Colorado

Jan 16, 2013 10:52 PM by Andy Koen

Budget cuts increased fire risk in parks and open space

COLORADO SPRINGS - At roughly 14,000 total acres, the City of Colorado Springs parks and opens spaces are big part of the community's identity. But without the right stewardship, they can also be dangerous, especially to homeowners who live at the boundaries.

City forester Paul Smith explains when the parks department budget was cut by 84 percent three years ago, the city lost much of its ability to keep the forests healthy.

"Up until 2010 we had a forester who was dealing with our open space areas and forest management," Smith said. "And then through the budget reductions, that position went away."

Thanks to grants and donations, they now enough money to pay that person again, but for just one year. Smith says it'll take some catching up.

"We're always playing catch up, and you know the drought over the last 10 year has added to that pressure, just trying to keep the forest healthy."

He is currently creating a plan with the fire department to thin out the dead and diseased trees from the city's parks and open spaces. They're also working with homeowners to lower the fire risk on park land that borders residential properties.

"The number one goal is to keep our citizens safe," Smith said.

Anyone living in an area near a city open space is encouraged to contact the forestry department at 719-385-5942 to discuss fire mitigation. Requests can also be sent via email

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