Vail Daily column: Successful year for Eagle River Watershed Council |

Vail Daily column: Successful year for Eagle River Watershed Council

The Eagle River Watershed Council is a small nonprofit by any standard: Two full-time staff, one part-time consultant, and 10 board members. But when we think of ourselves, those numbers don’t even scratch the surface; there are so many organizations and individuals that play an integral role in making the Watershed Council the strong advocate that it is.

As the year draws to a close, we would like to acknowledge those partnerships and collaborations that have helped to make 2013 such an exciting year for the Watershed Council. After all, the holidays are as much about giving (be it love, objects, good cheer or gratitude) as they are about getting.

Althea Gibson put it simply when she said “no matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” As a professional singles tennis player and the first African American to win a Grand Slam title, Gibson certainly accomplished much and knew the importance of a helping hand.

Holly Loff and Kate Burchenal, The Eagle River Watershed Council’s two full-time staff, both began working in the summer of 2013. They will be the first to tell anyone that helping hands are not hard to come by in this valley. From their predecessors, Melissa Macdonald and Amanda Nichols respectively, to board members, to new faces outside of the organization, people offered help of all kinds to get Loff and Burchnal up to speed. And it certainly doesn’t stop there.

Volunteers Are Invaluable

Volunteers are at the heart of any nonprofit organization, and at the Watershed Council, we are very fortunate to have such a dedicated and service-oriented community to work with. The hundreds of cleanup participants who donate their time to both the Highway and River cleanups; Vail Resorts Echo volunteers who helped us control erosion along Homestake Creek; school service-learning groups who harvested and planted willow stakes, monitored bug populations, and educated our community through their very own research projects; and individuals who aided the Eagle River Watershed Council with various restoration projects on the Eagle and its tributaries.

Eagle County and the town governments play a large role in the Watershed Council’s success through financial support but also by sharing their local knowledge and expertise, something that is invaluable in this field of work. The Eagle River Watershed Council is also fortunate to have partners like the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District who dedicate their considerable time and effort to water issues in the valley.

It is also a great joy to have the opportunity to work with river-users and future environmentalists from our youngest generation. We are grateful to the many dedicated and inspiring teachers who have allowed us to teach their students, take them out on the river and generally have fun outdoors in this beautiful place we call home.

Looking Forward

We are always grateful for support from other nonprofit organizations around the valley including the Eagle Valley Land Trust, Walking Mountains and all of the organizations who participated in Eagle County Gives Day and made it such a huge success.

Looking forward, we are excited to continue fostering these types of collaborations in 2014 and beyond. This spring, Colorado State University and the Eagle River Watershed Council will complete the inventory and assessment of the 55 miles of the Upper Colorado River that flows through Eagle County. As a result of these findings, the Eagle River Watershed Council will be launching exciting, new projects on the Colorado River utilizing volunteers and both our historical and new partners.

We are fortunate to be working in such a collaborative and giving community. Thanks to all of our partners, happy holidays and we look forward to another great year ahead!

Susan Pollack is the outgoing president of the board of directors for the Eagle River Watershed Council. The Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or visit

Support Local Journalism