Firewise gardens can be a great way to show what wildfire preparedness looks like. Since we get a lot of questions about how to do this and promote it effectively, Fireiwse's How-To spoke with J.T. Wensman, fire management officer for the Wyoming State Forestry Division, who led efforts to develop a Firewise Demonstration Garden at Curt Gowdy State Park, in Laramie.
In Part 1, How-To asks JT about the value of this effort and its development. In Part 2, which will be posted this coming Tuesday, How-To will ask about promotion, signage, educational goals, and lessons learned.
What do you think is the value of presenting Firewise principles in the form of a “garden”?
The Firewise Demonstration Garden is a great way to visually showcase what a Firewise landscape could look like. To some, the term “Firewise” may produce images of barren, plain, or ugly. It allowed us to show what Jack Cohen means when he says, “You don’t have to live in a concrete block home with stainless steel doors and a metal deck around it. You just have to remember that it’s the little things that count.”
You worked with a local master gardener group on the project. How did you connect with them on the idea?
Betsey Nickerson, one of our Firewise coordinators, came up with the idea. She contacted the president of the Laramie County Master Gardeners and arranged for us to attend one of their monthly meetings. At the meeting, she and I made a Firewise presentation to the group. We talked about the Firewise garden and gained some enthusiasm from the group. Members of the group who had the time then helped construct a list of native, and non-native, animal resilient, and harsh weather-tolerant plants that also are appealing to the eye.
How was Curt Gowdy State park picked for the site, and what was it like to navigate that process from your position with State Forestry?
Curt Gowdy State Park was chosen for two reasons: foot traffic and timing. It is located midway between Cheyenne and Laramie, 24 miles from each. Cheyenne is Wyoming’s state capital, while Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming. They are in an area of southeast Wyoming where many people go to for outdoor recreation. As for timing, a brand new visitor center was being built and we were able to meet with the landscape architect who also embraced the idea. And that’s how the Curt Gowdy Firewise Garden was born.
The main visitors’ building at the park plays a special role in ecology education. Tell us about that.
The Visitors’ Center is also an interpretive center. Inside you can learn about the wildlife in the area, which includes mountain lions, mule deer, hawks, and trout. Outside, on the center’s beautiful deck, you can read about the construction of Granite Reservoir and the geology of the area. And, as you look down below, you can learn about the Firewise garden.
Check back this coming Tuesday when Firewise How-To asks about the garden's promotion and lessons learned.
Read previous posts in the Firewise How-To blog series.