In 1998, the Russian olive trees growing along Millcreek were so thick that the city had to cut a tunnel through the invasive plants, Kara Dohrenwend, founder of nonprofit organization Rim to Rim Restoration, said in a presentation to the Moab City Council during its March 11 meeting.
For the last 15 years, Rim to Rim Restoration has been working to remove invasive plants and replace them with native plants and trees. Much of the group’s time is spent working along Mill Creek and Pack Creek, she said.
In 2004, Dohrenwend said, the group removed a larger patch of the trees from land adjacent to the high school where the Youth Garden Project is now based. A National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant helped fund the work, she said.
However, those efforts have not always been welcomed by local residents, she said. In 2007, a property owner removed a large number of Russian olives from his land located along 100 West, an action that drew complaints from some residents.
“Initially it raised a lot of hackles,” she said. “Today it’s a well-used path through town.”
Dohrenwend said Rim to Rim receives annual funding for its work, and over the past 15 years, it has coordinated efforts with approximately 30 to 45 property owners along the creeks.
“Each year we work on clearing patches of Russian olive,” she said, adding that the group often cannot keep up with how quickly those non-native plants regenerate. Rim to Rim revegetates the cleared areas as quickly as possible with native plants and trees in an effort to speed up the process of restoring the area, she said.
Dohrenwend said one of the group’s main goals is to maintain the health of the habitat around the creeks.
“The creeks are the only wildlife corridor through town,” she said.
Rim to Rim’s efforts offer several other benefits, including a decrease in fuels for wildfires, better lines of sight for people using pathways and improved safety, Dohrenwend said.
“It’s also improved pollinator habitat because there are more seasons of flowering plants,” she said.
This year, the group expects to plant approximately 2,100 native plants on properties owned by Moab city, Grand County School District and private individuals in order to help speed the revegetation process in areas that have been cleared of invasive species.
“Hopefully what we’ve been doing the last years is helpful,” Dohrenwend said.
Moab City Community Development Director David Olsen praised Rim to Rim’s efforts and said he hopes to see them continue.
“We’ve been at this for a lot of years,” Olsen said. “Really great things have been happening.”
Dohrenwend said Rim to Rim hopes to help on an ongoing basis as much as possible, but the group’s funds are limited.
“We’re doing what we can,” she said. “We can’t always promise help because our funding isn’t a bottomless pit.”
ByBy Laura Haley