Trust Our Land: New signage marks restoration areas at Miller Ranch Open Space (column) | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: New signage marks restoration areas at Miller Ranch Open Space (column)

Jessica Foulis
Trust Our Land

The Miller Ranch River Restoration project on Thursday, Aug. 23, was a huge success. There was such a great turnout, in fact, that only one day was needed to complete the work. Thank you to the 28 amazing volunteers who came out to help protect and restore Miller Ranch Open Space.

Miller Ranch Open Space is a beautiful and easily accessible riverside area with a great trail system and river access. In recent years, use has dramatically increased, resulting in damage to a significant portion of the sensitive riparian area. Riparian habitat — a scientific term to describe riverside habitat — is critically important to local wildlife and the protection of the Eagle River system, as well as maintaining clean drinking water.

The social trails that have developed allow unfiltered runoff containing excess nutrients and sediment to enter the Eagle River, threatening the ecosystem's ecological balance.

Eagle County Open Space, Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle River Watershed Council teamed up on a river restoration project on Thursday, Aug. 23.

Miller Ranch Open Space is protected through an important partnership between Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle County Open Space. Eagle County owns and manages the property, while Eagle Valley Land Trust holds a conservation easement for the property. A conservation easement is a legal document protecting the conservation values of a place forever. Eagle River Watershed Council brought their river restoration expertise to the project, which was a terrific example of collaboration in our community, with each organization bringing their expertise and energy to the project.

The project included meadow and wetland preservation and protection, where we built wildlife-friendly fencing to protect sensitive habitat. It also included consolidating river access and restoring riverbanks. We identified appropriate, sustainable river access points and clearly marked them with signage. Additionally, we restored riverbanks with native vegetation and signage restricting access.

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Do you love Miller Ranch Open Space? Now is your chance to help preserve and protect this important place.

Please look out for new signage and fencing resulting from this project. Use the appropriate river access marked by signage, and honor restoration areas. There will be signs clearly marking river access and signs marking restoration areas off-limits to people and dogs. Restoration is especially difficult in these hot, dry conditions, so please give nature a chance to restore itself by staying out of restricted areas.

If your dog joins you in Miller Ranch Open Space, then please pick up after them. Not only does dog feces decrease the enjoyment of others in the open space, but bacteria from dog feces runs into the Eagle River, causing water pollution and decline in fish populations and health. Additionally, please make sure your dog is obeying trail signage and staying out of closed areas.

If you have questions about this project, then reach out to Phil Kirkman, of Eagle County Open Space, at 970-328-8698 or phillip.kirkman@eaglecounty.us, Jessica Foulis, of Eagle Valley Land Trust, at 970-748-7654 or jfoulis@evlt.org or Kate Isaacson, of Eagle River Watershed Council, at 970-827-5406 or isaacson@erwc.org.

Jessica Foulis is the stewardship and outreach manager for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. The Eagle Valley Land Trust conserves forever the lands we love, building a permanent legacy for future generations. Founded in 1981, the Land Trust is a nonprofit organization accredited by the national Land Trust Alliance. Conserved lands include Hardscrabble Ranch in Eagle, the West Avon Preserve in Avon and the East Vail waterfall in Vail. Learn more and make a tax-deductible donation at http://www.evlt.org.