Friends of the Rio de Flag

Promoting the Rio de Flag's natural stream system as a unique and valuable natural resource, an asset, and amenity to the City of Flagstaff and the surrounding community. The goal of FoRio is to protect, restore, clean up and improve the Rio de Flag and its tributaries to maximize their aesthetic, educational, recreational, and natural resource values, including the riparian habitats* they provide

Public meeting
Thursday, October 1st, 6:00pm
Montoya Community Center

Update on the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP)

Paul Summerfelt, City of Flagstaff Wildland Fire Management Officer

Mixed conifer forest in the Dry Lake Hills on Little Gnarly Trail off the Schultz Pass Road in the Coconino National Forest. The Dry Lake Hills area is one location included in the FWPP. Photo courtesy of Tom Bean 

For most of the 20th century, wildfire suppression techniques have been used to battle wildfires throughout the United States. While successful in the short-term, these techniques have removed the natural cycle of fire from forests, which is an integral element in healthy forest ecosystems. 

Long-term impacts including severe erosion and post-fire flooding are proof of the drawbacks to wildfire suppression, as evident from the 2010 Schultz Fire post-fire flooding events. 

In order to reduce the risk of wildfire and post-fire flooding in the Rio de Flag and Lake Mary watersheds, Flagstaff voters approved a ten million dollar bond in 2012 to support the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). 

Please join us this Thursday, October 1st at 6:00 PM at the Montoya Community Center to welcome Paul Summerfelt, City of Flagstaff Wildland Officer, who will provide membership with an update on the FWPP project, as well as take any questions. 

To all FoRIO Members...

As a representative of the Board, I first want to thank you for all of the time and energy you have put into and will put into making the Rio de Flag a healthier, more enjoyable community asset. As our communal waterway, the health of the Rio is a direct reflection of how we, as Flagstaff citizens, care for our water and regional environment. Thank you for all that you do.

Second, the functionality of any group is often related to the effectiveness and vision of the Board. Without the engagement of members on the Board, an organization often loses its capacity to meet its mission and commitments. To that end, we invite you to consider either nominating another FoRIO member or nominating yourself to the Board. We are currently in need of 2 or 3 new Board members willing to commit to one 2 hour meeting per month and various follow-up information gathering, reading and thoughtful purposing in identifying the most critical task needed to be addressed by the Board and the FoRIO membership. 

This is the "1st call" for Board nominations. Please fill out an application form online if you are interested. In October, we will issue a "2nd call" for nominations, with a completed application for Board membership due at our Nov 5th general meeting. Voting for new Board members will occur at our Dec 3rd annual member potluck dinner. 

Again, my thanks for all that you do to make the Rio de Flag a healthy watercourse for all to enjoy. Further, thank you for seriously considering how your time and energy can help improve the Friends of the Rio de Flag.
Bryan Bates, Board member

Restoring the Rio

Arizona Daily Sun • April 28, 2015 • By Emery Cowan

David McKee with the city of Flagstaff's stormwater management department stands above the Rio de Flag waterway. The city of Flagstaff is in the midst of a project to restore the river's historic watershed. Photo by Emery Cowan © AZ Daily Sun.
David McKee at Wildcat Reach

After it winds through Flagstaff, squeezing between homes, under roads and through culverts, the Rio de Flag ends up on the eastern edge of the city.

Here, boulders decorated with ancient petroglyphs rest in the shadows of construction trucks, and wildlife tracks appear just feet from a Cemex building materials work yard.

Here, the industrial uses that have been pushed to the city’s edge run up against, and tumble into, a rare ribbon of riparian habitat.

“A lot of this area was taken for granted as a trash dump for a long number of years,” said Andy Bertelsen, the county’s director of public works.

This is also the place where the city of Flagstaff has spent the better part of the past decade restoring the Rio de Flag’s path, step by step. The final vision is to extend the Flagstaff Urban Trail System for 3.3 miles along the newly restored riparian area. The trail would connect Doney Park to the existing FUTS trail near the Flagstaff Mall and wind through Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. (read more...)

Reclaiming Rio will pay off in many ways

Arizona Daily Sun Editorial • April 30, 2015

The purple dashed line shows the proposed Flagstaff Urban Trail System alignment from Old Route 66 to Townsend Winona Road. The proposed trail will pass through areas where the city and the county are working to restore the Rio de Flag riparian area.
Picture Canyon Trail

When it comes to the Rio de Flag, Flagstaff can’t give the little ephemeral stream too much attention.

At nearly every twist and turn, the city and volunteer groups have lavished it with trails, holding ponds, marshes, interpretive signs and regular cleanups.

And if there are sections without those amenities, then there are plans to change that. It’s a far cry from when townsfolk referred to the “River de Flag” and used it to dispose of trash – or worse.

In recent decades, the portion of the Rio de Flag that runs through downtown has surfaced as a major flooding threat, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. But although the Corps has placed nearby properties in a 100-year-floodplain, thus limiting their development prospects, it hasn’t come through with much money to fix the problem. After years of delay, the cost to widen and deepen the channel has ballooned to $90 million, although some locals believe the city could do it for about $30 million less. (read more...)

More news...

Where is the Rio de Flag anyway? Click here to see a 3D image of the Rio watershed.

*Riparian habitats are water-dependent ecosystems characterized by rich and diverse groups of plants and animals. A vanishingly rare community resource for Flagstaff, riparian ecosystems play a key role in reducing flood peaks, enhancing water quality and groundwater replenishment, as well as providing wildlife habitat, open space and recreational opportunities.

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