Walking Mountains Science Center launches $10 million campaign, growth plans
September 20, 2017
AVON — Walking Mountains Science Center reached 94,000 people with its programs last year. It will top 100,000 this year, and the waiting list for local school kids regularly tops 1,000.
In an effort to meet the demand, the nonprofit recently kicked off a $10 million campaign to expand facilities, staff and programs.
"We're a whole lot more than field science programs for kids. That's still at the heart of what we do and that's how we started. But given the need that exists in the world today, our mission and our audience has grown," said Markian Feduschak, Walking Mountains president. "We have to have a population that can think critically and is scientifically literate. That's what challenges and drive us."
Community asking for more
Kim Langmaid started Walking Mountains in Red Cliff 19 years ago. After that, it moved to a space above Pazzo's Pizza in Avon. Nature and science lessons meant taking a stroll up a local trail. If it rained, then the students got wet.
They teach green behavior to businesses and run seminars and gatherings about sustainability and other science and environment groups.
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"You cannot learn to love something and want to protect it until you understand it and experience it," said Scott Robinson, Walking Mountains marketing and communications director.
They're expanding because they really do need the room and because the community keeps asking them to do more.
For example, Walking Mountains is implementing Eagle County's climate action plan and helped facilitate creating it. Event promoters hire Walking Mountains to help make its events zero waste. The list of requests is much longer than the resources to fulfill them.
"We don't have the staff or the space to accommodate those requests," Feduschak said. "If the schools are asking for more education or more field science programs, we want to be able to provide that, within the parameters of any fiscally sound nonprofit."
Growth for good
They figured they'd grow into this. They grew quickly, but thoughtfully.
Two years ago, the organization's board of directors started talking about expanding. Walking Mountains bought 5.8 acres of land next to its current campus in Avon, with help from Eagle County, the Tang family, the town of Avon and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
Of those 5.8 acres, 3.5 acres are in a conservation easement.
Walking Mountains will use the rest to build additional classrooms, office space and graduate fellow housing.
The biggest donors for the last campaign are also leading this campaign, Feduschak said. Along with Oscar Tang and the Tang family, the Precourt Mountain Discovery Center and the Borger-Precourt Center for Sustainability are on the drawing board.
The seasonal staff will utilize as many as 16 bedrooms in four buildings, to be built at the bottom of the hill. Walking Mountains pays its educators while they're with the organization, working through graduate fellowship programs toward advanced degrees.
They'll also put some of these resources into a new site in Sweetwater, but the Avon site is the primary focus right now.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.