Summit Community Gardens class will help Parkites protect their property from wildfires
Class is free, but registration is required
Concerns over a mega fire that would affect Park City’s air and water quality, economy, wildlife and housing prices ignited a thought in Jennifer Gardner’s mind, prompting her to create her “How to Choose Firewise Landscaping for Your Home” class.
“Wildfire is the No. 1 most likely natural, emergency disaster affecting Summit and Wasatch counties,” Gardner said. “(Between) 80% and 90% of all wildfires are man made and there is a lot of prevention that can be achieved by educating the public.”
The class, which Gardner will teach at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 12, at Summit Community Gardens, will cover the concept of firewise landscaping, which involves using specific plants, location and pruning techniques as part of an overall fire mitigation process that anyone can create within the “defensible space” around a structure, whether it’s a home or commercial building, Gardner said.
“The ‘defensible space’ is between 5 to 30 feet out from the exterior walls,” Gardner said. “Park City recently changed their Land Management Code to allow people to clear out the dead and dry material that is fire prone in the first 30 feet, in order to create this ‘defensible space.’”
Gardner plans to introduce participants to firewise plants that are native to the area, great for attracting pollinators and don’t need a lot of watering.
“After a lot of research and cross referencing, I have a list I’ve put together that I will be handing out at the lecture, (and while) not every nursery has those plants in stock, we will try to have samples of all the perennial flowers that are on my list at the class,” she said. “Otherwise I have pictures (and) a resource guide printed on the back of the handout which will also have two QR codes to scan for two educational booklets.”
Firewise landscaping pertains to Summit and Wasatch counties because of their location within the Wildland Urban Interface, a zone of transition between unoccupied and developed land, Gardner said.
Another reason for firewise landscaping education is because Utah is the second driest state after Nevada. And conditions have worsened exponentially due to the arid winter, she said.
“It is especially pertinent this year with our historic drought and seasonal potential for wildfires, given our low snowpack,” Gardner said.
The class will also clear up what Gardner calls misconceptions about firewise gardens, such as that they are ugly, bleak, desertlike, lacking in color and difficult to maintain.
“I am very focused on drought tolerant, native and pollinator attractors,” she said. “Planting firewise and drought tolerant is very easy and low maintenance. The plants should last for years, with a good pruning of dead material at the end of the fall.”
The class is a continuation of Gardner’s Leadership Park City class project from 2019 about wildfire mitigation, she said.
“The idea came to me with a great deal of consideration,” she said. “I had several ideas, and this one seemed the most urgent. I found three other members of my leadership class who had the same or similar idea. A catastrophic fire affecting our county is only a matter of time — it is not if, it is when.”
Hosting classes such as these is an important service Summit Community Gardens provides the local community, said Adult Education Coordinator Carmen Bachofen.
“We try to put on a variety of classes throughout the summer so people can come and connect with each other, the garden and the land,” she said. “We look at how we can create a holistic experience for both the students and teachers.”
Although the June 12 class will be held outdoors, it will follow COVID-19 protocols, said Bachofen.
“We will space things out as much as possible, and we will encourage people to wear masks,” she said.
When: 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 12
Where: Summit Community Gardens, 4056 Shadow Mountain Drive
A Park Record intern spent three weeks in New York City thanks to a Columbia University program.
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