Meeting in the wilderness
The 28-year-old organization is looking forward to expanding with a permanent education center in Maloit Park near Minturn.
Next month, Meet the Wilderness, a nonprofit committed to personal growth of underprivileged and at-risk youth, plans to submit the Eagle County School Board a detailed plan for a one-acre parcel close to the rummage sale building.
The school board already has approved a conceptual plan, which means it’s willing to discuss the idea of leasing the land to the organization.
Meet the Wilderness is proposing to build what it’s calling the Cross Creek Adventure Education Center, a 6,000-square-foot lodge and three 500-square-foot cabins on an acre of land in the park.
“We haven’t had a permanent base of operations since the program started in 1974,” says Jim Himmes, founder of Meet the Wilderness. “The schools have been very good letting us use their facilities in the summer. The problem is we do a lot of programming in the school year and it’s very difficult because we don’t have a place to go if the weather is bad.”
Meet the Wilderness serves about 2,500 youths every year. Of those, 2,000 are locals; the rest come from Garfield, Summit and Pitkin counties and from Denver and Chicago. Programs range from a one-day team-building program to a six-day wilderness backpacking program.
Before the project gets approved by the school board, Himmes would still have to address water, traffic and other issues, said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman for the school district.
Some residents of Minturn have expressed concern with overdevelopment in Maloit Park.
“This project would create a huge amount of garbage and water issues, which already is a problem in Minturn,” said Wendy Satsky, a resident of Minturn and a teacher at Minturn Middle School.
Himmes said he’d already met with the Minturn Town Council to address some of the issues.
“We’re already doing programs there, so there’s not going to be a significant amount of new people,” Himmes said.
Allan Lanning, Minturn’s town manager, said water authorities still need to see what the center’s demand of water will be before they can commit to provide it.
“That’s the only issue we have,” he said, “if we can serve them from a water perspective.”
Minturn Councilman Darell Wegert said he doesn’t think the proposed center would have a great impact on the town.
“I wouldn’t vote against it,” he said. “There are some concerns that it might cause traffic. But we have a good relationship with Jim Himmes to address these issues if there’s a problem.”
Wegert, however, said if there’s any additional growth in Maloit Park, the school district would need to upgrade the water system – Minturn now provides water to the schools. The school district would be responsible because they would be leasing the land to Meet the Wilderness, Wegert said.
School board member Connie Kincaid-Strahan, who represents Minturn, was the only school board member who voted against the idea.
“I liked the original plan that in addition to Meet the Wilderness also incorporated other community groups (such as the Gore Range Natural Science School and the Alpine Garden Foundation) that were coming together to form a partnership all together in the same plot,” Kincaid-Strahan said.
The new plan, which only includes Meet the Wilderness, is too large for the only piece of land available, she added.
“If somebody else would come in the future, we wouldn’t have any more land,” Kincaid-Strahan said. “I would feel more comfortable if it would be smaller or they give access to other community groups.”
Himmes said he plans to submit a preliminary plan to the school board at the Nov. 13 meeting.
“Then we’d have to start raising funds,” he said. “I don’t know when we could start building. It will depend on the fund-raiser.
“This new center will be a resource for the kids in the county and the communities,” Himmes said. “It will help us serve everybody better.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.