A natural community | VailDaily.com

A natural community

Staff Reports

Maurice Nottingham or Mauri, as he’s called is sitting with his arms folded, recounting his family history in a gravelly voice. His trademark black glasses frame his eyes, and a bright blue baseball cap covers his head and shades his face.It takes time, with Mauri, to get the full story. But when it comes, it is worth the wait. He has done his homework; he knows his history.As he talks, cars speed by in the window behind him, heading towards Avon; a testament to how different things are now, 100 years since covered wagons ambled towards his grandfather’s homestead.”Grandfather packed up a covered wagon, as the story goes, and hauled his family into Redcliff in 1882,” he says. At the turn of the nineteenth century, he goes on to say, William Nottingham settled the valley now known as Avon. The Nottingham legacy lives on, with many descendants of Grandfather Nottingham still living here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains along with the things that were named after him and his kin: Avon’s centerpiece Nottingham Lake, Nottingham Road, Nottingham Park and Nottingham Rock.Even though he has a prominent surname, Mauri himself is very low profile, “He has a very quiet and meaningful manner, and he gets things done at his own pace, in his own way and it’s very effective,” says Tamra Nottingham Underwood, Mauri’s daughter. “He cares about this valley so deeply.”You also wouldn’t know, for example, that he’s written a family history of the Nottinghams that is housed at the Eagle Library in the rare book section. Or that Nottingham himself named Hurd Lane in Avon after his late grandmother Nancy Angeline Tracy Nottingham Hurd who died in 1927. Or that the premier county environmental award, funded by the Town of Vail, is named after Mauri.”(Rob LeVine) called me once and asked (to have the award named after me) and I said ‘no,’ he called me twice and I said ‘no,’ but by the end of the conversation I agreed,” Nottingham says. “It’s not to say that I’m not proud of it, I just felt like I should be more modest.”Former Vail Town Councilman Rob LeVine was persistent about naming the award after Nottingham because he virtually started recycling in the valley back in the late 80s, doing much of the work himself. In 1990 he started a non-profit business called “We Recycle.” In 1996 BFI took over “not because it was profitable,” Mauri says, “but because it’s the right thing to do.”And it took a bit of pleading to get Mauri to open up, to tell us the story of his life in the valley, to tell us that he was born in an two-story gray house that used to sit near where Pizza Hut does now in Avon. And that, 74 years later, he lives just a few miles away in Edwards.Nottingham was born in 1930 and lived in the Avon area until 1947 when he left the valley and the country and joined the Army, a lifestyle he “didn’t particularly care for.” After his time in the army, Mauri moved to Boulder and attended the University of Colorado, where he studied mathematics and engineering. He graduated in 1956, the same year he married his wife Nancy Waring. After he graduated he taught mathematics at CU Boulder for two years. In 1960 he and Nancy moved to Aspen, heeding the call for the ski bum life. They built a little house in Aspen that is still there today. In 1961 they moved back to the Front Range to work for a computer manufacturing company but returned to the mountains in1968 to build the Talisman Lodge, now part of the Sonnenalp Swiss House. Mauri was one of the first computer programmers in Vail, writing Merv Lapin’s first stock trading program.When asked why he’s stayed all these years, he looks dubious and asks, “Where else would I go? I was born here.” With a smile he says he could never move to Arizona or Florida like the “other old people.” But says in spite of the fact that he’s getting sick of winter and that it has become easier to stay home than to get out on his skis, this valley has always been his home and will remain just that.Mauri remembers things that many locals in the valley probably have no idea ever existed. By way of example, he points out the window, across Highway 6, to the recently remodeled Eagle-Vail car wash.”There used to be a magnificent white farmhouse right there in the late 40s, and this land right here where the Vail Trail parking lot is now, well, what used to be Colorado A&M, now known as Colorado State University, owned that land. It was an experimental farm for them.”He remembers the first editions of the Vail Trail and the first edition of the Vail Daily back then it consisted of a double-sided 8 1/2 x 10-inch piece of paperOften, during the interview, Mauri gazes back towards Avon or across Highway 6 to the Eagle River, looking as if he is seeing the landscape as it was in his childhood: unfettered, undeveloped, all potential yet untapped. When asked about what bothers him most about the many changes the valley he’s seen (and he is quick to assert he’s seen all the changes), it’s the growth. It’s the Wal-Mart and the Home Depot that rest on his family’s original homestead, it’s the developments that have happened not because people need more places to live, but because developers are hungry for another buck. “I’m not sure all of the changes are perfectly nice or even acceptable,” says Nottingham with a grimace.Despite this, Mauri’s second daughter Tamra says that Mauri’s been surprisingly accepting of all the growth for the most part, “He tries to look at the positive aspects (of the growth),” says Tamra. “(He enjoys) the fact that he can go and hear the New York Philharmonic at Ford Amphitheater that’s a benefit of growth.”Mauri has a favorite part of the valley as well; not surprisingly that part has a connection to his family. His Uncle Clyde built a two-story farmhouse in 1908.”When I came back here (after a stint in the army) I bought a very small piece of land with two partners, I held onto it for years and when I sold it, I moved the buildings from that land in order to preserve them.” That wintry farmhouse is still in the family; Mauri sold it to Tamra and she lives there now with her own family. In the near future Mauri will be back to live very close to his family’s original homestead; he’s in the process of designing a house with his wife, Nancy to be built next door to that very same two-story farmhouse. “The idea is to keep it in the family, for Tamra to pass it along to her children. My favorite part is what I’ve saved, everything else was torn down.”SIDEBARShootings, suicides and smallpoxEarly Nottingham history has as much drama and excitement as classic Western romance novel. According to family lore, William Nottingham moved his wife and their three children from Iowa to Redcliff in 1882, beginning a long line of Nottinghams prevalent in Eagle County to this day. William and his two partners bought acreage where the Town of Avon now sits, each partner owning 160 acres. But even though he was in a partnership, the Nottingham name adorned the collaboration and William ran the show for the most part. One of the partners (named Peter Puder) committed suicide in 1889 after being alienated from the alliance. Not long afterward, the other partner, Ernest Hurd fell out of William’s favor; he had drawn up documents that would dissolve the partnership and sell the assets to pay off debts, all behind William’s back.When William saw Hurd in the stables in downtown Redcliff on December 20, 1896, he went after him with a gun. Hurd climbed into a hayloft before shooting and killing Nottingham in self-defense.Within three years Hurd married Nottingham’s widowed wife, Nancy Angeline Tracy Nottingham, the final nail in his coffin surely. Not long after that, Hurd died of smallpox while visiting family back east.”In a six year period, what had been three partners, was reduced to none,” says Mauri.Grandma Hurd, as Mauri and the rest of the family referred to her, was left with all three ranches and five kids to raise. Eventually the ranches were split up into three, one for each of her sons, Clyde, Henry (Mauri’s father) and Emmett. Clyde, who according to Mauri was a little hotheaded like his father, had been in and out of court six times, for “shooting at people and things” and oftentimes threatening people.”My father Henry married the railroad stationmaster’s daughter, Marie. One of Clyde’s adversaries happened to be the stationmaster and there was gunplay between them at one time; it’s said that there was actually a bullet hole in Clyde’s sleeve,” says Mauri. “Marie and Henry hopped the train to Leadville to get married; that was in 1909they were both 19 years old.”And the rest, as they say, is history. By Caramie SchnellCaroline Bradford and the Eagle River Watershed Council: If there’s a cleanup, an educational meeting, or an opportunity to learn about the natural world, Bradford will be there. For four years straight, Bradford held monthly public meetings to help educate the public on the White River National Forest Plan. She also helped Kim Langmaid in the early stages of the Gore Range Natural Science School. In 2001 she became the Executive Director of the Eagle River Watershed Council, where she said she learned about the unglamorous world of environmental work. “Educating myself and the rest of the community about important environmental issues involves more time setting up chairs in the library than it does hiking in the wilderness,” she says.Kim Langmaid and the staff at the Gore Range Natural Science School: A lifelong local, Langmaid began putting together the idea for a natural science school in the valley in 1997. The idea became a reality in 1998 and since then the school has grown to become central Colorado’s most reputable environmental education center that works to grow a local citizenry that possesses the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about complex natural resource issues. GRNSS annually serves 20 local schools with a diversity of field programs that augment traditional classroom learning, it offers summer youth and adult programs, and it reaches over 10,000 residents and visitors to the valley at the Nature Discovery Center atop Vail Mountain. The full time staff includes: Markian Feduschak, Kim Langmaid, Cindy Tibble, Stephanie Sutton, Kalley Fetcher, Carol Busch, Jessica Barksdale, Sally Hall, and Julie Shapiro.Cindy Cohagen, the Staff and board of the Eagle Valley Land Trust: As head of the Eagle Valley Land Trust since 2001, Cohagen has carried on the effort to secure private and public open space in Eagle County. Founded in 1981 by Roger Tilkemeier, the Land Trust was one of the first organizations of its kind in Colorado, and has put 2,227 acres of land under conservation easement. The original board of directors included John Benton, Floyd Crawford, Chris Jouflas, Don Price, George Rosenberg, and Jen Wright. The current board includes Joe Macy, Jay Precourt, Bob Gardner, Robert Warner, Tom Steinberg, Roger Behler, Peter Bergh, Kathy Borgen, Kelly Bronfman, John Dunn, Tom Edwards, Bill Jensen, Art Kelton, Terrill Knight, Robin Litt, Evelyn Pinney, Arlene Quenon, Richard Rogel, and Andy Wiessner. The business and finance manager is Jennifer Scroggins. Cohagen is currently trying to raise the final monies needed to fulfill the EVLT’s commitment to Bair Ranch.Ken Neubecker: Neubecker has worked to improve the health of rivers for all his life, including more than 12 years in the valley. He helped found the Eagle River Watershed Council, and organized the Eagle River Cleanup. He has also represented Trout Unlimited in many capacities over the years. Neubecker worked on a volunteer basis until late February of this year, when he finally landed a job getting paid to the kind of work he has done voluntarily for over a decade here in our valley. Neubecker is now the West Slope Organizer for Trout Unlimited.Diana Cecala: Cecala coordinated the effort to get the Open Space Tax passed in Eagle County in 2002. “The land is what makes this place special and it’s certainly why I came out here,” she says. “I see it as a precious resource that we’re in danger of losing.” Cecala has done much to encourage people to see land as something that should be preserved, not necessarily as a commodity. She is also involved in the effort to preserve the Bair Ranch in the western part of the county.Adam Palmer: As Director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability from 2001-2004, Palmer helped launch the Shaping the Future of the Eagle Valley course, which looked at environmental, social and economic issues facing our valley. He also started the environmental film series and the Green Building Group, which allows builders to exchange information about environmentally friendly building practices and materials. He also helped expand the Green Star Certification program. The EVAS was started by Jeff Bowen, Tom Gaylord, Ken Neubecker, Kim Langmaid, and Ruth Demouth among others in 1995, originally under the name of PEEP, or Partnership for Environmental Education Programs. He is currently working for the Eagle County government in the planner.Joan Harned: Harned sits on the 17-member board of Great Outdoors Colorado, commonly known as GOCO, which uses Colorado State Lottery funds to help create parks and open space in the state. “I haven’t personally gone out and done anything for the environment, but I am part of a board that does,” she says. Harned has abstained from GOCO votes involving Bair Ranch, but she has lobbied and helped inform the board on the situation there, and helped to bring in approximately $1 million to the project (if it is approved by the County).Bill Carlson and the Town of Vail: As the Town of Vail’s environmental planner, Carlson has helped ensure that the Town performs well above national environmental standards. He has helped protect the Town’s gold medal trout streams by encouraging the installment of filters on storm water drainages, and he has helped facilitate wildfire mitigation projects in the town. Among the projects he hopes to marshal is a series of small, prototype hydraulic power stations to produce clean energy using the power of our streams and rivers.Luke Cartin: As Vail Mountain’s environmental coordinator, Cartin plays a vital role in bringing new initiatives to the resort. In addition to overseeing the resort’s recycling and environmental compliance programs, Cartin also has been examining the feasibility of installing wind turbines to provide renewable wind power. With concerns of the West Nile Virus increasing, Luke installed five bat boxes on the mountain to eliminate mosquito hatches and further breeding of the disease carrying insects. He also serves as a board member of Sustainable Slopes, a committee of the NSAA, which advises on ski industry environmental policies. This winter Cartin purchased the world’s first solar powered portable trash compactor. The compactor, with a serial number of 0001, can store energy for up to two weeks.Tom Page and the Eagle Valley Library District: Page joined a long and distinguished list when he won the individual Mauri Nottingham environmental stewardship award for 2004. Page helped create the Taylor Hill Placer conservation easement near Tennessee Pass. “It’s a very unique piece of land,” Page said. “It has just about everything.” Page was joined by the Eagle Valley Library District, which won the group element of the Nottingham Award for its participation in waste reduction and energy conservation at the Avon, Eagle and Gypsum public libraries.Joe Schmitt and the staff of Meet the Wilderness: Jim Himmes started Meet the Wilderness 30 years ago, and handed over the reigns to Joe Schmitt about three years ago. The group has been helping create better citizens by bringing more than 2,500 youths per year into wilderness settings, camping, hiking, climbing, and taking on other challenges in the wilderness. The group uses every single second outdoors to get kids to think a little bit more about who they are and how they interact with those around them. Schmitt works with Himmes, who is still on staff, Missy Johnson, Tom McCalden, and many others who work part time in the summer to help the organization.

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User