What is up with the Mulch Piles near Phil’s Trailhead?

What’s up with the Mulch Piles around Phil’s Trailhead?

Beginning Wednesday, April 15, 2020, the Deschutes National Forest will temporarily close the gate on Forest Road 4604 near the Phil’s Trailhead in Bend, Oregon to accomplish restoration work in two decommissioned gravel pits near the road.

Since 2014, the 5-acre Skyliner 1 pit directly south of the trailhead and next to Marvin Garden’s Trail, and the 20-acre Cascade Pit have been fenced off due to extensive resource damage and invasive weed infestation. The fence was installed to keep the area from further disturbance as well as to protect the 10,000 cubic yards of mulch produced during forest restoration activity, which will now be used to rehabilitate the area.

This phase of the project is anticipated to be completed by the end of the week and the gate should be reopened on April 17.

Restoring a forest ecosystem involves repairing STRUCTURE and FUNCTION. In the West Bend project, forest restoration involves reducing fuels and creating space for trees to grow large and resilient through thinning (an example of restoring structure), and bringing low-intensity fire back through prescribed burning (an example of restoring function).

Q: Where did the mulch come from?

A: This is residual material from the West Bend Project. The Forest Service used approximately a dozen landing piles, consisting of the tops of limbs from processing logs and small-diameter non-merchantable trees to create this mulch.

Q: What will the mulch be used for?

A: The mulch will be used for a variety of restoration projects around the forest—road decommissioning, revegetation, recreation site rehabilitation, and streambank stabilization.

Skyliner 1 and Cascade were formerly gravel pits within the Skyliner pits complex south of Phil’s Trailhead. Before being fenced off in 2014, Cascade pit had a long history of invasive plant treatments and off-road vehicle use. The fence was installed to keep the area from further disturbance as well as to protect the 10,000 cubic yards of mulch being used in the project. Future plans will include continued invasive plant treatments as well as seeding and planting native plants.

Q: Why do we need mulch for these projects?

A: Central Oregon soils are young, poorly developed, and inherently low in organic matter. Organic matter is essential for nutrient cycling, moisture retention, infiltration capacity, protection against erosion and other damage, and microbiotic habitat. Soil areas that have been substantially impacted and are identified for restoration are generally deficient in organic matter and surface cover. The mulch will be used as an important soil amendment to improve soil conditions for both above-ground vegetative growth and below-ground ecosystem function in these degraded areas.

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(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project