Remembering Rosie Shearwood, passionate protector of the Brush Creek Valley
Shearwood leaves a legacy of family, friends, adventure and her beloved corner of the Rockies
EAGLE — The Brush Creek Valley is so beautiful during the winter months as snow blankets the meadows and deer and elk find respite from the harsh mountain conditions.
It’s also stunningly picturesque when spring finally arrives and vivid green hues sprout everywhere. Then summer days arrive and mountain bluebirds dart about and Brush Creek beckons fly-fishermen to cast a line. Come fall, the valley explodes in breathtaking color.
In all its seasons, in all its beauty, the Brush Creek Valley is a legacy of Rosie Shearwood’s determination.
“I was driving up Brush Creek last weekend, reflecting on my mom and seeing people watching the deer and elk and sight-seeing,” said Rosie’s son Scott Shearwood. “I couldn’t help but think they were seeing what they were seeing because of my mother and her efforts.”
“She took a lot of pride in the fact that she had fought for it,” he added.
Rosalinda Lee Shearwood left this world on Jan. 11. She packed a whole lot of living in her 77 years and she leaves behind a loving family, a tribe of fierce friends and the rewards of some well-fought battles. She steadfastly fought to preserve both Eagle and the Brush Creek Valley by clocking an untold number of hours at public hearings. But after arguing her case at the podium, she could share a hearty laugh with everyone who gathered at a bar once the meeting was over. She had an uncommon ability to disagree with someone’s viewpoint without becoming disagreeable.
Residents of the Eagle River Valley live in a better place because Rosie lived among us.
The woman who so passionately championed conservation for her little corner of Colorado was actually a California native. She was born Aug. 4, 1942, in Berkeley to Nelson Forester Julian and Leora Mae Gholston Julian. Rosie was the baby of the family, joining sister Helen and brother Norman.
Her family eventually moved to Los Altos in northern Silicon Valley. “I met her in 1957 when we were both in high school,” said her longtime friend Kaarin Gann. “Rosie was so outgoing and fearless. She taught me to walk on my hands and she would jump off garage roofs. She was always the instigator of derring-do things and I learned to be as daring as Rosie was.”
The two girls shared a love of horses.
“Rosie didn’t have a horse of her own but she had one that she could ride and we would take off bareback into the mountains surrounding Los Altos. She was an excellent horsewoman,” Gann said.
Before she graduated, Rosie left California with her mother to live in Colorado with an aunt. She eventually graduated high school in Colorado.
Gann was initially surprised by the direction Rosie’s life had taken.
“Rosie got one of her first jobs working for some aerospace company. She was working in an office and at the time I thought, ‘That’s not the Rosie I know,’” Gann said.
But that office job meant Rosie could make the most of her weekends.
“She was working in Denver and being a ski bunny on the weekends at Loveland,” Scott said. During an après ski gathering at a dive bar in Georgetown, she met Pete Shearwood, a young man from Connecticut who was in the construction business, working on the Rabbit Ears Pass project.
After a while, Rosie also had her closest friend nearby.
“After graduation, I was on my way to Europe when I stopped to see Rosie and I never left,” Gann said. “I blame her for living half of my life in Colorado.”
Rosie’s life took a dark turn when she was around 19 and she was involved in a serious car accident.
“Her back was basically accordioned,” Gann said. “The doctors told her she would never walk and never have children. She proved them wrong in spades. That was who Rosie was.”
She spent a year in a body cast and months in a wheelchair. But by that time, Pete had proposed and Rosie had a very specific plan for her wedding day.
“She wanted to stand up and walk down the aisle when she got married. That’s what she did,” Gann said.
The year was 1965 and Rosie and Pete were married at the little Methodist church in Meredith, Colorado.
While the couple was living in Meredith, they welcomed their only child. Scott has some great early memories of family life in the remote part of Pitkin County.
His dad was working on the Ruedi Reservoir project and during the evenings, the Shearwoods would walk around the area as the water levels were rising.
“When they were filling up the Ruedi Dam, the basin was just full of beaver families,” he recalled. “One evening we were taking a walk along the shoreline and one of dad’s hounds found a baby beaver. Mom ended up raising the little guy.”
It was no small task. But Rosie devoted to the animal she simply named “Little Beaver.”
“That Little Beaver was worse than having quadruplets,” Scott said.
Between gnawing on door trim and furniture and their preference to poop in water, beavers are tough to have in the house. Scott vividly recalls how his mom would take Little Beaver out for walks and try to accommodate his bathroom needs.
“Eventually Little Beaver went on to be adopted by an old rancher up Cattle Creek,” Scott said.
Fateful day at the fair
Shearwood family’s life took an unexpected turn in 1968.
“We stumbled on the property on Brush Creek coming to an Eagle County Fair and Rodeo,” Scott said. “Mom and dad bought their piece of ground and we moved there in 1969. We lived in a little mobile home we had been living in over on the Frying Pan River.”
Scott started first grade in Eagle, Pete went to work building Interstate 70 through the Eagle Valley and Rosie embraced the life she was born to live. The Shearwoods eventually built their home and Rosie planted her famed garden.
“With the property and area to enjoy, she got her first horse — Kim. The two of them toddled all around the mountainside,” Scott said.
Rosie loved everything about Brush Creek — its scenery, its seasons and its history. She was a stay-home mom who loved to play.
“She was very fun in spirit,” Scott said. He and Rosie would go tubing on the Fryingpan and play broom hockey on the pond by their home. She even loved Scott’s 1980s-era music.
“One of my funniest memories was when we lived in the Fryingpan Valley and we had one of the earliest snowmobiles ever made,” he continued. The Shearwoods had made a riding oval that was about a quarter-mile long and they loved taking laps with the snow machine.
“Mom decided it would be fun to pull a sled saucer behind the snowmobile,” Scott recalled. Mother and son were having a fine time until Rosie took a corner a bit to fast.
“She looked back and there was the snow saucer with my mittens frozen in the handles. She looked off into the distance and there I was, in the deep snow.”
Rosie eventually transformed her love for horses into a paying gig. She worked the horse program at Eagle Ranch, when it was still a ranch, not a subdivision.
“One time she flew to South America, at which point they loaded a couple of mares and a stallion … and she flew back with the horses in military-style cargo jet,” Scott said.
Rosie acquired Junnie Moon, a mare with prestigious bloodlines. “She was a great horse, a beautiful horse, and she later became my 4-H project for 13 years,” Scott said.
Throughout her life, Rosie loved a good adventure. She went on a jaguar hunt in Belize and a trip to Iceland with her granddaughter, Kylie. She even accompanied Gann to the Antarctic to conduct a penguin study.
Gann explained that her brother, a former curator of birds at Sea World, had a consulting firm that planned a study of gentoo and king penguins at the South Georgia Islands.
“How Rosie got involved was there were 13 people on the expedition and I was running it,” Gann said. “Two of the people, two days before we were scheduled to leave, dropped out. I told my brother we needed to fill those spots and we looked at each other and said, ‘Rosie!’”
With just two days notice, Rosie climbed aboard the Antarctica-bound ship with Gann.
“She said she would never, ever forget that trip. It was the trip of a lifetime for both of us,” Gann said.
But Rosie always came home to Brush Creek, the valley that held her heart. She lost Pete in 1994, but she remained in the home they had built together for another 26 years.
Rosie, the passionate community crusader, was born in the 1970s when Saint Louis, Missouri, developer Fred Kummer announced his plan to build Adam’s Rib, a ski resort on Adam’s Mountain, a landmark of the Brush Creek Valley.
“Once that very first plan came out, my mom was very active in getting the Concerned Citizens of Eagle committee together,” Scott said. “The Concerned Citizens were the heart and soul of that battle.”
It was a battle that lasted for 46 years and divided the Eagle community. Heated meetings, recall elections, lawsuits and even bar fights were part of the Adam’s Rib fight. Rosie stood up and testified at too many meetings to count and wrote enough letters to the editor to fill the pages of a novel. In the end, her side won. Kummer abandoned his plan in the late 1990s and the area where he envisioned as a ski village is now Sylvan Lake State Park. Rosie celebrated another victory in 2017 when the 1,700-acre Brush Creek Ranch and Open space property was created.
Her steadfast defense of the Brush Creek Valley and Eagle wasn’t restricted to Adam’s Rib. Rosie was also voiced her concerns about Eagle Ranch, Haymeadow, Eagle River Station and, most recently, The Reserve at Hockett Gulch. Some of those plans have materialized, others haven’t. Either way, it’s safe to say that with Rosie as a watchdog, development around Eagle was thoroughly vetted.
In 2017, Rosie’s decades of advocacy earned her Eagle’s Community Impact Award. There is a plaque located at the Brush Creek Park that pays tribute to her work.
“Many people were involved in the decades-long fight to save Brush Creek from development. Rosie was always at the forefront, and she never stopped,” wrote Eagle County Historical Society President Kathy Heicher on the Caring Bridge website that Scott established for his mother during her final days.
“She had a unique ability to handle political fights with grace and dignity. She spent hundreds of hours in public meetings standing up for Brush Creek. And Rosie was a lot of fun — not above sharing a hearty laugh at a slightly inappropriate joke. She will be remembered as the protector of Brush Creek,” Heicher wrote.
“As I was driving up Brush Creek this afternoon, the big herd of elk were out there grazing and basking in the waning sun,” Jan Rosenthal shared on Caring Bridge. “A little bull came through in the clearing and looked at me. Through the tears, I smiled, knowing dear Rosie was ever present. I never drive that road without thinking of her and how much she has done to preserve this beautiful, pristine valley.”
Scott has been deeply touched by the outpouring of support he’s received since his mother’s passing. Her Caring Bridge site has recorded nearly 5,000 hits and there is message after message detailing how deeply she was loved.
“At the end I was there with her, by myself, just her and I, and I felt it was kind of fitting because we had done so much together. For her and I to do this in peace, just the two of us together, was pretty representative of our relationship,” Scott said.
“I want to offer a very warm and heartfelt thanks to everyone who truly understand what a loss this is to our family and her friends,” Scott continued.
Along with her son, Rosie is survived by her granddaughter, Kylie, grandson, Austin, two great-grandchildren, a sister, nieces and nephews and a wide circle of friends. Scott said a celebration of her life will happen in the spring. “Seasonally, that was her favorite time of year,” he said.
But a celebration of everything that was Rosie won’t be contained in a single event. It will happen every single time someone takes a left turn and begins a journey up Brush Creek Road.
“The valley wouldn’t be the same without my mom,” Scott said. “She cherished her life up Brush Creek.”