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Steamboat-based mulch manufacturer catching on in oil fields

Gus Connelly, of Sleeping Giant Industries, distributes WoodStraw mulch manufactured in Steamboat from beetle-killed pine trees at the city of Steamboat's skate and jump park on the west side of town this week.
Courtesy photo

— Youngsters at the skate and jump park on the west side of Steamboat Springs don’t have to worry late this fall about the need to scrape off mud from their shoes. But the story is much bigger than that.

Thanks to a donation of time and materials from a couple of local companies, the skate and jump park has a soft new surface of mulch made from pine trees harvested from mountainous areas where beetles have decimated large stands of lodgepole pines. And Mountain Pine Manufacturing, which makes the mulch in Steamboat, may be on the cusp of a growth spurt.

Trent Jones, of Mountain Pine Manufacturing, donated 40 bales of WoodStraw erosion control mulch, and Gus Connelly delivered the goods with his FINN Model B-7 straw blower at the park this week. The mulch is referred to as wood strand mulch in the industry.



Jones said his company, which employs five people, has the potential to triple its sales next year, which could lead to him hiring 10 to 15 additional employees.

“One of my biggest clients right now is Anadarko Petroleum, and six other oil companies are testing the product right now,” Jones said.



Anadarko is using his product on the initial reclamation of oil and gas drill pads when the original 10-acre site is reclaimed back to one acre. In windy, arid areas of the American west, application of WoodStraw is advantageous, Jones said.

WoodStraw isn’t prone to blowing away, it helps to retain soil moisture, and it doesn’t degrade as fast as competing products, according to Jones.

“In Southern Wyoming, it can take three or four years before you really get new vegetation. The durability of our product is super important,” he said.

Jones said the mulch his company manufactures on a light industrial lot he shares with Rogue Resources on the west side of Steamboat occupies a premium niche in the mulch market. WoodStraw will never be as economical as mulching with agricultural straw. But Jones believes it has an advantage over other premium products like hydromulch, in part because it doesn’t consume water in the application process. WoodStraw is also the choice in environmentally sensitive areas because it does not contain chemicals or residual weed seeds.

WoodStraw was developed by a company called Forest Concepts. Jones became WoodStraw’s first and only franchisee in 2012 when he purchased a license to manufacture the mulch for a territory of five western states. They include Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota as well as Wyoming and Colorado.

Jones acquired the license and equipment with the help of funds from the Colorado State Forest Service’s Forest Business Loan Fund, a program established to loan capital to businesses focused on using beetle-killed trees. Mountain Pine Manufacturing also received a boost in 2013 when it claimed a $2,500 award for its SCORE business plan through Colorado Mountain College.

In addition to the petroleum industry, Mountain Pine Manufacturing products recently were used on Colorado Department of Transportation highway projects in Vail, Parachute and Rifle. Jones said CDOT is considering making WoodStraw its mulch of choice.

Jones said his company consumes roughly the equivalent of 100 acres of beetle kill trees annually.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1 .


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