Greening the Pass

IPF's compost blanket work, which has been ongoing since 2004, is making a difference in greening up the steep slopes below the Top Cut. Federal highways enhancement grants have been used to fund the installation of compost blankets.

Revegetation throughout the Pass corridor continues to play a substantial role in the Independence Pass Foundation's restoration work. Since 2004, IPF has undertaken a series of "compost blanket" projects on the steep and severely eroded hillsides below the one- and one-half mile stretch of the Pass known as the Top Cut. The Top Cut, where IPF has worked since 1996, lies just below the summit on the west side.

The lack of organic nutrients in the soil limited the natural revegetation of the slopes below the road. Begun on an experimental basis in 2004, the compost blankets have proven over the years to make up for this deficiency. Organic compost impregnated with native grass seed is spread over the slopes with a blower. The annual growth/dieback cycle that plants undergo replenishes organic material, helping the grassy areas to become self-sustaining.

In 2013, IPF completed the last of these massive and challenging projects. While the compost blanket process itself is simple, the work is inevitably complicated by the steep slopes, capricious weather and heavy traffic endemic to the summit of the Pass. This year was no different, but the work went forward despite equipment failures, and, thanks to our contractor’s diligence and cooperative weather, was finished on time and on budget.

Federal grants to improve highways, recommended by the Colorado department of Transportation, have been hugely important to IPF's ability to revegetate the once barren hillsides below the Top Cut. IPF has received an additional $52,000 federal highways enhancement grant for more compost blanket treatment.