Red Rocks Park Preservation Planned

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Thursday September 26, 2013

If you live in South Burlington, or even in the surrounding area, you know Red Rocks Park is a prime location for running, walking, or enjoying a sunset picnic. According to a report presented by the Red Rocks Park Committee at the September 16 City Council meeting, use of the park is at an all time high. While this is good news from the perspective of people getting out and appreciating nature, it also presents a number of challenges. 

Last spring, a UVM Red Rocks management study was prepared and presented by UVM Graduate student in the Field Naturalist Program, Sophie Mazowita. Her report provided an overview of the park , which contains 100 acres of urban forest and was purchased by the City in 1970. The park contains 3.3 miles of walking trails and access roads with an additional 4.3 miles of unofficial side trails. Red Rocks is home to a diversity of wildflowers and wetland areas that provide habitat for breeding frogs and salamanders. Mazowita’s report also shed light on the importance of park management and keeping tabs on invasive species. 

At the meeting on the 16th, Red Rocks Park Committee Chair Yiota Ahladas explained to the Council that without a clear plan on how to manage the park moving forward, the challenges could increase. Some of her key concerns include erosion, illegal camping and fires, broken glass, littering, and drinking. Parking is also an issue, due to lack of enforcement. 

Ms. Ahladas explained that the recent transition of park oversight from Recreation and Parks to the Department of Public Works has accentuated the importance of a Master Plan to help define management practices. The Plan would assist in prioritizing and addressing the challenges currently facing the park. In order to create the Red Rocks Master Plan, Ahladas proposed hiring a coordinator to oversee writing the plan and to facilitate meetings of the subcommittee. The subcommittee would consist of 8 members, a combination of 1 representative from the Red Rocks Park Committee, 3-4 local natural resource experts, 2-3 people with experience in park governance, planning, and infrastructure, and 1 person with an interest and expertise in enhancing park recreational opportunities. The Committee requested $2,900 to pay the coordinator, Sophie Mazowita, for her part time work over the next 8 months. 
The subcommittee formation and funding from the Open Space Fund was unanimously approved by the Council. 

The committee plans to advertise, recruit, and select subcommittee members in September, hold their first meeting in October, and continue with meetings and drafting the plan during the winter and early spring, with the goal of having a final park Master Plan submitted to the City Council in April 2014 for approval and implementation.

Ms. Ahladas believes that this will be a prime opportunity to prevent further decline and restore the park to “a place of beauty and balance.” “We are the stewards of this precious natural resource, “Ahladas said, “If we don’t become more active, we’re going to lose it.”

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent