2007 Volunteer ProjectMaking a difference one plant at a time

Jennie Adair Wetlands

The Jennie Adair wetlands are located next to Puppy Smith Street, near the start of the Rio Grande Trail, and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. This small park overlaps ACES’ Hallam Lake property and protects a place of historical value (the Jennie Adair sawmill site). The park was recently renovated by the City of Aspen into a wetland ecosystem in order to protect the Roaring Fork River from storm-sewer runoff contamination.

After careful design and planning to match this manmade wetland with natural local wetlands, the majority of renovation occurred in 2007. This included a full day of volunteer help (orchestrated by the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers) to plant thousands of native wetland plants.

These wetlands act as a sponge, absorbing runoff and filtering sewer water before it enters the Roaring Fork River. Large underground vaults capture storm water brought there by the sewer systems, slow the movement of the water, and capture debris and trash. Once the water exits the vaults it enters small ponds inhabited by wetland plants. These plants slow the movement of water even further, allowing silt to settle out, and some plants even absorb heavy metals and pollutants, preventing them from entering the river.

Excellent water quality is imperative, as the Roaring Fork is valuable habitat, an important fishery, a popular recreation area, and a crucial source of water for irrigation. More than 90% of the animals in Colorado make use of riparian areas, so this wetland is also very valuable habitat.

Visit this easily accessible park to see local wetland species such as swallows, warblers, dragonflies, damselflies, Lewis monkeyflower, Rocky Mountain iris, small-winged sedge, American three-square bulrush, narrowleaf cottonwood, thin-leaf alder, bog birch, and Redosier dogwood.

History buffs will also love this park, which still has many of the large components of Jennie’s sawmill in place. A small trail system allows visitors to get close to both of these historical items — and the wetland ecosystem.