For more information and details on projects see www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan and click on “Working Together.”