Watchdogs say goodbye to tough leader |

Watchdogs say goodbye to tough leader

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyCaroline Bradford will be stepping down from the Eagle River Watershed Council, a nonprofit environmental group she has led for seven years.

EAGLE COUNTY ” Traction sand, mine pollutants, whirling disease ” Caroline Bradford fought it all with the Eagle River Watershed Council.

But, the valley’s most vocal and effective river activist is stepping out of the spotlight.

Bradford announced this week that she’s leaving her job as executive director of the watershed council to spend more time with her five-year-old daughter.

Still, she plans on staying very involved in the water world and will be doing contract work with Grand River Consulting.

In her seven years with the watershed council, Bradford led major campaigns to increase public awareness of water issues, improve water quality standards, clear mine pollution in the Eagle River and clean up the tons of traction sand that falls from the interstate into Gore Creek, smothering the river bottom and severely disrupting the ecosystem.

Also, she became known as one tough cookie to deal with, as the Colorado Department of Transportation will gladly tell you. While Bradford was charged with keeping harmful sand out of Gore Creek, the state is responsible for keeping the roads safe. The two goals didn’t always match up.

“She was challenging to deal with because when you’ve got a job like mine, sometimes you want people like her to go away, but she wouldn’t do that,” regional transportation director Jeffery Kullman said. “But, she treated me and the process with respect and understood that we had different viewpoints, and that’s why she’s been successful. We’ll miss her.”

In Bradford’s mind, those year’s of campaigning paid off with Gore Creek. Recently, the department of transportation announced a new commitment to cleaning up traction sand in an area called “The Basin of Last Resort.”

“We finally have them saying they’ll clean up sand that’s already in the river,” Bradford said. “They’ve always just focused on sand right by the highway, so that was a huge step.”

She’s also very proud of the extensive research project the watershed council conducted with Colorado State University on the Eagle River. The project basically outlines every possible problem facing the watershed and prioritizes possible restoration projects.

“Now, we have a sound, scientific basis for decision making in addressing issues in our watershed,” Bradford said.

Bradford was instrumental in developing a major restoration project for a stretch of the river in Edwards. The project will restore the river to what it once was before its banks eroded and filled the river bottom with sediment, raising water temperatures and making life difficult for trout.

The project is slated to receive $1.9 million from the National Resource Damage Fund, which was established to help restore areas of the river affected by the Eagle Mine.

“We’ve really become a grassroots nonprofit that gets the job done,” Bradford said. “I like that we’re an environmental advocacy group that’s mainstream, not a fringe group. We’re balanced and fair and bring people together.

Maria Pastore was named acting executive director. She said Bradford was a mentor to her and will continue to have a large presence in all the group’s projects.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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