The PaleBlue crew came out in force this past weekend to volunteer with the Swaner Preserve here in Park City.
Swaner Preserve is a 1200 acre wetland preserve here through which much of the local precipitation drains through before draining via East Creek. A deeper story of the preserves is worth telling another time, but for now, we want to share a little about this project we helped out with. Along with some other volunteers we planted 100 trees along the creek, marking each with a flag so the plantings can be monitored over the years ahead.
PaleBlue’s office overlooks a section of East Creek one mile downstream from where we planted trees and, as I write this, I can see banks collapsing. Even with the spring runoff, the banks are 2-3 feet higher than the water level. I spend a bit of time every day looking at the creek from my window and it’s been a long time since I have seen any fish rise. Local angler friends tell me stories of better fishing days along the creek as little as 10 years ago. The ecosystem has been disrupted and the effects of this are numerous. The goal of the tree planting is to accelerate the recovery and get East Creek back to its natural state.
East Creek was once lined with willow and cottonwood trees. These trees not only stabilized the river banks, but provided food and shelter for beavers. The beavers in turn, by building their dams along the creek, created wetlands along the creek and sections of deeper slower running water. Deeper water stays cooler and cooler water holds more oxygen, which means more species of fish. The wetlands created by the damming were homes and hunting grounds to numerous species from minks to muskrats and cranes to osprey. Without trees, the ecosystem is far from its natural state.
In addition to the tree plantings, under Swaner’s Conservation Coordinator, Rhea’s guidance and with the help of volunteers, the Swaner team has also installed over 100 beaver damn analogs on creeks in the preserve and along East Creek. These are helping, but the vision here is to see beavers repopulate the area and take over the heavy lifting, but without trees, the beavers that pass through don’t stick around for lack of food.
In Rhea’s own words, ”High elevation wetlands, like Swaner, are less than 1% of Utah and are critical habitat for so many native species. Ongoing restoration projects are volunteer powered- and bit by bit make strides in water and habitat quality as we work to restore this area.”
Swaner has been restoration work East Creek for nearly 25 years to help the ecosystem recover and we are looking forward to helping the Swaner team with more work soon and for many years to come.
If you are local enough to volunteer, drop us a line to join us, or you can volunteer with Swaner directly. https://swanerecocenter.org/