About 8,000 plants went into the ground at the Creek Ranch last week during a project to restore a length of Trout Creek.
The principals of Creek Ranch, a luxury, cluster development southwest of Steamboat, are paying $360,000 to restore three miles of the creek in the open-space section of the subdivision. Many of the plants that were planted last week are native to the valley.
"Last year, we harvested seeds from alders here," said riverkeeper Bill Chase, who is helping with the restoration.
Rocky Mountain Native Plants took the seeds and grew plants in its greenhouse. Now a year old, the plants were put back into the area.
Two different species of willows also were planted along Trout Creek.
In addition to the planting, Chase, Jim Redmond of Rocky Mountain Native Plants and his crew, dug up grassy sections of earth called mats and built new banks for the creek in hopes of creating a healthier environment for riparian species.
The banks, which once were bare and steep, were shaved back, and large logs were placed along the water's edge.
The crew then laid the mats on top of the logs. Finally, the alders and willows were planted into the mats. In time, the logs will decompose and the root systems of the new plants will support the mats, creating a new bank for the creek.
"What it's all about is giving Mother Nature a jump start and getting out of the way," Chase said.
The natural system of the creek was disturbed years ago when alder trees were cleared to make room for grazing.
Only the 39 lot owners at the Creek Ranch will be able to use the restored creek, but Redmond said it's important that the responsibility of caring for the land is being taken seriously.
"If people are willing to do that, it's great," he said. "A lot of the values that should be here will stay here."
Plus, Chase said, the restoration will benefit downstream users of Trout Creek.
Once all the plants have matured, they will create shade for other native plants to grow, shed food for fish and other aquatic species and stabilize the banks of the creek.
The creek restoration is an important element in the concept of Creek Ranch.
"What we try to stress is that you're not just buying a lot," Romick and Associates Inc. real estate broker Joan Shenfield said.
Along with a 10- to 16-acre parcel, property owners get nearly 2,000 acres of open space and a working ranch with a ranch house and a barn for community events.
"It's basically community use," Shenfield said.
Since the property went on the market last September, Romick and Associates has sold 10 lots. Prices range from $200,000 to $400,000 per lot.
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