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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Faces of Black Forest
  Horses give biofeedback on humans
  By Bill Radford

   Susanne A. Hays is a licensed marriage and family therapist whose office rooms are in an unusual place: her barn. The arrangement puts her and her clients close to her horses, which provide a key therapeutic tool.
   Among the therapies Hays offers is Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, or EFP, which involves interaction with horses. The idea, as explained on the website of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, is that the horse acts as a giant biofeedback machine, “providing the client and the therapist with information regarding the client's moods and changes within those moods.”
   "The horse allows us to form healthy relationships," Hays said. "This can be particularly helpful in healing from early attachment wounds and trauma." Studies have shown that the horse initially reacts to and mirrors the human's inner state, but eventually the human tunes into the horse's emotional state.
   "As people, what we often do so well is we are pretending or have a mask on," Hays said. "The horses are really great at helping us see what we actually feel inside."
   While horses are large animals, they're also prey animals and rely on the herd, she said, "so for them, the first thing that is essential in a relationship is that the relationship is safe." People often put their goals over our relationships, “and that's when we become unsafe,” she said.
   The equine activities vary, Hays said. "It could be touch, it could be grooming, it could be leading. It really depends on what the person needs." EFP can be done with one client, couples, families or groups.
   EFP is not the same as therapeutic riding, but Hays is also a certified therapeutic riding instructor. Volunteering at a therapeutic riding center started her on the path to becoming a therapist. "We were working with children and adults there with physical and developmental disabilities," she said. One of those was a young man on the autism spectrum, and Hays was struck by the rapid progress he made, speaking his first words after just two rides. "It was quite remarkable," she recalled.
   Hays, who grew up with horses, is from Germany, where she met her husband, now retired from the U.S. Air Force. They moved to the United States in 1992 and have lived in Black Forest since 2005.
   EFP, she said, is "extremely effective, especially when healing from little or big trauma." But it's just one therapy she offers. Hays is among just a few Somatic Experiencing Practitioners, and has completed a three-year trauma treatment training. SE looks at the whole person, and the practitioner learns to track their own and the client's central nervous system.
   What happens in trauma is that our sympathetic (arousal) and parasympathetic (calm down or freeze) nervous system is offset, Hays said. "It's like operating a car and pressing the brakes and gas pedal at the same time." When traumatized, the client often has incomplete fight or flight responses,"which need to be completed and discharged."
   Through the SE lens, Hays also offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), art therapy and sand play/tray therapy, among others. "Sand is great for sensory integration and lends itself to covering, uncovering, externalizing and gaining a sense of control over a situation that was out of control," according to Hays' website.
   As an example of sand-play therapy, she points to a child who might have worries after being in a car accident, and is “hyper-vigilant." That child might crash toy cars together or bury them in the sand. "Then some superhero comes to the rescue and helps them out. This is one way that an incomplete flight or fight response can be completed — the child is able to do the rescuing, and the people in the car are no longer stuck and fearful, but escaped and are now safe. We are basically aiming at reprocessing the event to put it in the past."
   The property itself provides a calming and therapeutic environment, with the wind whispering among the trees, hawks flying overhead and occasionally a deer drinking at the waterfall.
   "I love it here, especially now that everything is kind of growing back and coming back, and the houses are rebuilt after the fire,” Hays said. The barn housing her office is new; the old one was destroyed in the 2013 Black Forest fire, which also melted a cover over the round pen. But the house was spared. "My flowers in the window boxes were still blooming," Hays said.
   To learn more about her practice, visit
Horses are a therapeutic tool in Susanne A. Hayes' practice in Black Forest.
Therapist Susanne A. Hayes uses a visual aid to explain a psychological concept. Photos by Bill Radford.
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  Black Forest fire five-year commemoration
  By Leslie Sheley

   The community of Black Forest commemorated the fire of 2013 with fellowship, music and food — laughter and camaraderie.
   The June 11 commemoration picnic was held at Black Forest Regional Park the exact day the fire started five years ago. The fire took two lives, destroyed 489 homes and burned more than 14,280 acres.
   Jon Karroll from KRDO News Channel 13 served as the master of ceremonies. Rev. Andrzej Szczesnowicz from Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church gave the invocation. Boy Scout Troop 70 retired the colors.
   Speakers included Darryl Glenn, county commissioner; Terry Stokka from Black Forest Together; Chief Bryan Jack from the Black Forest Fire Department and Leif Garrison from the Black Forest Community Club. The U.S. Air Force pop music band, Blue Steel, played during the festivities and senior airman Danielle Diaz sang the anthem for the opening ceremony.
   The Black Forest Fire Department Company C brought some of their vehicles to the commemoration. Several booths were set up, including the Community Emergency Response Team, which provides backup as needed and is often the first responders on the scene. CERT also provides free classes on general preparedness and how to be helpful to first responders — and more. The Colorado Springs Fire Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, The El Paso-Teller County 911 Mobile Classroom, the El Paso Wildland Crew and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak region were present to share information with the crowd.
   There were also several food trucks available; among them, Bison brothers, Bite Me and Rizuto’s ice cream — the latter offered a special flavor for the picnic called Black Forest, a combination of chocolate and cherry ice cream with walnuts.
   A good turnout of people commemorated the five-year anniversary of the fire.
Alphie Hutmacher, volunteer, and Nancy Trosper, planning coordinator for Black Forest Together, promoted their Trees 4 Tomorrow program at the Black Forest five-year fire commemoration picnic. Photos by Leslie Sheley
Black Forest Fire Department, Company C, brought some of their vehicles to the commemoration picnic.
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  Black Forest fire department: a few changes
  By Leslie Sheley

   Bryan Jack, the fire chief of the Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District, said the biggest change since the Black Forest fire of 2013 is that support among agencies has strengthened.
   “Historically, we could expect to be able to utilize 10 resources,” Jack said. “With the Hanover, Colorado, fire; 60 resources were available from the county. There is a mutual aid cooperation that has been going on since the 2013 fire. We are part of the North Group, which is a cooperative, automatic response group between seven agencies. We all get the call at the same time, and we all respond at the same time.” 
   Another change since the 2013 fire has been the partnership with Black Forest Together to update the original wildfire protection plan, completed in 2007. A new plan, the Black Forest Community Wildfire Protection Plan, involved community input and was implemented in August 2017.
   Jack said they are also proactive when it comes to finances for the district. “We know our funding comes primarily through property taxes we levy, and we have worked hard to pay off our debts five years early to save the taxpayers money,” he said.
   Impact fees would also help fund the district, Jack said. Since 2015, Colorado House Bill 1088 allowed entities to collect impact fees; however, Jack said impact fees are not yet on the table in El Paso County.
   “There are three things a fire department needs to run efficiently: facilities, people and equipment,” Jack said. “We are pretty lucky because our facilities and equipment are fairly new and in good shape.” Black Forest has two fire stations, with four full-time firefighters and one part-time firefighter on active duty every day. Jack said they are planning to add a sixth firefighter through a grant process. During high-fire danger days, they have a recall and two additional staff members available to patrol. About 20 fully certified and qualified volunteer firefighters are on board as well.
   The department offers other services to the community. On June 18, the fire department held a Black Forest/Falcon Neighborhood Wildfire Workshop. On July 14, the department will host its annual open house at Station 1, with live vehicle extrication demonstrations, medical helicopters and refreshments donated by UC Health and Penrose-St Francis. The event starts at 10 a.m. at 11445 Teachout Road.
   Jack said it is important to remind the community to “continue to mitigate; start if you haven’t started; keep going if you already started.”
   For more information, visit
The statue and plaque is a tribute to wildland firefighters; it stands outside Black Forest Fire Station 1. Photo by Leslie Sheley
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  Recover, rebuild, restore — reforest
  By Leslie Sheley

   Edward and Nancy Bracken were among the founding members of Black Forest Together, organized in August 2013 in response to the Black Forest fire. The group began as a triaging effort to get resources to the people who lost their homes in the fire. According to the 2017 annual report, “Black Forest Together is the only organization in El Paso County still providing forest recovery and restoration assistance on private land to the Black Forest community.”
   Once the smoke cleared (from the fire of 2013), the group worked with Red Cross to get a chipper, truck, trailer and tools to start recovery efforts. Nancy Trosper, the planning coordinator for Black Forest Together, referred to the effort as the “black stick cleanup.”
   They also applied for nonprofit status in 2013, and received a 501(c)(3) charitable organization designation.
   Ken Clark, a forester, said the group now has 47,000 volunteer hours since 2013, which comes to about $1,086,000 in donated time by volunteers. We charge approximately $25 per volunteer hour as a way to show how much labor is offered in services to the community.”
   Clark said Black Forest Together has focused on three major areas.
  • Recovery and cleanup/chipping and erosion control
  • Mitigating trees as a preventative means; they have applied and received grants from the Department of Natural Resources and work with the local fire department to show homeowners where to cut down trees.
  • Trees 4 tomorrow, which is about reforesting and reclaiming what was lost. Clark said, “It’s a way of bringing the forest back to the homeowners.”

   “Part of the reason the fire spread was because of overpopulation of trees, Clark said. “Mitigating the forest helps promote healthier trees and reduces fire risk. Overpopulation of trees was the problem; accelerating the process of transplanting trees that are partially grown is the solution.”
   The idea came from the vice president of Black Forest Together, Bill Mantia, who worked with a local contractor. They called it the Tree Door Program; and, in the last four years, 647 trees were donated by homeowners doing mitigation on their properties, Clark said. Instead of cutting the trees down, the homeowner would donate the trees and then the trees would be transplanted to the burn area. The trees on the Black Forest Community Club property were all transplanted from this program. Black Forest Together decided in 2018 to build up the program and call it Trees 4 Tomorrow — in the past three weeks, they have moved 200 trees.
   According to Black Forest Together, the Trees 4 Tomorrow program “Is an innovative, green approach, transplanting healthy trees from unmitigated properties to burn scar properties needing reforestation. It is a cost-effective way to expedite reforestation due to the slow growth of Ponderosa Pines. The net result is a transplanted tree already acclimated to the Black Forest climate at only 40 to 50 percent of what a conventionally purchased tree would cost.”
   La Foret Conference & Retreat works with Black Forest Together to donate trees. “We look at heavily populated areas that need mitigating, go in and take those trees out and replant in burn areas,” Clark said. This is the first private reforestation project. They dig up, move and transplant 10 trees at a time, he said. “We look for forest grade trees; these are smaller trees generally found in overpopulated areas, about 4 to 11 feet tall,” Clark said. Although they are thinner, he said they “flourish” once transplanted. They also look for premium trees, like Ponderosa Pines or Spruce, often found in meadows.
   “The goal is to transplant 1,000 trees each year,” Clark said.
   “Trees improve air quality and help with erosion, they protect the watersheds and improve the morale of the community, they restore wildlife and bird habitats that were destroyed during the fire,” Trosper said.
   “We solicit money from corporations, local businesses and single donors to subsidize for people who need the trees but can’t afford them,” Trosper said. “But we always need more financing to help reforest the land. We do a lot of projects for the elderly and those on a fixed income. The goal is to move at least 100 trees (10 trees per lot) pro bono for lower-income households within the burn scar.” Fire victims are eligible for a one-time truckload of 10 assorted sized Ponderosa Pine trees for $850.
   Trosper said the community has been supportive. Black Forest Together has done a lot of community outreach projects, reaching out to the youth in particular. “We work with schools and have done a lot with Districts 11 and 20; we do projects with them and field trips, where we teach about mitigation and fire recovery. We are growing this program because children are the stewards of the forest.” Students often get involved with seedling planting, which is part of the recovery program, too. Challenger Middle School has volunteered every year, and has helped plant 60 seedlings. Another volunteer group helped plant 50 seedlings in the last few weeks. They did 50 seedlings recently with a different volunteer group.
   AC Golden Brewing Co., which makes Colorado Native Beer, provides a promotional package offering free seedlings to the community. This is the second year they have donated seedlings for us,” Trosper said.
   Although businesses, missionary groups and the military have also volunteered, Trosper said they still need more volunteers. “We need local people to be regular team leads and chipper operators in particular,” she said. “We provide training for both positions. We ask that volunteer groups or individuals commit to a three-project minimum.”
   Volunteer groups consist of a team leader and a chipper operator. Any group or individual interested in helping out, can contact Black Forest Together at 719-495-2445 or visit
Trees 4 Tomorrow transplanted this tree in Black Forest. Photo by Leslie Sheley
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  AARP Black Forest - Shredding event 2018
  Submitted by Stanley Beckner

   The Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100 conducted its annual free shredding event in Black Forest June 2 with sponsorship from ElderWatch Colorado. The result of this community service activity was spectacular as usual. A total of 336 individuals from 23 postal ZIPs brought personal documents to be shredded at the Black Forest Lutheran Church in Black Forest. As a result, about 17,400 pounds of paper was removed from the realm of possible use at the hands of scammers or those engaged in ID theft.
   Those who participated donated 636 pounds of non-perishable food for Black Forest Cares, a local food bank, plus several hundred dollars in cash for local charities.
   Twenty-six members of the Black Forest Chapter 1100 and 24 volunteers from the community provided the hard work that made the day a success.  The volunteers shared several pizzas at the end of the three-hour shredding session before cleaning up the area and going home.
   Anyone who would like to join this AARP Black Forest is welcome to visit a chapter meeting or event. There is no age requirement for chapter membership. Annual dues are $10 per person. Call Ray at 719-495-6787 or Stan at 719-596-6787 for details or visit the website at
   Black Forest Chapter 1100 of AARP has been designated the Best Chapter for Community Service in Colorado for the past nine years.
AARP Chapter 1100 volunteers and workers pose for a group photo in front of one of the shredding trucks.
Volunteers enjoy a pizza feast at the end of the day of community service at the 2018 free shredding event in Black Forest.
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  No fee senior social

   A monthly informal occasion for seniors is the no fee event. They meet in the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road in Black Forest.
   Seniors are welcome at the Black Forest AARP and Black Forest Lutheran Church monthly informal gathering, held at the Black Forest Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall at 12455 Black Forest Road. The social is from 1 to 4 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of each month, and all are invited to socialize, play games, work on hobbies or to simply sit and talk about “whatever.” Light refreshments are available. For more information, contact Lavonne at 719-494-1276.
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  Black Forest Women’s Club

   The Black Forest Women’s Club is taking a break for the summer, and will resume in September. Call 719-495-3846 for more information.   
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