In the summer of 2012, the Hewlett Gulch and High Park fires burned 95,172 acres of the C ache La Poudre Watershed. At the time, the High Park Fire was Larimer County’s most destructive wildfire. In addition to the loss of homes and trees, the charred watershed also saw enormous increases in runoff, flooding, sediment erosion, and debris flows. With every rain after the fires, sediment and ash flowed into the Poudre River, affecting not just the aesthetics of the river but its ecology and its ability to reliably deliver clean drinking water. The increased runoff also led to road closures as roads flooded during each rain event, compromising the safety of our roadways.
The High Park Fire was a call to action for many organizations in Larimer County. Shortly after the fires were contained, a group of natural resource agencies, non-profits, representatives from the cities of Greeley, Fort Collins, and Larimer County, local businesses, and individuals, gathered to discuss how they could work together to rehabilitate the lands affected by the burn. Initially formed as an informal network known as the High Park Restoration Coalition, the group was successful at identifying the top priorities for restoration efforts, finding funding to implement the plans, and training volunteers to help with implementation.
Based on the success of these early efforts, in May 2013, we evolved into a formal non-profit coalition – the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed - with the goal of providing leadership and coordination for the stewardship of the Cache La Poudre River Watershed.