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Natural fence designed to keep snow from blowing onto highway

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By Sandy Barnes

Shovels in hand, Tony Auciello and other Jefferson County Open Space staff were planting evergreen saplings and seedlings in the expansive meadow bordering Highway 74 in Evergreen last Thursday.

Dodging rain and sleet showers, they worked steadily in the gray morning chill to complete the project designed to help motorists driving in winter conditions.

When they mature in a few years, the trees will provide a living fence to protect Evergreen Parkway from snow and ice that strong winter winds deposit on the road.

“It’s been an issue ever since they built the road,” said Auciello, who was supervising the project.

Jeffco Open Space officials considered placing a traditional snow fence in Elk Meadow but opted for a natural barrier, he said. 

However, after conferring with Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance staff, Open Space decided to implement the 480-foot living snow fence. The project cost is approximately $4,200.

A plastic or wooden fence would look out of place in the meadow, Auciello remarked.

To create the natural barrier, 100 Rocky Mountain juniper and 200 Ponderosa seedlings are being planted, along with wax currant bushes and pine saplings. The snow fence will allow drifting snow to accumulate in a safe, desired location rather than accumulating on the highway. 

The trees and shrubs are being installed in 10 engineered clusters designed to prevent the prevailing northwest winds from pushing snow onto Evergreen Parkway.

“We got all the seedlings through the 4-H Club of the Colorado State University Extension,” said Auciello. “They’ll do well out here.”

A challenge of watering the new plantings for the next two to three years has been addressed by a plan to install a remote irrigation system, said Auciello.

A pair of 350-gallon tanks will be installed on site and placed on timbers to reduce visual impact. The irrigation system will run twice a week for 45 minutes using a 20-watt solar panel to generate power. Every two weeks trucks will haul water from a nearby storage facility to refill the tanks.

“The trees will get consistent watering,” said Auciello. 

Once the trees and bushes are mature, they will no longer require watering, he said.

“After that, the whole irrigation system can be removed and used somewhere else,” said Auciello.

The living snow fence is expected to look identical to other trees in the area within 10 years.

 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042