Women Moving Mountains
by Cori Mayer, MALT seasonal intern

In the 85-degree heat of a sunny July morning, a determined group of more than 80 women carved 1,900 feet of trail out of the side of a mountain.
Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) organized the event, assembling the crowd at 7 am on Floyd Hill Open Space in Clear Creek County.  Early morning grogginess quickly evaporated over coffee and bagels as mothers and daughters, recent college graduates, ex-professional athletes, long distance hikers and office workers who love the outdoors - all united as volunteers, eager to build a trail.
Ann Baker-Easley, Executive Director of VOC kicked off the day's events welcoming the crowd and describing the scope of the task at hand.  The all women volunteer efforts would contribute to the completion of a trail system that will eventually connect the plains east of Denver to the mountain peaks of the west.
Volunteers were separated into teams of 7 to 12 and introduced to their crew leaders - inspiring women with backgrounds in trail building and the outdoors.  They explained to the group the tools they would use - intimidating, heavy, tall and unfamiliar implements.  Crew leaders led their teams through scrub and rocks along a line of flags that marked the future trail.  Soon the masses of volunteers set to work chopping, sawing, digging, and leveling.  By lunchtime, the first half of this difficult flag line had become a beautiful, level, 2-foot-wide trail.
In the afternoon as the group progressed to a section along the ridge, the terrain got rockier and the trail building was harder.  One group following their flag markers came upon a large, seemingly unmovable rock.  They avoided it, waiting to ask crew leader Kelly if they could redirect the trail around it.  When she arrived, the question was answered with a smile and confidence, "Oh that rock? No problem.  We can definitely move it."  As the sun hid behind gathering thunderclouds, the women excavated around the boulder, and with four people, some armfuls of smaller rocks, and a rock bar, they eventually heaved the enormous obstacle out of the trail and rolled it farther down the hill.  High fives abounded and the group was re-energized to finish construction on their section.
At 3 pm, covered in dirt and some scratches, tired volunteers began their trek back down the mountain enjoying a short hike on the newly constructed trail.  The day had been a rewarding experience and the women felt inspired to be leaders in the outdoors, proud of the welcoming trail they'd carved up a steep ridge on Floyd Hill Open Space.
MALT is grateful for a partnership with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and the chance for a group of determined women to gather, build trail, share stories and provide future opportunities for people to experience the outdoors.  Together we are saving the land, and leaving a legacy.

MALT's Priceless Volunteers

Ellis Barwell is a 7th grader and a volunteer with the Colorado Foothills Chapter of the National Charity League. While she may only be 13 years old, she's already a seasoned volunteer, having donated her time and talents to Mountain Area Land Trust's summer fundraiser, A Night in the Park, Center for the Arts and Center Stage.
National Charity League (NCL) is a national non-profit organization that provides opportunities for mothers and daughters to become involved in community service while also fostering mother-daughter relationships. Founded in 2003, the Colorado Foothills Chapter of NCL serves 17 different local philanthropies and members contribute thousands of volunteer hours each year.

MALT is fortunate to be the recipient of many, many hours of NCL's invaluable mother and daughter volunteer efforts, from stuffing and stamping tens of thousands of envelopes for MALT mailings to greeting guests and assisting with the operations of fundraising events.
Franziska Moran and her two daughters Michelle and Alexandra (Ali) have been members of the Foothills Chapter of NCL for nine years. Michelle is now a college junior and Ali is a senior at Evergreen High School, heading to CU Boulder in the fall. For Ali, while she has loved the volunteerism aspect of her involvement with NCL, the leadership skills and educational component built into the program have been just as important. "NCL has taught me to look deeper at what's going on in the community, and when I find a philanthropy that I like, I may continue to stay involved with them. For example, with MALT, I feel a personal investment in conservation and I really like what you do so I keep coming back."

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."

Brooks Barwell and her daughter Ellis are new to NCL, but have already been active volunteers with a number of local organization. Brooks shares, "We love having the chance to understand more about what groups do, to go to events that we wouldn't otherwise attend. At the same time, NCL has given me an opportunity to meet and interact with parents of children in different grades."
Ellis says, "Being involved with NCL has forced me to work on my social skills, it has improved my character, and now I see issues in the community and how much I can help --- and how much more I can do. I love volunteering, and I always feel like I am so helpful!"

The selfless hours of volunteer time and dedication that NCL's amazing members donate to MALT are priceless, and we are grateful and privileged to be recipients of this worthy organization's mother and daughter talents. Together we are saving the land and leaving a legacy.

"Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless,
but because they're priceless." - Sherry Anderson

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 Denver.

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."

Jeff shares that for him, "Andiwich is one of the most pleasant places to sit and watch a sunset or a thunderstorm, to find peace and quiet. It's a wonderful place to reflect." He enjoys sharing it with his friends, and delights in the fun and memories that his family members enjoy on the property, from a gathering of Jeff's community band brass instrument tuba party, to his brother's "Suffer Better" grueling mountain trail race. 
Jeff and his family are a beautiful example of a large group working together to manage their heritage in a way that works for everyone... together we are saving the land and leaving a legacy.

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.

"The way you learn to love children is to take care of them, and it's the same with the landscape, said Meade, "You put yourself into it.  I think Robert Frost (from his poem The Gift Outright) said it best: The land was ours before we were the land's.  She was our land more than a hundred years before we were her people.

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.
The boys approached the tasks at hand with enthusiasm, a sense of humor and determination to help Cole finish his job.  They played music, told jokes and worked hard for hours supporting Cole in his endeavor to get the kiosk built and installed.  Andrew Puseman, Senior Patrol Leader for Troop #238 told us that out of the 40 boys on the troop roster, 5 other young men are also currently working on Eagle Scout projects and he personally attained his Eagle Scout rank in May of 2016.  
Chris Barrow, Eagle Scout candidate Cole Brazell and Andrew Puseman assembling the kiosk.

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 says she really enjoys the work, especially learning and identifying Colorado flora and fauna and native versus invasive plants.   She doesn't mind working alone, but also welcomes the company and enjoys showing fellow hikers the sweet wax currant and penny cress that you can eat, and the showy milkweed that smells like roses.  Her excitement about trees, plants and wildlife is contagious.
When asked if she felt unsafe or scared while monitoring, Sam admits, "Sometimes the prospect of a lurking mountain lion is definitely unnerving and I've had the feeling that something is hunting me."   Sam has stumbled on "boneyards" near rocky outcroppings that give her the distinct feeling that she's in mountain lion territory.  "I walk quickly and spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder and scanning the horizon."

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 mountains.

Through the generosity of a "Connecting Youth" grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), MALT is leading hikes for underserved Denver metro area middle school kids on its newest conserved property on Floyd Hill Open Space in Clear Creek County. 

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

In 1927, a visit to Bob Ostertag's family ranch in Bailey, Colorado was an all-day affair.  After church on Sunday, Bob's great-grandparents and their two children would load up the car and make the long drive up the hill from Denver to Park County to visit their property.   Dressed in their Sunday best, the family would enjoy a picnic in the meadow next to the rippling sounds of the South Platte River while enjoying the sweeping views of Mt. Bierstadt and the Chicago Peaks.

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."