By L.C. Grady
The Black Forest Slash-Mulch Program is a wildfire mitigation and recycling program located on Herring Road, south of Shoup in Black Forest. After three decades, the program is at risk of closing by the end of the year.
The site, located on state land, must be clear of all the mulch at the end of the season for safety reasons. In previous years, there were two users who hauled off all the remaining mulch, but they are no longer available to do so. Resources are limited since the site is run by a nonprofit, SAMCOM (Slash and Mulch Committee), a 501(c)(3) organization, founded to help residents of Black Forest and area mitigate the forest, their properties and provide them with inexpensive sources of mulch. SAMCOM has three volunteer directors, Jeff DeWitt, Chuck Lidderdale and Carolyn Brown, who is in charge of volunteers.
“Thirty years ago, Ruth Ann Steele wanted to create a program out here for mitigation so that we wouldn’t get fires,” Brown said. “She organized all of us here and arranged everything with the county, Colorado Forest Services and volunteers.” Brown, a Black Forest resident since 1978 and a Black Forest fire survivor, said volunteers run the program. “We have 500 slots to fill,” she said. “For years, up until about five years ago, we didn’t charge anything and only asked for food items for the food pantry. But then we had a scare — too much mulch — and we started to charge $2 a load.” The $2 helped them hire trucks to haul off the mulch. They found someone with a 5,000-acre ranch who needed mulch and always hauled off whatever mulch was left at the end of the season. However, he isn’t able to do that anymore, Brown said. “We tried to give the mulch away to the county, to the school systems; District 20 used to take a lot,” she said. “We are still looking for alternatives, and we will see the next month and a half how things go before we know if the program can continue.”
To help the situation, they stopped accepting bulk dry pine needles as of June 19 and list alternative sites that will take them. Pine needles on trees and raked up with the branches are still taken.
“We really appreciate the community for stepping up so far in their efforts to help us get rid of the mulch and continue the program.” Brown said. “Since people stopped bringing in truckloads of dry pine needles that were deluding our mulch and creating mulch that people didn’t want, our mulch is now a better product, more branches and wood than pine needles. People are happy to take it again. We recently also had an offer from Rocky Top to take 2,000 to 4,000 cubic yards of our mulch this year, since it doesn’t have the pine needles in it.” The volunteers advise visitors to the site to leave at least 4 inches of pine needles on the ground for nutrients for their trees and to keep the moisture in.
The website for the program provides a list of truck operators that can help with mulch delivery. For slash, the site charges $10 for a pickup truck, $20 for larger loads. No stumps, roots, weeds, grass, lumber, trash, etc., are accepted. The maximum length is 6 feet and the maximum diameter is 8 inches. Slash drop off ends on Sunday Sept. 10; mulch pick up ends Sept. 16. A loader is available on site on Saturdays for a $5 fee. “It’s a great alternative to loading yourself,” Brown said. “It takes me about 30 minutes to load my truck otherwise.”
The grinding equipment and its operators are funded in part by a grant from El Paso County, co-sponsored by the El Paso County Environmental Division, Colorado Forestry Association and the Black Forest Fire Department, in cooperation with the Colorado State Forest Service and the State Board of Land Commissioners.
For further information on the program, visit https://bfslash.org.
Photo by L.C. Grady
Slash and mulch: Carolyn Brown, a volunteer director with SAMCOM, is a Black Forest resident and a Black Forest fire survivor. Eric Gehrke is a volunteer with the slash and mulch program.