Ruth Adele hikes with her dogs in Red Rock Canyon Open Space a couple times a week. But she never before thought of the trees and shrubs as a fire hazard instead of scenery.
Then the Waldo Canyon fire happened, burning through the foothills just a few miles away.
“I love Red Rock Canyon,” Adele said. “I thought we were going to lose Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon. If it had gotten here it would have eaten the entirety of Manitou to get here and the winds being the wrong way, that’s what would have happened.”
She was among 70 volunteers who spent their Saturday trimming trees and removing weeds and dead branches in Red Rock Canyon, to better prepare the west-side open space for a fire.
It was organized by Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko, who since the fire has heard from numerous residents wanting to do something for the open space. For the Friends of Red Rock Canyon, it meant double the number of people they normally get for projects here.
President Karl Klepfer called it a “citizens’ version of fire mitigation.”
“We felt like a lot of people want to give something, and not necessarily money,” Klepfer said. So this was a good way to channel that spirit.
Volunteers spent several hours cutting low-hanging branches, pulling weeds and hauling them off, followed by a presentation by firefighters on preparing urban wild lands for a fire.
While some were regular volunteers and park lovers, others were moved to volunteer for the first time by the events of the Waldo Canyon fire. Heather Ulibarri had never even been to the open space before.
“Were trying to reinforce the importance of helping out your community to the kids,” said Ulibarri. “Anything to help the community and the city because we all live here.”
There was a high-profile volunteer as well. Hannah Porter, the 2012 Miss Colorado, who was in town for the Rocky Mountain State Games, spent a few hours in the dust. She said it was “to be able to show people it’s not just about a sash and a gown and high heels. You can get dirty too.