Vail Resorts plants trees on Eagle River |

Vail Resorts plants trees on Eagle River

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Peter Law plants a tree with his daughter Emily during the Vail Resorts Echo Day held on Sat, Oct 1, 2011 in Edwards, CO. Through this project, Vail and Beaver Creek employees will assist Eagle River Watershed Council (ERWC) in completing a 1.6-mile river restoration project in Edwards.

VAIL, Colorado – Vail Resorts wouldn’t exist without pristine natural surroundings – that’s why this is the second straight year the company has made it a priority to give back to the environment.

Vail Resorts celebrated its companywide Echo Day on Saturday. More than 700 volunteers from the company’s resorts from Lake Tahoe to Colorado participated in community volunteer projects. In Eagle County, more than 150 volunteers from Vail and Beaver Creek helped the Eagle River Watershed Council with its 1.6-mile Eagle River restoration project.

“We’re going to have an impact today,” Vail Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot told the volunteers.

Melissa McDonald, the executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council, said Saturday’s Echo Day marked the end of a three-year, $4 million restoration project along the Eagle River. The purpose of the project is to make the river colder, faster and deeper through Edwards, an area where the river has to climb 20 feet, making it spread out, slow down and heat up.

Vail Resorts employees planted cottonwood trees Saturday that will help stabilize the riverbanks, McDonald said.

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“They’ve given us 150 people. The labor is a huge in-kind donation, and they helped us buy the trees,” McDonald said.

McDonald hopes the volunteers will feel the same ownership over the project that volunteers from the annual river and highway cleanups also feel.

Nicky DeFord, who heads up charitable contributions for Vail Resorts Echo, the ski company’s charitable-giving arm, said she thinks the volunteers will feel that ownership because they chose the project this year.

DeFord said for the second annual Vail Resorts Echo Day, the company wanted more employee input. She said the company wanted the volunteers to feel invested in each project, so the company asked employees which projects were the highest priorities in each community.

“They all came back and said, ‘We love this project on the Eagle River,'” DeFord said. “The Eagle River is the heart and soul of Eagle County.”

But that’s just part of the reason why so many employees were interested in volunteering. Bob Sonntag, who works at Beaver Creek, did it because he wants to make a difference.

“We make our living working in the outdoors, and I think it’s great to be able to give a little back,” he said. “The difference we make here is something that will help the community and the environment in the future.”

The trees will not only stabilize the river banks – they also will provide shade for the fish that thrive in colder water, McDonald said.

To be able to contribute to protecting a habitat is something Beaver Creek employee Katie Keane said she is thrilled about.

“I think we’re a green company, so we’re just trying to give back,” Keane said.

Although the company does offer paid volunteer days for employees, none of the employees who volunteered for Echo Day were paid for their work.

“This is just about giving back to the community,” DeFord said. “We’re just enabling it.”

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