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An enemy to the natural flora has begun an invasion in Heil Valley Ranch

Can’d Aid and Boulder County Parks and Open Space need volunteers to help eradicate the noxious weeds invading the burn scar.
Heil Valley 2
Heil Valley Ranch, part of Boulder County Open Space, from before the 2020 Calwood Fire

An enemy to the natural flora has begun an invasion in Heil Valley Ranch. Can’d Aid and Boulder County Parks and Open Space, or BCOS, need volunteers to help eradicate the noxious weeds invading the burn scar.

On July 22 and 29, the organizations will lead volunteers in pulling invasive species that are rushing into the southern reach of Heil Valley Ranch.

BCOS Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Hatfield said one of the priority targets for removal is Rush Skeletonweed, a List A species on the State of Colorado’s Noxious Weed list.

“This noxious weed has popped up in the area following the CalWood fire. At this time the population is fairly discrete, so we are hoping to try and eradicate it,” Hatfield said. “While it’s very common for invasive weeds to be present in areas that wildfire has gone through, they tend to out-compete the native plants. With removal, we hope to give the native plant populations a little bit of a leg up in recovery.”

The CalWood Fire in October 2020 burned over 10,000 acres of land, more than half of which was owned by Boulder County. The southern areas of Heil Valley Ranch were consumed in the fire and have remained closed to the public as recovery efforts continue. Hazards to the area include falling trees and flash flooding.

Hatfield said BCOS is taking safety very seriously for the project, monitoring weather before and during the events. The invasive weed clean-up will be sticking to the southernmost areas of the Heil Valley Ranch without going north of the Overland Loop trail so  the clean-up won’t interfere with mulching operations in the area, according to Hatfield.

“One of the best parts about having volunteers on site and helping out is that they get to see first hand the safety concerns. I don’t think many people have a good understanding about why we aren’t able to open the trails back up yet,” Hatfield said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that Heil Valley is safe and ready for the public. Luckily we have a wonderfully supportive community that donates their time and labor to making this possible.”

Hatfield said plans for a collaborative event had been in the works with Can’d Aid’s Program and Outreach Manager Alissa Lile and Program Coordinator Abbi Arneson since early 2020. Boulder County was still under COVID restrictions at the time, so the event was delayed until this year. Hatfield worked with Lile and Arneson to come up with two dates, to split up the size of the event.

“We’d been trying to find a way to engage our local volunteers, because we work with so many people in the area that are so wonderful and willing to give back,” Arneson said. “We had some plans that were put on hold due to COVID, so with the CalWood fires last fall it was a good opportunity to do something in our own backyard.”

The Heil Valley events are the only volunteer efforts with Can’d Aid currently, according to Hatfield, but public volunteer projects are posted through BCOS frequently. Groups can also request custom volunteer projects through BCOS as well. 

Residents interested in volunteering for the invasive species clean-up can sign up through the Can’d Aid website. All necessary tools will be provided, but volunteers are responsible for wearing appropriate attire and footwear.