The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) offers monthly nature programs at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. This location has majestic views of the Front Range and abundant wildlife. But, controversy still surrounds this former site of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory.
Rocky Flats produced nuclear weapons between 1952-1989. Between 1995 and 2007, the US government cleaned up the contaminated site. The Department of Energy (DOE) cordoned off an unsafe area in the center of the property. This government agency continues to oversee that smaller parcel.
Naysayers claim that the remaining acreage will never be safe. The Rocky Flats Stewardship Council and federal, state, and local authorities disagree.
Several years ago, the USFW announced expansion plans for the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the exchange of a 300-foot right of way on the refuge’s eastern border. The expansion included 617 acres of land next to the southwest corner.This acreage is environmentally significant. It is the habitat for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, a threatened species, and the rare xeric tallgrass prairie.
The construction of the controversial toll road hasn’t started. The work on the trails and the building are scheduled to begin before the end of 2016. The new trails will connect to existing trails in Boulder, Broomfield, Arvada, and Jefferson County. Motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the pathways.The refuge website mentions a December 2017 opening date.
Eventually, the Rocky Mountain Greenway will connect the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge with the Rocky Mountain National Park. This massive trail system will run through Two Ponds and Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuges.
For decades, the buffer area surrounding the nuclear plant remained untouched. Migratory and resident species have have flourished. During the tour, David Lucas, USFW project leader, stated that the refuge’s wildlife has not shown any evidence of health abnormalities. Moreover, both the DOE and the USFW state that this property can have “unlimited use and unlimited exposure.”
The USFW has identified hundreds of migratory and resident species that live harmoniously. However, noxious weeds such as the diffuse knapweed, dalmatian toadflax, and Canada thistle remain an ongoing problem. USFW personnel are concerned about the possibility of uncontrolled wildfires.
On an annual basis, the USFW looks at the weed issue. In 2015, the USFW advocated a controlled burn near the southern perimeter. Local resident fears squashed that idea. USFW officials would like to minimize the risk of a devastating disaster. They are recommending a 10-year rotation of planned fires on the prairie.
Future visitors should disregard unsubstantiated facts and irrational fears. The refuge will be a wonderful place to embrace the natural beauty of the region.
Before You Go:
Call ahead (303-289-0930) to find out the status of the refuge. If the park has not yet opened you may need to make a tour reservation. Don’t forget to bring your sunglasses, a water bottle, and a camera.
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THE ABOVE ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 21, 2015. IT IS BEING REPOSTED ON THIS SITE BECAUSE THE EXAMINER SITE SHUT DOWN IN JULY, 2016. SOME PARTS OF THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HAVE BEEN UPDATED.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.