Community Agriculture Alliance: Transitioning seasons with nature | SteamboatToday.com

Community Agriculture Alliance: Transitioning seasons with nature

Harlowe Wang/For Steamboat Today

Community Ag Alliance

Seasonal changes are underway, and I encourage you to take time to enjoy the Yampa Valley's natural beauty during this period of transition. The busy winter and summer months have tourists and locals alike enjoying the recreation our landscape provides for fun activities such as skiing, mountain biking and kayaking. But how often do you slow down and really appreciate nature?

A few weeks ago, Yampatika partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to provide an outdoor "Blues Break Camp" for club members to enjoy the outdoors in an educational and exploratory setting during their school break. Seeing the kids' wonder at winter animal adaptations and enjoyment of our abundant snow reminded me not to take Steamboat's location for granted.

We're fortunate to live in a place in which our human community is clearly embedded in the natural world, but many don't have that fortune. Take advantage of living here in the spring slow season; as the days warm up, take a walk along a river or through a park and stop to indulge your senses. Notice the natural processes of melting and blooming you don't appreciate while zooming down a mountain on edges or wheels. Lookout for signs of spring, such as bud burst, sounds of birds returning and little plants starting to pop up.

Spring means snowmelt, and snowmelt means increased runoff from impervious city surfaces. The gutters and pipes that collect snowmelt from our roads and parking lots deliver that runoff directly to our rivers. This means anything buried in the snow or that we leave on the ground during mud season will be swept up with the snowmelt and deposited in our rivers — rivers that many in Routt County and downstream use for recreation, water and food. One of our largest problems is left-behind dog poop; not only does it stink to step in, but bacteria in the fecal matter has a negative impact of our beautiful Yampa River. Do your part to aid nature's spring cleaning, and scoop the poop.

Increased runoff from snowmelt affects our natural landscape, as well. In addition to slowing down during mud season to check out parts of nature you might usually overlook, I urge you to slow down to protect yourself and our trails. While we all prepare for the slippery ice that often lines trails in the winter, spring fever and the excitement of warm weather can push thoughts of slippery mud out of our minds.

Ongoing snowmelt means a high chance of slick surfaces, so be mindful as you break out your mountain bike and trail-running shoes. Overuse of trails during mud season can also impact their conditions into the summer months and cause severe damage to vegetation. Walking straight through muddy trails can cause increased sediment runoff, but hiking off-trail or next to the trail can be disastrous for some delicate alpine plants.

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Call the Forest Service front desk at 970-870-2299 to learn which trails are ready for use and which locations to avoid.

Harlowe Wang is a Yampatika naturalist intern.