Phytoremediation. It’s a newly acquired word in my vocabulary, and it’s also why the south loop of the GreenBelt will be closed most of next week. 

The tree loop, the 1.5-mile section directly south of Interstate 80, will be closed for phytoremediation studies, the City of Laramie said.  Heavy equipment will be operating around that section of the trail, collecting soil samples and measuring tree-root depth.

Phytoremediation is the process of using plants to decontaminate soil. The tree section of the southern loop on the GreenBelt was put in place 30-35 years ago as a long-term project to clean up the area, Mike Jaixen, senior manager of communications at Union Pacific said. 

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Union Pacific owns that land, and therefore they’re the ones monitoring the soil. “Many many years ago there was an industrial plant on that location. A railroad tie factory. This is part of the cleanup process from after that plant was decommissioned.”

“That area was capped to ensure that nothing leeched out of it. That limits water flow and migration, so we need to make sure those trees and the soil activity are good. In a capped area,  there’s no way for nutrients or water to migrate in or out. It’s how we manage that area so that the remediation is proceeding as it is supposed to.”

The City of Laramie said the trail will be closed from Aug. 8-11 for testing in the “phyto” area.  

Access to the Greenbelt will still be allowed at the Laramie River Greenbelt Trailhead located off Garfield Street and Optimist Park. Users will still be able to access the bridge crossing the Laramie River near TriHydro Corporation to preserve the east-west trail connection from West Laramie to the West Side and the Historic Downtown, the City’s press release said. 

Mullen Fire Burn Scars (September 2021)

Over Labor Day Weekend, I tagged along on a hunting trip in Medicine Bow National Forest near Laramie, Wyoming. As someone that grew up 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, I have never gone hunting. Though the experience of hunting was in itself very eye-opening, I think the most fascinating part was that we were in the middle of burn scars from the Mullen Fire in 2020.

Seeing the photos of the fire itself is quite frightening. Watching the firefighters work to put them out is heroic. Yet, it is absolutely haunting to stand in an area where there were trees at one point, and now there are only the broken remains of what was part of a mighty forest.

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