Colorado Riparian Association Recognizes
“CRA Award of Excellence ” Winners
The Coal Creek Watershed Coalition (CCWC) and private land owners Ed and Patti Zink of the Waterfall Ranch received Awards for Excellence in Riparian Management from the Colorado Riparian Association at the annual Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference held October 4-5, 2012 in Avon, Colorado.
The Coal Creek Watershed Coalition was recognized for their continued leadership and community involvement in riparian assessment and restoration of the Coal Creek and Slate River watersheds. The Coal Creek and Slate River watersheds encompass 54 square miles in the Upper Gunnison River Basin and support drinking water for the towns of Crested Butte, Almont, and Gunnison. These rivers also maintain high quality wetlands and headwater flows for trout streams and irrigation for agriculture in the Gunnison Basin. Historical mining and road building have heavily impacted Coal Creek and Slate River in the past.
Over the past decade, CCWC has taken the lead in pulling together community and student involvement in hands-on data collection of samples for water quality testing, collecting local native seed and reseeding eroding hillsides along Coal Creek. They have worked with volunteers to plant willows and other riparian species in restored mine tailing areas, removed invasive noxious weeds near riparian areas, provided matching funding with agencies and other organizations, and hosted Water Wise educational programs at Crested Butte and Gunnison River events.
The Zink family has ranched in within the heart of the Animas River valley just north of Durango, Colorado since 1914. In 2006, the Zink’s enrolled 80 acres of their land into a permanent open space conservation easement, and initiated a wetland restoration project. The wetland restoration will be conducted in 11 phases and will bring 50 acres of pasture back into a shallow water oxbow wetland complex.
The newly created Animas River Wetlands will provide a diversity of habitat types, including open water, emergent marsh, wet meadow, willow stands, and cottonwood galleries, which will increase the functions and values of the site as a whole. The goals of wetland restoration include: restore wetland wildlife habitat, improve water quality, conserve the aesthetics of wetland open space, and provide an avenue for local mitigation needs. In addition, the Animas River Wetlands serve as a local environmental education facility; they have already hosted a Discovery Camp for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, held a number of public open house field days, and have had the Durango Bird Club conduct annual bird counts.
The Zink’s exemplary land stewardship has contributed to the health of the Animas River, one of the most biologically important river systems in southwest Colorado. The Zink’s were recognized for multiple reasons, including their environmental stewardship, leading by example, community service, and for volunteering time and making civic donations.