Fund that honors the legacy of Adam Palmer will power Eagle’s sustainable future
The town plans to work with the Eagle Valley Community Foundation to power sustainable businesses and innovation for years to come
To achieve its ambitious new sustainability goals, the town of Eagle is working with the Eagle Valley Community Foundation to establish the Adam Palmer Sustainability Fund.
The fund will honor the legacy of Palmer, whose passion for the outdoors and drive to create a more environmentally sustainable community led him to spearhead an eco-friendly building incentive fund as a planner and director of sustainable communities with Eagle County government. Palmer also served on the Eagle Town Council and other community boards, including Eco Trails, Holy Cross Energy and the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition.
“There was a sense right after Adam died that (the town of Eagle) wanted to carry some of his vision forward, and they wanted projects to continue that they knew he was passionate about, not just because he was passionate about it but because they believed in it ,too,” Adam’s wife, Kalie Palmer, said.
Eagle’s new goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 is a daunting one, Town Council member Geoff Grimmer said in a recent interview. It is one thing to set the target, and another thing entirely to pave the path forward.
The Adam Palmer Sustainability Fund is a great way to start on this journey as it will bridge the gap for local innovators who have great ideas but no way to fund them, said Grimmer, who has played a lead role in the town’s sustainability efforts.
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Adam was an innovator himself and had an incredible knack for bringing people together, Kalie Palmer said.
The essence of Adam’s legacy is “not being afraid to charge ahead even though it might seem difficult, or you might not have all the answers,” she said. “In his career, he made a lot of things happen, because he saw the need and he was able to bring people together to make it happen.
“And they had fun doing it too,” she continued. “He always interjected a lot of humor kind of at the right moment and made people see that like, ‘Yes, we can do this.’ He had kind of an empowering presence I guess.”
The fund will provide grants and loans to support a variety of sustainability initiatives in Eagle, whether it be business owners or developers looking to make operations greener or local entrepreneurs with bright new ideas.
The town is still working out all the kinks of this big idea, but Town Council members discussed the fund’s progress at their Aug. 24 meeting.
“I don’t think this is anything that is perfect at this point, by any stretch of the imagination, but we wanted to start the conversation so that we can begin to think about how we want to do this,” Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said.
The progress so far
The Eagle Valley Community Foundation will serve as the fiscal agent for the fund and will also provide administrative support, said Laura Hartman, director of operations for the Eagle Valley Community Foundation.
“The role of a community foundation is to support these kind of grassroots initiatives that come up, especially when they’re aligned with a topic like sustainability that has such far-reaching implications for every member of our community,” Hartman said. “We know that increasing sustainability and engaging in work that supports climate resiliency supports those most vulnerable populations that we care about at the community foundation.”
The partnership began organically when Hartman met Grimmer for coffee one day, she said. The Eagle Valley Community Foundation may not be the fiscal sponsor of the fund forever, but sponsorship by a nonprofit organization will make the fund better positioned to apply for grants and collect tax-deductible individual donations.
The decision-making body for the allocation of funds will take the shape of a steering committee made up of five to seven members, Grimmer said. The town is hoping to have a variety of perspectives represented such as sustainability experts, town and county officials, representatives of local utility providers, the Eagle Valley Community Foundation and, hopefully, a member of the Palmer family.
A rough target date for the official rollout of the fund is currently set for Feb. 1, the one-year anniversary of the death of Palmer in an avalanche near Silverton, Grimmer said in last month’s meeting.
Fundraising will likely begin this year, but that timeline is dependent on the recommendations of the steering committee once it is formed, Grimmer said.
The town has yet to determine what percentage of donations will go toward loans versus grants, he said in last month’s meeting, adding that town staff have been doing a lot of research to put together recommendations on how to execute the fund.
A crucial next step will be to develop an official contract with the Eagle Valley Community Foundation in the coming weeks, Eagle Town Manager Brandy Reitter said at the Aug. 24 meeting.
The town’s current goal is to have 40% of the fund’s capacity come from individual donors, according to an overview of the fund that described it as a “heart driven initiative.”
“As so many people were touched by Adam’s kindness, humor and intellect, the Palmer Fund is a ‘heart driven’ initiative that inspires support from individual donors, businesses, state and local government, and through special events,” the document reads.
Beyond individual donors, an estimated 20% of fund dollars would come from state and local grants, 25% from local utility providers and the town of Eagle would kick in the remaining 15%.
Support from local utility providers like Holy Cross Energy and Black Hills Energy might involve the donation of resources or services or even joint projects as the agencies have similarly ambitious climate goals, Grimmer said.
One of the “lenses” that will guide how the Palmer fund is deployed is a 2017 book called “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” Grimmer said.
Written by Paul Hawken, the book outlines the most impactful ways we can reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere and slow the progression of global warming, according to the project’s website.
The steering committee will also rely on Walking Mountains Science Center’s Climate Action Plan, which offers more localized recommendations, Grimmer said.
The steering committee will evaluate projects based, in part, on their potential for a speedy “return on investment” and will consult the town’s maintenance priority list to see how to make greener purchasing decisions when upgrades are due, he said.
“Nine years is a good steady pace to make these changes rather than waiting and having a steeper climb at the end,” Grimmer said. “The longer your ramp is, the higher you can climb without having an impossible task in front of you.”
Kalie Palmer has kept in contact with Grimmer about the progression of the fund’s establishment and said she feels a great deal of confidence in the ability of everyone involved to carry on her husband’s work in a way that he would be proud to see.
“It’s super exciting to see that spirit of collaboration and just making things happen,” she said.
A natural parallel revealed itself in the ways that Kalie Palmer and Grimmer spoke about the road ahead, both focusing in on themes of collaboration as the best way to persevere in the face of uncertainty.
“There’s a sense of excitement and energy, but there’s also, like anything else, there’s some sobering moments,” Grimmer said. “But it’s just super exciting that we’ve set out on this path together, and we’ve done it with a timeline that we feel is achievable.”
“While the details haven’t been worked out, those are the types of things where I know the town misses Adam, because I know that if he was here and they were creating this fund, he would have some insights that would help them figure those things out,” Kalie Palmer said. “But I also know that there are a lot of really bright, positive, wonderful people working for our town that, in that same spirit, are going to say, ‘this feels like an obstacle but really it’s just an opportunity and we’ll figure it out.’”
Email Kelli Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org