Year in Review: 2017

Every day, most of us catch a glimpse of the Eagle River, Gore Creek, or the Upper Colorado, but we might not give these rivers a second thought as we hustle to our jobs or the grocery. As we step back and contemplate 2017, let’s consider what our rivers give to us, and how our community has given themselves to protect these critical waterways right outside our doors.

Let’s start with what you have done to keep our waterways clean and healthy. In total, we had about 1,600 volunteers participate in 15 restoration projects, devoting over 5,000 volunteer hours. Your hard work during our annual Community Pride Highway and Eagle River Cleanups helped remove 26,000 pounds of trash that could have ended up in our drinking water, our favorite fishing holes, and the rivers we raft with our friends and family. You helped us restore riparian areas in Vail and EagleVail, and helped the cutthroat trout in the creeks on Shrine Pass. You learned how to make your own rain barrel to capture rainwater for your garden (yes, it’s legal in Colorado now!) and you and your kids stenciled more than 100 storm water drains throughout Eagle County with an educational message. Your time, hard work, and generous donations are critical to the Watershed Council’s ability to fulfill its mission to protect, restore, and educate our community about the rivers and streams in our valley. Thank you!

The Watershed Council team was busy this year, too. We co-hosted a Vail Symposium panel discussion with experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Town of Minturn to discuss the history of the Eagle Mine and renewed efforts to protect the Eagle River, as well as offered two educational tours of the mine. We organized a bilingual community float on the Upper Colorado River with the help of Timberline Tours, educating and having boatloads of fun with families that were eager to learn about our rivers and how to protect them. The Watershed Council also continued its stream health monitoring and community engagement valley-wide through strong partnerships with Eagle County, all of the municipalities, CDOT, the US Forest Service, USGS and Eagle River Water & Sanitation District. This fall, along with our colleagues at Colorado State University Eagle County Extension, we hosted a workshop for the community to learn and share river-friendly landscaping techniques.

The work of local environmental organizations such as the Eagle River Watershed Council is not always easy. A few weeks ago, vandals ripped out more than 5,000 willow plantings at the Edwards Eagle River Restoration Site, wiping out a day’s worth of labor by 100 hard-working Vail Resorts EpicPromise volunteers. Watershed Council staff and my fellow Board of Directors are thankful for the outpouring of public support here in the Vail Daily, on social media, and in our daily encounters. We are heartened that this unthinkable act of vandalism has been countered by many of you, who yet again are showing support for the rivers and streams that form the lifeblood of our community and the State of Colorado.

We are now in a quieter time of year for river recreation, but the Eagle River Watershed Council is already planning some great events for 2018. Stay tuned for our Third Annual Wild and Scenic Film Fest in April and a full calendar of Watershed Wednesdays and other community education events, as well as some lighthearted evenings tying flies with new friends. We are also pleased to announce that the Watershed Council is leading the development of an Integrated Water Management Plan for the Eagle River. This multi-year planning effort will bring together over 30 stakeholders representing different water interests and perspectives. Our goal is to determine the environmental and recreational stream flow needs for the Eagle River. This will help us understand how future activities and projects in the watershed will impact the environment, recreation, and our economy.

As you walk along the Eagle River, catch a glimpse of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, or contemplate the snowmaking equipment aimed at your favorite ski hill, enjoy a little winter-season reflection on all that our rivers and streams add to our lives here in Eagle County. If you are interested in learning more about our river restoration projects or community events, or if you would like to make a donation or align your business with us through our Business Partner program, please contact us at 970-827-5406. Thank you for a great year in 2017!

Larissa Read is the Board President for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit www.erwc.org.

This article ran in the Vail Daily on December 25, 2017.

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