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Pagosa Ranger District office’s garden gets makeover

Garden showcases native plants, low-water options


The San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Ranger District office located at 180 Pagosa St. is getting some improvements to its demonstration garden. 

On Tuesday, May 14, U.S. Forest Service staff, Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS) students and members from the San Juan National Forest Green Team worked on renovating and reviving the office’s demonstration garden. 

Pagosa Ranger District Customer Service Representative Kevin Conwell explained that the ranger station’s garden used to be a nice xeriscape garden for native plants and pollinators, but that “over the years it got kind of taken over by weeds.”

Conwell mentioned that he and another Pagosa district employee first started thinking about renovating the garden last year, but were unable to find necessary funds.

He went on to explain that the Pagosa Ranger District decided to partner with the Mountain Studies Institute (MSI), noting that MSI was able to apply for grants to purchase supplies needed for the renovation.

Conwell hopes that the renovations will help give people ideas for using native plants and low-water use options for their gardens.

Amanda Kuenzi, community science director at MSI, explained that part of the renovations involved pulling non-native plants like Russian sage, cheeseweed and prickly lettuce, and replacing them with native plants like lead plant and Rocky Mountain penstemon, also known as beardtongue.

Kuenzi mentioned that non-native plants “aren’t truly providing a benefit for our local pollinators and wildlife.”

She also mentioned she hopes the renovated garden will inspire people to incorporate native plants into their gardens at home. 

“We’re hoping that this garden will show people how beautiful native plants can be and that you can still be an integral part of your ecosystem,” Kuenzi said.

San Juan National Forest Partnership Coordinator Abraham Proffitt mentioned that the demonstration garden at the ranger station was first established in 2008, but that over the years it has been “overgrown” and that stuff “has been dying out.”

He mentioned that bringing the garden back up to xeriscape standards will help reduce water use and improve the landscape.

Proffitt also explained that native plants use much less water compared to non-native plants.

“They grow in this environment, so they’re good for this landscape,” he said.

Two classes from PSHS helped renovate the garden by pulling weeds and clearing the garden for new native plants to be put in. Students were able to help out during regular school hours as part of the school’s work-day program.