2022 CoNPS Annual Conference Field Trips

Sunday September 18, times vary, Field Trips


White Rocks – Sand Prairies and Turtlebacks, Dave Sutherland and Lynn Riedel

9am to 12pm, 15 participants, Moderate

Millions of years ago, it was a swampy river delta at the edge of a shallow sea. Today we know it as the White Rocks, one of the most unique places around Boulder.  Join OSMP plant ecologist Lynn Riedel and Naturalist Dave Sutherland for a journey into an area so fragile and precious that it is ordinarily closed to visitation. White Rocks protects unusual plants of exceptional local rarity, and showcases local history and geological stories. Bring water and food as well as sun, rain and mosquito protection. Meeting location will be provided when you register.  

Dave Sutherland is an award-winning field naturalist, recently retired from the city of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department. Besides over 20 years working in the Boulder area, Dave has led outdoor education programs in California, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. Dave is a self-professed natural science geek who uses games and activities to inspire others with his love of nature. He has been training for his job since the age of 4, when he began collecting rocks and butterflies and drawing his own bird books with crayons.

Lynn Riedel has spent her career in natural areas management in Colorado. She has worked as a plant ecologist with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department since the mid-1990’s, specializing in grassland ecology. In Dinosaur National Monument and in Boulder, her work has included rare plant monitoring and habitat management, native plant community monitoring and mapping, and comprehensive natural area management planning. 

[Two companion field trips: Harlequin’s Gardens Nursery and Rocky Mountain Botanic Garden.  Participants can register for one or both field trips]

Harlequin’s Gardens Nursery, Mikl Brawner

9am to 11am, Tour at 10am, 25 participants, Easy

Harlequin’s has been growing native shrubs for 30 years. There are mature specimens of many varieties including curlleaf mountain mahogany, wafer ash, New Mexican privet, New Mexican locust, Mahonia hematocarpa, fern bush, Gambel oak, golden currant, big toothed maple, and more. Native forbs are also featured along with ornamentals that are not native.  The nursery focuses on drought tolerant species.  

Mikl Brawner will lead the tour. He is the founder and current manager of Harlequin’s Gardens nursery, a garden writer and a student and lover of the natural world.

Rocky Mountain Botanic Garden, Garima Fairfax

1pm to 2pm, 25 participants, Easy

Please consider meeting at nearby Bohn Park in Lyons by the St. Vrain River for a bring-your-own picnic lunch before the tour. Participants may stay at the RMBG as long as they wish after the tour.

The Rocky Mountain Botanic Garden (RMBG) features native plants that grow in the foothills surrounding Lyons as well as plants from the mountains above Lyons, riparian areas along rivers, grasslands to the east of Lyons, and plants from the southwestern part of Colorado. It is the first botanic garden established in Boulder County and is an ideal location where the mountains meet the prairie. RMBG is a nonprofit organization that is free and open to the public all year, with donations accepted.

Visitors discover labeled native plants that will do well in their yards with little watering or special needs and learn more about Colorado plants that they commonly encounter while enjoying the outdoors. Classes are planned in native plant identification and gardening with native plants to attract bees and butterflies.

The trip leader, Garima Fairfax, is a Lyons, Colorado resident who had the idea of developing a botanic garden in Lyons, and she has done that with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers (see http://www.rmbg.org/ ).

Tallgrass Prairie in the Boulder Area, Lynne Sullivan and Lynn Riedel

1:30pm to 4:30pm, 15 participants, Easy to Moderate

Tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems on the earth and City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks protects some beautiful examples along the outer Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, disjunct from tallgrass prairie in the mid-west.  Explore the ecology and flora of this rare and unique prairie ecosystem with plant ecologist Lynn Riedel and interpretive naturalist Lynne Sullivan. Meet the local species and delve into the evolution of events enabling this rich habitat to survive and thrive. 

Lynne Sullivan is a long time Interpretive Naturalist who enjoys exploring and sharing the lives and landscapes of our wild kin here in the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Lynn Riedel has spent her career in natural areas management in Colorado. She has worked as a plant ecologist with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department since the mid-1990’s, specializing in grassland ecology. In Dinosaur National Monument and in Boulder, her work has included rare plant monitoring and habitat management, native plant community monitoring and mapping, and comprehensive natural area management planning. 

Esoterra Culinary Farm/Garden (east of Boulder), Mark DeRespinis 

9:30am to 10:30am, 20 – 25 participants, Easy

Optional self-guided walk on the nearby White Rocks Trail after the farm tour

Esoterra Culinary Garden is a small-scale, no-till diversified vegetable farm operating in rural Boulder County. The farm supplies many restaurants in the Denver area with a large variety of produce.  Mark DeRespinis, the proprietor, gives captivating tours of this remarkable farm, located on City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land.  The focus of Esoterra Culinary is, “Cultivating a relationship with the soil, harvesting the land, and celebrating beautiful produce”.  Esoterra Culinary works to fit into the larger natural landscape in the surrounding open space.  Join this fascinating and inspiring tour, and then take an optional self-guided walk on the nearby White Rocks Trail.  The trail crosses Boulder Creek where you may see bald eagles and will get a glimpse of the White Rocks cliffs to the west.

Farmer/Owner Mark DeRespinis returned to the Front Range to start Esoterra Culinary Garden after developing a farm at the world renowned Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs resort in northern New Mexico.  He is building long term relationships with the most innovative and quality-focused food enterprises in the region.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Raccoon Loop Trail at Panorama Point, Denise Wilson

9am to 1pm, 12 participants, Moderate, 3.5 miles

Diverse ecosystems are encountered along this Foothills trail.  The field trip will begin with a 3.3-mile drive from Denise’s house and a great view from the parking area. The groomed trail descends through lodgepole pine/spruce forest into an open willow-wetland area, and then along a wooded stream, where three earlier-flowering orchid species occur.  Additional communities will include aspen forest with Arnica and Asters, and Ponderosa pine forest where ptarmigan, rabbits, coyote and weasels frequent.  

Denise Wilson has lived at the north end of Golden Gate Canyon SP for 34 years and conducted a 280-plot vegetation survey within the park.  She completed her Masters at University Colorado, Denver, has served on the CoNPS Board, and as the Events Director for CoNPS.

Heil Valley Ranch Post-Fire Recovery and Ecology, David Hirt

830am to 11:30am, 20 participants, Easy to moderate

Carpooling is strongly recommended

Explore a variety of habitats on Heil Valley Ranch impacted by the Cal-Wood fire in October 2020.  We will discuss pre-fire forestry treatments and how they impacted fire behavior, and the planning and implementation of post-fire recovery efforts including limited seeding, hazard tree removal, aerial mulching with wood shreds, the construction of in-stream structures to capture increased sediment, and tree planting and seeding.  There will be the opportunity to witness the natural recovery, both good and bad, across the landscape.  

One of the most visited parks in Boulder County Parks & Open Space’s portfolio, Heil Valley Ranch encompasses over 6,000 acres of ponderosa pine foothills habitat, as well as diverse shrublands and grasslands. Part of the property has been recognized as an area of Outstanding Biodiversity by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.  In October of 2020, the Cal-Wood Fire burned nearly 75% of the property, including areas previously burned in 2003 by the Overland Fire. 

David Hirt has worked with Boulder County Parks & Open Space since 1997 and is currently the Senior Plant/Restoration Ecologist where he helps manage, monitor, map, and restore over 65,000 acres of public land with a diverse range of vegetation. Much of the restoration work in the recent past, has unfortunately been focused on disaster recovery, including the 2013 floods, and multiple wildfires including the Walker, Overland, Fourmile, Cal-Wood, and Marshall Fires. 

Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain, Stephen Hauptli and John Vickery

9 am to 1:30 pm, 15 participants, Moderate; largely or entirely off-trail

‘Rabbit Mountain’ (RM) is one of Boulder County’s largest contiguous holdings. It extends north to the Larimer County line and is one of only three Plant Conservation Areas in the County with Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s highest rating of B1–” Outstanding Biodiversity Significance”. The field trip leaders participated in a recent floristic survey of Rabbit Mountain sponsored by the Boulder County Nature Association. There are over two dozen plants at RM that are infrequent-to-rare at the state-wide or county level, but these are spread out over a large landscape and many of them are represented by only one or very few known occurrences. With this in mind, your trip leaders will choose a location with a good combination of botanical interest, geologic interest and scenery. [The plant survey report for Rabbit Mountain can be found at https://bcna.org/grants-for-research/ and www.researchgate.net/publication/357646591 .]

Stephen Hauptli is a Plant Ecologist for Boulder County Parks and Open Space since 2014 and has been a member of CoNPS since 2007.

John Vickery is an ecologist and land management practitioner. Beginning with his tenure with the Native Plant Master Program a dozen years ago, he has conducted a number of botanical survey efforts of protected areas, largely in the northern Colorado Front Range. 

Tall oatgrass in Shanahan Ridge/NCAR – Kelly Uhing

1:30pm to 3:30pm, 10 participants, Easy to Moderate

Learn about the invasive plant tall oatgrass that is currently infesting Open Space and Mountain Parks properties in Shanahan Ridge southwest of Boulder. This area is home to xeric tallgrass prairie that is being outcompeted by this aggressive invader. Meet OSMP staff who are working hard to reduce infestations through integrated management including cattle grazing. Attendees will also look at the recent NCAR burn area and how that has affected tall oatgrass as well as native vegetation. 

Kelly Uhing is the Vegetation Stewardship Program Supervisor for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. She has worked in the field of natural resources, specializing in noxious weed management, for 25 years. 

2021 annual conference participants- Pisawariczphoto: J. Pisawaricz