Logging operation at Silt Island Park destroys habitat

November 8, 2018

Colorado, Garfield County, Silt

Live tree felled at Island Park, October 29, 2018 [Photo by Ann Ramsey]

Silt Island Park — aka Dogland — aka River Park — is a 30-acre park located on an island in the Colorado River. It is one of Silt’s most used public parks because it is an off leash dog park and provides a public boat landing for rafters and fishermen.

About a month ago during a windstorm, a large cottonwood fell across one of the picnic tables near the parking lot. My husband Tod and I, and our 3 dogs, were the only ones in the park when it fell.

During the week of October 15, we noticed a couple guys with chain saws cleaning up the fallen tree. We left town for 9 days. When we returned to the park on October 29, we were shocked to find those same two guys in the middle of a firewood logging operation.

At least a dozen live and dead trees had been felled. Logs, branches, sawdust, and debris scattered everywhere, blocking four trails. Logs, branches and debris littered the Rising Sun Ditch that runs through the middle of the island.

The public was never notified about this project. There was no request for public comment. There’s no evidence that Mayor Richel and Trustees are even aware of this project.

According to Ann Ramsey, one of the logger guys told her that he’s from Vermont and the town of Silt had given him permission harvest the dead and diseased trees for firewood.

On Friday (Nov 2) Tod Tibbetts spoke with Trey Fonner, public works director. Fonner echoed what the logger guys told Ann.

While it’s perfectly okay to clear the dead and diseased trees that could pose a public hazard during a wind storm that’s not what’s going on. As you can see from the photo above, they felled a live tree by the picnic shelter.

But they left this standing dead tree along the main entrance trail because it’s not good firewood, though it’s a perfect example of a potential hazard.

The next three photos show blocked trail sections.

After the photo above was taken, Tod and I cleared the branches from the trail because it’s one of the main trails to the interior. The other two trail sections remain blocked.

This is exactly why we can’t have nice things in Silt. Along the river bank they left this mess.

Tod Tibbetts is not just a park user. In a past life he worked as a logger and has worked in the lumber industry for 40 years. This is his statement:

There has been no additional tree-cutting activity this week. It appears that the easily accessible trees were dropped, the trunks were harvested for firewood and the limbs were left. This was not a professional thinning of the forest or a project to remove safety risks. It was a free firewood grab by someone with a chainsaw and a pickup truck and now the town and the park users are left to clean up the mess.

But the worst part of this fiasco is that critical bird habitat was destroyed. One large, dead cottonwood was the roosting place for raptors, herons, kingfishers, owls, and other birds. The tree was south of the Rising Sun Ditch and leaning toward the river. It had dropped all its small limbs and bark so it was not a safety threat. It was callously destroyed for a couple loads of firewood.

No more heron perch. No more ducks in the pond. The eagles, herons, and hawks have quickly moved downstream. Since the logging operation started the park is silent. No birds fly over as we walk the trails. No herons fish in the river. No eagles soar overhead

And now who will clean up the mess?

This logging operation must be stopped immediately and if there are plans to continue, there must be a public hearing. Island Park does not belong to the Silt Public Works Director. Island Park is a public park.

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5 Comments on “Logging operation at Silt Island Park destroys habitat”

  1. Les Kuhn Says:

    I was taught to clean up my messes. The logger needs to return to finish the job.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    He got what he wants. Free firewood.

    And since the town isn’t paying him he’s not going to waste HIS time cleaning up the mess. That’s Silt’s problem now. But public works won’t clean it up because they never clean up the messes they make down there. And if by some miracle and because the Tibbetts’ are raising hell they actually do clean it up that just means we the taxpayers are paying to clean it up and we never approved this stupidity in the first place and we never would have.

    The people who work for the Town of Silt have a hard time grasping that their salary is provided by the taxpayers of Silt. Whether it comes from sales taxes or property taxes they work for the people. Not a corporation. Silt public property is not theirs to do with whatever they want.

    They act like they’re working for O&G

  3. Claudia Plattner Says:

    I am outraged! I help start the river park when I was on the board. It was always a great place for birds and wildlife. These guys should be made to at least clean up their mess send be fined,!

  4. Jeff Layman Says:

    Thanks to Silt Trustee Kyle Knott for sharing the contents of this blog post with the Silt Town staff. It allowed us to more quickly inspect and start to correct the unsatisfactory work done at Silt Island Park.

    Your Town staff could not agree more with the comment at last night’s Board of Trustee’s meeting that the Park had not been treated with respect. We aim to remediate this situation as quickly as possible.

    To recap:

    • There were several slash piles, deadfall and standing dead trees in the park.
    • We were concerned that this situation may be a threat to public health.
    • We contracted with a local (Rifle) firewood contractor to clean up these conditions. Our Public Works staff set out a scope of work to be performed and identified the standing dead trees to be removed.
    • In the interest of saving the Town money, our agreement with the contractor was that he could take the refuse for use as firewood and we wouldn’t pay him for his efforts. He was to “chip” the refuse he couldn’t use and leave it for us to use on trails as mulch.
    • The contractor left some of the refuse in piles, on trails and cut trees that were supposed to be left as is. We understood that he was planning to return last week to finish the job. He did not do so.
    • After a conversation between the contractor and our Public Works team on Monday, the agreement was cancelled and the contractor was told to remove his equipment and that he was no longer authorized to do any work there.
    • Our PW staff has assessed the park and is planning the clean-up. Again, our goal is to remediate these conditions as soon as possible. We anticipate filing a claim against the contractor’s insurance to pay for the cost of clean-up.
    • This incident reminds us that our parks are highly valued by our townsfolk. In the future, we will do a better job of communicating our intentions and managing for results.

    Thanks again to all of those who helped bring this situation to our attention. The Town of Silt Board of Trustees and staff stand ready to address any conditions that interfere with the quality of life to which we all aspire! Please contact Town Administrator Jeff Layman at 970-876-2353, ext 103 with questions or concerns.

    In the meantime, please join me in thanking our Silt Public Works crew for their work in building the new curb, gutter and sidewalk on 7th Street across from the library, the asphalt overlays on 3rd and 4th Streets, the numerous water and sewer line repairs performed over the last couple weeks, completing the renovation of the bulk water station and their efforts in setting up and tearing down our special events (Punkin’ Chuckin’ and the Chili Cookoff)!

  5. David Moore Says:

    Good job. Peggy

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