Soapstone Prairie Natural Area
R. Gary Raham
Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space celebrate their first decade of existence on July 13 this year. Everyone is invited to share in the festivities! A ceremony kicks things off at 10 a.m. at Soapstone’s south parking lot picnic shelter. Contents of the 2009 time capsule will be on display. More importantly, expert volunteers who know the area closely will be stationed at various locations to share their knowledge. This reporter will be one of them, recounting events of the Smithsonian expedition to the area in the 1930s that unearthed thousands of human artifacts from the end of the last ice age.
The south parking lot will feature the prairie dog colonies that have helped preserve this little slice of prairie for thousands of years. Visitors can also meet representatives from the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation herd and the Folsom grazing Association, partners in conserving this land. See also the remains of the Guy Homestead and reimagine the pioneers who helped Northern Colorado grow.
At the north parking lot learn about the endangered black-footed ferret, now returned to one of its ancestral homes. I and other volunteers will be at the overlook at the end of a short paved trail to talk of wildflowers, geology, and Folsom-age PaleoIndians that once called this area home. Enjoy child-friendly activities at both parking lots.
The City of Fort Collins manages Soapstone, while Larimer County tends to Red Mountain Open Space. Both appreciate the money from the quarter-cent sales tax revenues that help make preserving these areas possible. Larimer County residents can be proud that tax dollars are helping to preserve a wildlife sanctuary and corridor from the plains to the foothills that also serves as a great place to recreate for the whole family.
Events are free at both Soapstone and Red Mountain. Registration is not required, but if you do register at fcgov.com/register, you will receive updates and a reminder about the event. The City does provide free van transportation at Soapstone, but users must register at the same site. Carpool, if you can, as parking is limited. Bring plenty of water. If you plan to hike any of the trails, wear closed-toed, sturdy shoes. It takes about an hour to drive from Fort Collins to Soapstone. Please observe the speed limits. Take the time to ease into a unique time and place. Observe the birds, bison, and pronghorn along the way.
For more information regarding Soapstone activities contact AJ Chlebnik, Public Engagement Specialist with the Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, at 970-224-6118 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For Red Mountain, contact Angela Borland, Education and Volunteer Supervisor with the Larimer County Natural Resources Department at 9780-619-4489 or email@example.com.