Eagle River Watershed Council: The role of the river | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Watershed Council: The role of the river

Holly Loff and Cliff Simonton
The Current
Many people have looked to local rivers for stress relief during the pandemic, occasionally leading to overuse and unsustainable impacts. Eagle River Watershed Council needs your support in addressing these impacts, connecting our community to life-changing experiences and offering knowledge about what it means to be good river stewards.
Special to the Daily

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything in the world seemed to change this spring, the board and staff at Eagle River Watershed Council recognized the role of the river for its dependable mental health benefits as a place to escape, for its recreational benefits that allow for socially-distant outings, and for the joy, inspiration and peace offered by its flows and riffles.

We weren’t the only ones to recognize the river as a place to go and forget how much our lives had changed, even if just for a moment. To those familiar with its calming qualities, the river became a more frequent destination for respite and relaxation. And to those previously unfamiliar, it became a new and much-loved adventure.

The increased use was noticeable: Parking lots at the boat ramps and pullouts along the Upper Colorado and Eagle Rivers were overflowing, shores were full of picnickers and anglers and rafts on some river segments were lined up like bumper cars; not just on the weekends, but almost every day of the week.

With all of that extra use, riparian vegetation was more and more trampled, many new streamside trails appeared and the amount of trash and other streamside “deposits” increased dramatically.

The Watershed Council worked quickly to get information out on proper use and began identifying areas where new, poorly-placed trails might soon impact streambank stability. As size restrictions for groups lifted in the summer, we mobilized volunteers to address these problems before they spun out of control. We also found a way to hold a social-distancing-friendly 26th Annual Eagle River Cleanup in September, removing more than 160 bags of trash from local streams.

When everyone was still at home before the summer recreation season, we knew parents were dealing with their own stresses from work, while also trying to serve as school teachers for their children. Our team went to work creating simple, engaging and fun educational videos that hundreds of parents used with their kids at home. Local teachers even assigned content developed by the Watershed Council to their home-bound students. We were proud to provide virtual watershed education to our community and to be a resource for our hard-working teachers.

Our streams and rivers are the lifeblood and the heartbeat of our mountain community, serving as a reliable indicator of the health of the larger natural environment that supports our lifestyles and our economy. Since 2004, the Watershed Council has been committed to protecting all waterways and riparian environments in Eagle County, a mission and calling that we believe is more critical now than ever.

If river protection, advocacy, education and restoration is important to you, please consider including us in your annual giving. To learn more about our river restoration projects and community events, stay up-to-date with our newsletter, make a donation and align your business with one of our programs, please contact us at 970-827-5406 or check out our webpage at erwc.org.

Above all, please stay safe this holiday season.

Cliff Simonton is the outgoing president and Holly Loff is the executive director for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit erwc.org with questions or to learn how to support us.

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