Nice read Eric!
I was out there today and saw the tree removal that has taken place. I found a write up about it on the Arsenals web page that might help to explain it some. It doesn't appear that the tree removal is aimed at making access for fishermen easier, although it does. It's main purpose is to help prevent dam breaches like the one that occurred at Havana Ponds with the big flood in 2013.
From the Arsenal web page:
Tree and Vegetation Removal Around Refuge Lakes Begins April 13, 2015
Beginning April 13, 2015, trees and other woody vegetation around Lake Mary, Lake Ladora and Lower Derby dams will be removed. They are impacting the stability of the dams and large tree roots can create seepage paths. Large trees can blow over during a storm and damage the dam, which may cause a breach. To ensure the safety of these dams these trees and woody vegetation must be removed.
Work begins at Lake Mary on April 13, Lake Ladora on April 24 and Lower Derby on May 18. We may need to close roads along the Wildlife Drive while crews are working at Lake Ladora. More information will be posted in the near future.
If you have any questions please call the Visitor Center Wednesday – Sunday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at 303-289-0930.
Thank you for your understanding and patience during this important dam safety project.