"Where Your Story Meets Ours" is a series of heartwarming and inspiring stories about the many people who cross MALT's path.
Sharing Life, Love and Laughter
It's Valentine's Day, and love is in the air in Evergreen, Colorado!
Les Sweeney recalls the day nearly 30 years ago he met Sarah Ewy in Alexandria, Virginia, a striking brunette who happened to be wearing a chewed up shoe. Sarah laughs, saying "I had a nice pair of Topsiders and a chocolate Labrador puppy!"
Les was a young University of Virginia college graduate embarking on his adult working life, who was lucky enough to meet the future love of his life his first day of his first "adult" job. Sarah, who grew up in Evergreen, was a recent Eastern Kentucky University graduate, stellar volleyball player and graphic designer, also working at the Club Managers Association of America.It wasn't long before Les and Sarah fell in love, and in 1992 they got married in Evergreen and began their life's journey together.
Life continued to march on for the Sweeneys, adding two more boys, Joe and Peter, to their family. Once they were outnumbered, Sarah left her job to be a full time mom to their three young children, while also caregiving for family members over the years, and coaching volleyball at Evergreen High School. Sarah's generous nature led her to a class in Social Entrepreneurship while pursuing her MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver in 2013. Les's career continued to flourish, now in his 25th year at ABMP and its CEO.Les and Sarah feel blessed to live in a beautiful Colorado community, surrounded by family, friends and an abundance of worthy causes to support. The Sweeneys have caring hearts, and they raised their boys to embrace a spirit of giving. In 2014, they created The Sweeneys Share the Love Foundation, a 501c3 family foundation that "strives to help improve the human condition and our planet by supporting organizations, families, communities and the environment." Les and Sarah established the foundation to raise awareness for good causes, to be able to donate to other 501c3 charities and to create something that would involve the kids. Les says, "The thing we wanted to do was pay it back and pay it forward from our own good fortune. We want to share that with others, and instill in our kids that giving is really the best gift you can ever get."
Les and Sarah appreciate the importance of MALT's mission. Sarah shares that she has seen a lot of changes in Evergreen since she arrived here as a fifth grader in the 1970s. "I can remember my mom talking about 'Means Meadow' long before it became MALT's Noble Meadow. There was a Texaco gas station and a grocery store downtown. And it was boring! We used to call Evergreen 'Never Green' and 'Ever Boring'." Sarah continues, "Now Buffalo Park and Alderfer are packed on the weekends, and it almost seems like we are running out of outdoor spaces...but then I think 'Why not?' - what's not to like? We have such a gift living here." Les adds, "Thanks to MALT our beautiful open spaces will never change."
Sarah says, "It's not just ice skating on the lake or the hiking, it's looking out my car window and seeing the mountains and the open spaces. When our boys ran cross country at Evergreen High School it was so special for them to be able to use the trails for practice. These are our sacred places and we understand that conservation has been a huge part in shaping our community. We've been fortunate, and now we want to do our part."
Les shares, "We love MALT's mission and what you do...it does a great job of being present in the community. We are spoiled having so much open space at our disposal. Evergreen was always home for Sarah. Now it's our family's home, and it brings us so much joy." Sarah adds, "We have such a gift all around us living here."Les, Sarah, Casey, Joe and Peter Sweeney exemplify compassion, the spirit of giving back to their community and love of the land. The Sweeneys share MALT's vision - Together we are saving the land and leaving a legacy.
The River Just Knows
The River Just Knows
'Cause the river don't talk, the river don't care
Where you've been, what you've done
Why it is you're standin' there
It just flows on by whisperin' to your soul
It's gonna be alright, the river just knows. -- Rodney Atkins
For the past eight years, MALT conserved property owners Dan and Karen Mauritz have been generously opening their hearts and their riverfront ranch to host the "Battle at Boxwood," a fundraising fly fishing event for disabled veterans through Project Healing Waters. Project Healing Waters is an organization dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities. The annual affair draws a big crowd including veterans, local fishing guides, volunteers and celebrity anglers, all who descend on the Mauritz's ranch, "Boxwood Gulch" in Shawnee for a day of fellowship, fly fishing, casting instruction, fly tying seminars, and a barbeque donated by the All-American Beef Battalion. Karen Mauritz shares that the experience on the river for these physically and emotionally wounded veterans is quite moving - the water provides a peaceful, restorative, safe and healing experience for them.
The Mauritz's first fell in love with their unique 240-acre riverfront ranch in 1988. Buying the ranch was an easy decision as Karen recounts, "This place in many ways reminded us of the beautiful lakes we grew up with in Wisconsin, and it just felt like home - the water, trees, grass, ponds and hayfields, with the added bonus of the beautiful mountains." The Mauritz's called their retreat "Boxwood Gulch", which is the name of the gulch that runs along the east boundary line in a very beautiful and untouched part of the ranch.
In 1989, the fishing was really good on the North Fork of the South Platte River that runs through Boxwood Gulch. So good in fact, that Dan's friends were asking if they could come up to his property with guides for a chance at landing a big fish. Dan put an old coffee can in a Tuff shed, and every weekend when he, his wife Karen and their three young children arrived at Boxwood, he'd find $50, $100 and sometimes more in the coffers. What began as a family retreat eventually evolved into their home, and what is now regarded as one of the best guided trophy trout fly fishing destinations west of Denver.
By 1994, the Mauritz's were both fully retired and they embarked on improvements to their property, clearing irrigation ditches, mending fences and building a clubhouse. The guided fishing business continued to grow, but Dan was concerned about the health and habitat of the fish they were catching. Strong water flows from the Roberts Tunnel, one of largest water diversion tunnels in the world ran through Boxwood Gulch. After a rigorous permitting and permission process with Denver Water, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Division of Wildlife, the Mauritz's made major improvements to their river frontage, excavating, widening channels and cultivating a healthy ecosystem.
Dan and Karen's neighbors to the west own Long Meadow Ranch, a historic 290-acre property which has been in the Ostertag family for nearly 100 years and is forever protected under a Conservation Easement with Mountain Area Land Trust. In the early 2000's, the Mauritz's leased fishing rights from the Ostertag's, adding nearly 2 miles of river frontage to the Boxwood Gulch fly fishing business.
By 2011, anglers were catching rainbows, Cutbows, Cutthroats, Browns, Brookies, Tigers, Steelhead and Palomino trout measuring 17 inches to 28 inches and the fishing on Boxwood Gulch thrived.
The Ostertag family encouraged Dan and Karen to consider a Conservation Easement for Boxwood Gulch, and after consideration and discussions with their children, the Mauritz's placed their land in a voluntary conservation agreement with MALT in 2016. Dan says, "It takes a lot of angst away. We will care for this property and keep it in the family. We have no desire to develop it, sell lots or break it up. Our neighbors the Ostertags feel the same way. How nice it is to know this whole valley is conserved and won't be dotted with 20-acre home sites."
Mondays and Thursdays are "rest" days for the fish at Boxwood Gulch. For ranch owners Karen and Dan, rest days give them a little time to slow down as well. Dan says, "Every day is like a birthday party. Living here is a dream come true for me. I get to do the things that I like to do, to be outdoors, the physical work involved in running a ranch and fishing destination, and meeting so many interesting people." Karen agrees saying, "This place is so beautiful. I love the animals and wild flowers; this is the most peaceful place on earth for me. Boxwood Gulch was our vision always and we're so incredibly lucky to live here every day."
Karen and Dan Mauritz are MALT supporters and owners of property
conserved in perpetuity by a voluntary land and water conservation
agreement. Together we are saving the land...and leaving a legacy.
Photos courtesy of Dan and Karen Mauritz, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc, BioHabitats and MALT Staff
A Legacy of Love and Adventure
Bob and Candy are members of MALT's Vista Giving Circle - including the organization in their will and estate planning. Candy says "We don't have children, and we decided to leave a portion of our assets (if anything is left!) to continue to support things that have brought us peace and happiness. In my business I see many instances of large, squandered inheritances. For Bob and I, we want to leave a gift for something that will be here in perpetuity - that gives back to the community." Bob jokingly adds, "Sometimes we care more for animals and the land than we do for people."
Women Moving Mountains
by Cori Mayer, MALT seasonal intern
by Cori Mayer, MALT seasonal intern
MALT's Priceless Volunteers
B-J Toews is MALT's NCL liaison, helping to coordinate volunteers for upcoming projects and MALT events. B-J and her daughters Audrey, a 10th grader, and Maddie, a high school senior, have been involved with NCL for 6 years, volunteering for some of their favorite philanthropies including the Evergreen Players, Mt. Evans Hospice, MALT and Center for the Art's "Summerfest". "It's fun to be in situations where we can observe our girls interacting with other people and learning about different groups and organizations. I love working with MALT...they are well organized and the staff is really fun to work with."
Andiwich - A Family Legacy
The Downing family has
maintained a conservation presence in Colorado's Front Range for over four
generations, starting back in 1910 when Warwick M. Downing, a Denverite helped
create the Denver Mountain Park System, which now consists of forty-six public parks
that are home to some of the most popular scenic mountain destinations near
In the 1920's at the height of Prohibition, Warwick's son Richard and daughter in law Dorothy bought 400 acres in Evergreen, complete with a "still" tucked deep in the woods, to enjoy the escape from the city, the solitude of the mountains and an occasional cocktail. The Downing's built a Sears "Kit House," and spent summers on the property with their children Ann, Dick, Wick and Chuck.
Richard Sr. passed away in 1962, but Dorothy loved her Evergreen cottage, still spending her summers there in the company of her many grandchildren. After Dorothy's death in 1983 Dick Downing Jr. and his siblings formed an LLC to manage the property as a group and ensure its continued protection and maintenance. The partnership was named "Andiwich," after the first two initials of each of the original shareholders' names.Fast forward 28 years and the shareholder group has expanded to 17, spread across three generations. Jeff Downing, a third generation shareholder member of the Downing family, functions as the self-appointed "manager" of Andiwich. He volunteers to oversee the financial accounts, organizes annual meetings of family members, manages maintenance and upkeep of the house, maintains an informational website, oversees an extensive forestry management plan on the property and even writes and distributes an annual report.
In the early 2000's the family was faced with rising costs of taxes and maintaining the property as well as varying levels of interest among a diverse group of people. The future of Andiwich was the "elephant in the room" with family members all wondering "what are we going to do with this place?"
Fortunately the group found a solution... with consensus of the entire family they worked with MALT to put a Conservation Easement on Andiwich land. The deal was finalized in 2012, ensuring the permanent protection of 360 acres with the added benefit of tax credits. The money the family was able to save as a result of the easement largely pays for maintenance and improvement costs, taxes and insurance and forest restoration projects.
Managing a multi-family owned property and the many personalities, levels of interest and financial capabilities it entails, is a challenging undertaking. When asked why he embraces such a demanding responsibility Jeff jokingly said "I guess the cynical answer is that my tolerance for conflict is low. But at the heart of it there is a strong consensus among the family to preserve this place, to keep it in the family and honor our grandparents and manage it in a way that works for everyone."
Bob Meade: The Gift Outright
When Bob Meade's father passed away in the late 1970's he
left his son and daughter in law, Bob and Mereth Meade an inheritance.
On November 5th, 1980 after much consideration Mereth and Bob decided to use their bequest to purchase a parcel of land in Kittredge, Colorado on which maybe one day they would build a house and live.
Bob and Mereth enjoyed the property together for many years, and in 1996 when Bob retired from the United States Geological Survey, he embarked on a retirement project, taking on his first ten year forest management plan with the help and guidance of the Colorado State Foresty Service.
Fast forward to 2017, and Bob is still working on his land, having just completed his final 20 year forest management plan - or as Bob likes to call it, his "health club." Bob lost his wife Mereth in May of 2013 but continued to work on his land sharing that it has always been a source of physical, mental and spiritual health for him.
Bob and Mereth never did build a home on the property but he has no regrets of the 37 years he's spent carefully stewarding the land that he and his wife shared together.
On December 13, 2017 Bob donated his land to Mountain Area Land Trust. Bob shared his thoughts with MALT saying, "I feel relief, and I feel a little sad. But if you can't get out and take care of it, it's time to pass it on. At my age, you have to give stuff away that you're done with. It was a wonderful three and a half decades of being a forester, but I'm not a forester anymore. It's a piece of luck to be able to give this land to MALT and turn my back and walk away - wow. There is nobody better to take care of it than MALT."
MALT Executive Director, Jeanne Beaudry said, "What a gift and legacy Bob has left to MALT. We are truly humbled and grateful by his generous donation. This is the largest donation that MALT has received since the organization's founding in 1992." As a member of MALT's Vista Giving Circle, Bob has been planning this land donation to MALT for many years. Vista Giving Circle donors are supporters who plan on leaving a gift to MALT (either financial, land or both) in their will or estate plans.
On Becoming an Eagle Scout
With a chilly breeze blowing and the peaks of Pennsylvania Mountain already snow covered we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at MALT's property to find a group of young men hard at work digging holes at the Pika Trail trailhead. In retrospect we shouldn't have been surprised at all, as these teens are a dedicated group of Boy Scouts who were there to support their friend Cole Brazell in his quest to earn his Eagle Scout badge.
The rank of Eagle Scout is the highest achievement in the Boy Scouting program. Only 4% of Boy Scouts across the country are granted this status after fulfilling years of requirements and a lengthy review process.
Fifteen year old Cole took a giant leap forward last weekend toward his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, when he, along with the assistance of other members and adult leaders of his Boy Scout Troop #238 from Bailey assembled and installed a wooden display kiosk for Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT) at our trailhead on Pennsylvania Mountain Natural Area located just west of Fairplay.The Pika Trail sits at an elevation of approximately 11,500 feet. The terrain is rugged, the weather is unpredictable and on Saturday, October 7th when Cole and his troop arrived to begin their work, there was 4 inches of snow on the ground.
Cole has been working with MALT for over a year, planning and designing the kiosk that he would eventually build and install. He modeled his kiosk design after a U.S. Forest Service kiosk on a trail he frequents, and with the assistance of his family he purchased the lumber, carriage bolts, paint stain and other supplies and tools to begin assembling the display.
Cole worked for many months building and prepping the kiosk parts in pieces which he would eventually transport to the trailhead site for assembly and installation.Nine young men ranging in age from 13 to 17 showed up to help Cole on his big day. Some of them worked alongside Cole constructing the kiosk while the others had the unenviable job of digging six deep post holes in the rock laden, semi-frozen ground.
At the end of a long day, Cole and his friends proudly posed in front of the newly constructed kiosk. Cole is happy and gratified that this part of his project is complete, and while he still has a number of requirements left before he officially becomes an Eagle Scout, having the kiosk done is exciting. "It feels so good to have it completed. I really like the Pika Trail and have hiked it twice. Knowing that the kiosk is important to MALT's project is exciting to me personally. The process of becoming an Eagle Scout has taught me a lot - I know that I need to be organized, and that my Eagle project is more about leadership than actually finishing the project. I wasn't there just to do all the work. I built alongside the younger scouts, teaching them skills, and I think they learned something which was fun to see."
Cole has not only demonstrated the leadership skills required by the Boy Scouts to attain the Eagle Scout rank, but he and his troop have also shown their dedication to being stewards of the land, by supporting our efforts to conserve and share the unique high alpine environment of Pennsylvania Mountain. We at MALT are grateful to Cole for his exemplary efforts in building a beautiful new kiosk for the Pika Trail.Together we are saving the land and leaving a legacy.
Bugs, Bruises and Bad Weather
She stands 5 feet tall, weighs 100 pounds, and at 27 years old is one tough young woman.
Meet Samantha, (aka "Sam"), MALT's 2017 Land Steward.
Sam is a Forester. She grew up in Ohio and since college has lived and worked in Maine, Vermont and Louisiana. The call of the mountains and the lure of a cooler climate brought Sam to Colorado in 2017 to pursue her dream of a career in conservation.Working as a Land Steward and monitoring (i.e. hiking, climbing, driving and surveying) all of MALT's 72 Conservation Easements in the span of a four month time period is no small undertaking. Most of the time Sam works alone, using her maps, binders and a GPS program on an IPad to monitor property. The work is often physically challenging, and Sam learned the hard way that accuracy and thoroughness are essential to the job, when she had to hike back up to the top of a mountain and take a photo that she missed.
Sam has self-instituted some additional safety measures for herself, always wearing a bright orange vest, making sure to introduce herself to anyone she meets while visiting properties, dressing appropriately with hiking boots and long pants and keeping her GPS and IPhone charged.
Bruises, bugs and bad weather are part of the job and Sam shrugs off these occasional inconveniences saying, "I love my work and wouldn't trade my summer with MALT for anything." Sam is tough, passionate and inspired by the landowners she's met. "Talking to property owners who love their land is so encouraging to me personally...it gives me hope for the future of Colorado and land conservation."Sam is a hardworking member of MALT's team and a great example of someone who is saving the land and leaving a legacy.
Never Eat Soggy Waffles
On a beautiful Friday morning in June, a big
yellow school bus pulled up to the entrance of Floyd Hill Open Space, opened
its doors and dropped a large group of excited 11 and 12 year old boys and
girls. Friday's are especially exciting for them as it's field trip day
for these Denver YMCA summer campers, and today's adventure was a hike in the
Our young hiker friends exhibited a range of emotions as they descended from their bus and filled their brand new MALT water bottles in anticipation of the adventure ahead.
"Are there snakes?"
"I'm scared of mice and I just saw one!"
"Do we have to walk up?"
"I'm hot...and hungry....When do we get lunch?"Our trip began with a walk across the meadow, and our leaders Samantha (MALT's Land Steward) and Kevin (MALT's Seasonal Intern) stopped to point out the wildflowers. Indian Paintbrush was clearly a favorite with the girls, while the boys seemed to prefer the cactus. Omar exclaimed "I've seen cactus at Texas Road House! That's my favorite restaurant." One of the quiet boys in the group asked if he could pick some flowers for his mom.
The ascent up the mountain was tough for some of our novice campers who have never before hiked. Our leaders encouraged the kids to smell the vanilla scented bark of the Ponderosa Pines, examine the sap of a newly fallen fir and listen to the quaking leaves of the Aspens. When Samantha told the group that they could rub the white bark of the Aspen to use the powdery residue as sunscreen the enthusiastic campers quickly experimented with this newfound knowledge and painted their faces and arms.The hikers learned how to identify scat, the rules for respecting nature, proper trail etiquette and how to use a compass. The kids excitedly realized that the phrase they've been taught in school, "Never Eat Soggy Waffles" meant that they could understand and identify which direction they were facing, with the snowy mountains of James Peak Wilderness to the west, and their homes to the east.
Our friends sat in the meadow at the end of their adventure for "community circle." Each camper was invited to say a rose (what they liked), a thorn (what they disliked) and a bud (what they learned). Surprisingly most of the kids loved the "up" part of the hike but not the "down." They particularly enjoyed learning the names of flowers and using the compass. One girl reported that she almost died during her descent and another was certain she saw a bear, but overall we were happy to report that every camper survived and seemed to have a fun experience.
The Denver YMCA counselors shared that the Floyd Hill Open Space hiking experience was the best field trip they've had with their campers, saying that the energetic group has previously been asked to leave some of their museum visits. One counselor stated, "Today has been my best day of work so far."
This beautiful summer Friday in June was truly a remarkable opportunity for all...together we are saving the land and leaving a legacy.*Flowers were identified and admired but not picked.
Interview with a MALT Landowner
Fast forward 90 years and four generations, and Bob's family tradition of weekend visits to the 290 acre ranch continues.
As a young boy Bob recalls spending his weekends learning how to milk a cow, bale hay and mend fences by working alongside his parents and grandparents. He remembers many days spent along the river having stick races and learning how to fish. He vividly recounts his mother's insistence that every structure on the ranch have "red roofs and red trim" and the toil involved in painting all of them. When Bob had a family of his own weekend trips to the ranch with his two daughters continued, as did the tradition of "red roofs and red trim," and many humorous family bonding experiences with OSHA approved safety red oil based paint. Bob's girls spent their weekends with family learning about ranching, playing along the river, participating in 4-H and gaining an appreciation for their grandparent's passion for the land.
In 2001 Bob's mother's passed away, but her vision of "keeping the view forever" lives on. In 2013 Bob and his family worked with MALT to put a Conservation Easement on the family ranch that honors his mother and her vision and traditions. "The decision to place the land in conservation was an easy one. It was important to us to honor my family's wishes to forever maintain the 'purity of the meadow' and mountain views, and to protect the wildlife habitat of the elk, deer, bear, mountain lions and all of the creatures that live in Mother Nature's neighborhood."
Bob's story is quintessentially Colorado - the story of a family legacy, working ranch and a love of the land passed from generation to generation. Bob and his family are passionate about honoring the stewardship of this land by conserving a mile long stretch of mountain views, meadow and river for generations to come.
In 2016 Bob joined
MALT's Board of Directors. "I am a huge supporter of non-profits and
MALT is an example of a great community organization that conserves the beauty
and 'wow' factors in our state. As a Conservation Easement landowner, a
board member and a MALT donor I feel like I can give back and help create a
legacy of land and water conservation, and honor mom's tradition."