School for stewards and sustainers
VAIL MOUNTAIN – Saturday morning, 6 a.m. Time to get up. It’s a day off work, and the alarm clock abruptly interrupts my peaceful doze.The light breaks over the Gore Range, sending splinters of light through the trees, just as the group gathers at the base of the Vista Bahn to relish in the private splendor of First Light, First Tracks. The runs glisten with icy crystals on the freshly groomed snow. I wonder if this peacefulness is what first drew Pete Seibert to gaze up at these hills and dream, a moment just like this.A group of us have gathered together to enjoy a special morning and to learn more about our environment and to learn more about a group that fights to not only maintain the special relationship of man and nature in our valley, but also to educate its residents on the fragile balance that exists. It’s not just about preserving open space. It’s learning how to serve it.It’s estimated that by 2015 the population of Eagle County will double. With that pressure on the environment, it’s essential that we are educated so that we can make responsible decisions on the use of our land. This is where Gore Range Natural Science School steps in.
From offering a range of programs throughout the year to adults, and even more importantly, in our schools and through summer programs, we and our children will hopefully have some of the scientific understanding and connection to the natural world to become stewards and sustainers of the ecosystem in which we live.One relationship has developed in our community, between the Gore Range Natural Science School and Vail Resorts. The two organizations, along with the Holy Cross Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, received an award from the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education for the Nature Discovery Center Partnership. The discovery center, located at the top of the gondola above Lionshead, hosts 12,000 visitors annually. “When you work with a world class organization it pushes you,” said Markian Feduschak, executive director of the school. “Vail Resorts supports both publicly and privately and does so quietly.”One direction of the school’s strategic initiative is the programs offered in local public schools. At Avon Elementary, Gore Range educators are present in the building and students have the opportunity throughout the year for natural science and environmental education. The school is also hoping to expand their interpretive programs to reach out and serve more people. Of course, to maintain the programs the school offers, dollars are needed – 50 percent of their budget comes from private donations.
“Our staff is the sound investment,” Feduschak said. “They are a remarkable group of naturalists and educators who are here for one year to 15 months. When they leave, they continue to have an impact in the world and in environmental education and natural science.”