Cleanup reveals serene nature park

Ospreys build nests, herons thrive in rookery at Clifton's hidden gem

Caleb Coffey, right, of Grand Junction tosses a cut tamarisk branch onto the pile on a tarp to be hauled away as Teresa Nees, left, sprays the exposed cuts. John Von Flue heads back to pick up more brush during a clean up at the Clifton Nature Park south of D Road and east of the Clifton Sanitation District facility Sunday. A couple dozen volunteers of all ages spent Sunday morning clearing the park’s landscape of brush, weeds, trash and debris.



With every cleanup, the area’s beauty pushes through a little bit more.

Piles of trash that were hauled out during the last work day haven’t returned. Removing some of the invasive weeds and stubborn tamarisk allow more people to access the water’s edge, a lake with dragonflies bounding along where people like to fish.

The birds apparently got the message, too. Two ospreys made homes in nests on tall power poles, a Great Blue heron rookery is across the water and a barn owl sleeps nearby.

For years, the idea of the Clifton Nature Park was kind of a mystery to some people, said Teresa Nees, coordinator for Mesa County’s noxious weed and pest management program.

On Sunday, a couple dozen people volunteered to continue a tradition repeated every several months to polish a gem of a public space near the Colorado River along D Road between 32¼ and 32½ roads.

“I just thought this place had a lot potential,” Nees said. “Every time I come down here, there are people fishing. Every time I come down here, there are people walking their dogs.”

At Sunday’s cleanup, the volunteers snipped weeds, gathered trash or used chain saws to chew through woody tamarisk.

Brooke, who works at Target and used the opportunity to volunteer, brought her 6-year-old son, Landon. He helped place weeds on a tarp that workers pulled away.

“This gets him out of the house, in nature and not on his tablet,” said Brooke, who did not want to share her last name.

Brooke said she hadn’t been to the area before, but she was surprised by its serenity.

John Von Flue, a volunteer and member of the nonprofit conservation group Ducks Unlimited, said he wanted to help out Sunday to give back and create better habitat for wildlife.

“If you would have seen this a year ago, there was trash everywhere,” he said.

Von Flue said since the area has received attention, wildlife watchers report seeing more birds in the area.

As volunteers worked Sunday, an osprey call pierced the air. The mature bird flew overhead, bringing a fish to its calling chicks.

“Just something like this for people to see,” Von Flue said taking a moment to watch the sight.

Volunteers have tackled the area three times this year, cleaning up and clearing invasive brush to allow native species and animals to return.

Tamarisk was completely removed from the area about 10 years ago, but the trees have returned, although not as thick.

The next cleanup is slated for Sept. 29.

Nees said businesses are encouraged to sponsor future cleanups. Sunday’s event was sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, Toxic Calls, Healthy Mesa County blog and Colorado 4 Healthy Landscapes.

“I want to do community nature walks. I want the community to feel safe when they come down here,” Nees said. “The more people that take care of it, the less likely it will be a place for unsavory activities.”

For information and to get involved in future efforts, email Nees at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 970-255-7121.


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