EAGLE COUNTY — Some things just get better when you put them together.
Such is the case with two local nonprofits. After careful evaluation and a recent decision of both boards, the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability is being folded into Walking Mountains Science Center. The Alliance name will no longer exist on a list of local nonprofits, but its popular programs promoting sustainable practices promise to gain momentum under Walking Mountains’ banner.
“This is a less is more story,” said Pat Tierney, chairman of Walking Mountains’ board. “While we are decreasing the number of nonprofits by one, the missions of the two organizations fit perfectly together and create more opportunities for more people in our community. In fact, our combined efforts will have an exponential impact across our valley.”
Community benefit was the first priority of a joint committee from both organizations who took the opportunity under consideration this past summer. After discussions with donors and exploration of shared values, structure, strategy and other measures, they recommended that the Alliance programs and staff become part of Walking Mountains.
“It just makes sense,” said John Shipp, who served on the committee.
Both nonprofits came into being in the late 1990s. Kim Langmaid opened the doors of the Gore Range Natural Science School in Red Cliff in 1998. Her science education programs were focused on “awakening a sense of wonder and inspiring environmental stewardship.” The grassroots effort grew year-by-year through support from the community and visitors to the valley. In 2010, the organization adopted a new name — Walking Mountains Science Center — and broke ground on a new science education center. Today, thousands of students, adults, families and groups participate in science-in-nature education programs offered at the new Science Center campus.
A sustainable environment
Around the same time, a group of concerned residents and environmental leaders were looking to bring together separate environmental efforts across Eagle County. In 1995, they established the Partnership for Environmental Education Programs, a name that was later changed to Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. The new nonprofit was involved in countywide recycling efforts and worked with the Environmental Committee for the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. Toward the end of 1999, the first staff person was hired to run the Green Star program, maintain public recycling drop-offs and grow the organization. During the next 15 years, the Alliance expanded its programs for businesses and residents — from energy efficiency to waste reduction, from landscape stewardship to sustainability education and certification.
These Alliance programs will continue to run as the newly formed Sustainability and Stewardship Programs at Walking Mountains. Langmaid, the former Alliance executive director, will oversee this new program area. Her former Alliance staff will also join Walking Mountains and share office space on the Science Center campus. Three former Alliance board members will join the Walking Mountains board, and a new committee called Sustainability and Stewardship will be formed to serve in an advisory capacity for this program. Eventually, operations and fundraising efforts will be streamlined.
“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to lead each of these nonprofits,” Langmaid said. “I can tell you first-hand that the combined expertise and energy of our groups is very exciting.”
“By bringing our organizations together, we can provide opportunities to learn science and practice sustainable living,” said Markian Feduschak, executive director of Walking Mountains. “We see this as a natural evolution of our mission — moving from awareness to action — as well as a continuum of our programs and a good use of resources.”