Floodplain Fire Update
Michelle Foss, Director of Resource Stewardship
While fire has been a part of our landscape for thousands of years, it is not always triggered by nature, or occurring at prescribed times. As a result of a nearby vehicle fire in April, the Gifford Point floodplain, which encompasses the Fontenelle Forest Wetlands, Gifford Farm, and Gifford Point Wildlife Management Area (WMA), experienced one of those inopportune fires. Fontenelle Forest spent a week and significant resources to ensure our trails and infrastructure were safe. Approximately 430 acres of floodplain were impacted by the fire, including Fontenelle Forest land, the WMA, and even some of the city of Bellevue’s land south of our boundary.
In large part due to Fontenelle Forest’s staff training and experience, we were able to keep the fast-moving fire from affecting our infrastructure. We employed tactics learned through the wildfire suppression experience of some of our staff, as well as our collective prescribed fire experiences. We had the proper equipment to get the job done in coordination with the Bellevue Fire Department. Fire conditions were such that the dead trees on the floodplain, as well as the not-yet-green ground plants, were extremely dry and flammable. Add a strong wind, warm temperatures and low humidity, and the result was a fast-spreading fire. However, while fire can be destructive, it can also be renewing.
It will be some time before we see the full impact of the fire, but we do anticipate some benefits ecologically. We have begun planning for prescribed fire in the floodplain for habitat management. We expect some of the invasives to be pushed back and some of the deadfall from the past two major floods to be cleaned up, creating better access for work and wildlife viewing.
We ask our members and guests to please be patient as we recover our trails. Hidden Lake and Red Bud Trails were the most impacted, but the Great Marsh will also need some recovery work, which will require felling hazard trees and cleaning up the area. While waiting for the Wetlands to fully reopen, it is a great time to check out some new trails or visit Neale Woods in north Omaha.
For updates about trail closures and to see a trail map with closures, please click the red “Alerts” button on our home page.