Vail Valley Scenery column: Walking Mountains raises record donations for environmental education | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Scenery column: Walking Mountains raises record donations for environmental education

AVON — More than 400 guests attended Walking Mountains' "A Taste of Nature" gala held at the breathtaking campus in Avon recently. Alpine Bank stepped up as title sponsor.

The evening was a record for the organization, raising more than $500,000, a great leap from its humble beginnings in Red Cliff in 1998, where founder Kim Langmaid saw a need and followed her passion in creating an environmental school to serve the expanding valley. The seeds of her dream were germinated and have now bloomed into an expansive campus in a spectacular location in Avon on Buck Creek Road.

Oscar Tang donated the five-acre site, which boasts a stream, wetlands, pond, aspen forest and National Forest access, in 2007, to provide the valley with a special place for learning and discovery in the natural world. The school has also included the Nature Discovery Center at Eagle's Nest and The Vail Nature Center by the soccer fields and Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Ford Park.

Award Recipient, honoree

Each year, the organization honors two locals who have contributed either monetarily or by upholding the organization's mission of sustainability. The Reach for the Peak award was given to Ann Smead in recognition of her leadership and dedication to education. Smead spearheaded the collaboration between Vail Mountain School and Walking Mountains to purchase property in Sweetwater that will serve Eagle County youth in learning and discovering more about the habitat in which we live.

"Ann has been a huge champion of education and supporting our programs," Langmaid said. "She created a wonderful partnership between Vail Mountain School and Walking Mountains. Now, it's available to not only VMS but to all the school children across the valley and is closer to the children downvalley, providing accessible field sites for teaching."

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Also honored was Matt Donovan, who received the 2016 Founder's Stewardship Award. Donovan is the CEO of Vail Honeywagon and, since his early days with the local business, has advocated for recycling and composting.

"I was born in Vail; it's my home," Donovan said. "It's been almost 25 years since I started with my pickup after work and collected the recycling for just a few people around town."

Now, 25 years later, Vail Honeywagon sends 14 tons a day to Denver for recycling and has recently expanded into electronic waste recycling and composting.

About Walking Mountains

Walking Mountains offers the valley a plethora of programs for both kids and grown-ups, from summer camps and evening beaver pond tours, hiking and wildflowers to stargazing and learning about recycling and waste reduction. For more information on Walking Mountains, their programs, volunteer opportunities and how to support the environmental initiatives in the valley, visit http://www.walkingmountains.org.

Carolyn Pope has covered community service events and nonprofit activities since 2001 and co-authored "The Women of Vail." She can be reached at 970-390-9913.