Community Agriculture Alliance: Much to celebrate with Yampa River Fund
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
On a glorious September day in 2019, a ribbon stretched across the Yampa River near 10th Street in Steamboat was ceremoniously cut, and the Yampa River Fund was officially launched.
Dozens of supporters and co-signatories to the fund gathered that day and cheered to the promise of how the fund would positively impact the health of the river into the future.
Fast forward two years, and there is much to celebrate both in the fund’s progress to date and for its bright future.
In its first two funding cycles, the river fund awarded $400,000 to 11 projects that will improve river health and provide community benefits. The projects embody the Yampa’s diverse geography with locations from Oak Creek all the way downstream to Maybell. And, they represent all three eligible pools for funding: water leases for enhanced flows in dry periods; restoration actions for improved river health and function; and improved infrastructure to keep more water in the river while benefitting users.
You can already see benefits from some of these projects. For example, the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust used its fund grant to design and engineer improvements to habitat providing improved river function and better fishing opportunities in the Yampa in Pleasant Valley below Sarvis Creek. If you venture out that way, you will see deeper pools to hold more fish and stabilized streambanks to prevent erosion and provide more sustainable access to the river. (For highlights on all the fund-awarded projects, see the fund’s website at YampaRiverFund.org.)
Of course, funding for these projects it critical for the success of the fund into the future. On that note, we are elated that the river fund endowment reached the $5 million mark this summer — 18 months ahead of schedule. With that, once the fund endowment fully matures, it will yield over $200,000 annually for grants. We are grateful to all of the folks, businesses and organizations that have contributed so generously to the fund on behalf of the river.
Aside from another round of grants to be awarded next Spring, the fund has an exciting year ahead. First, from the outset of the fund, it was always the intention to transition the management of the fund from The Nature Conservancy to a local entity. This is in keeping with the notion that the fund should continue to be grassroots and operated locally. This exciting transition is in the planning stages now and will likely take place in the third quarter of 2022. The Nature Conservancy will continue to serve on the boards and in a support capacity.
Also in 2022, the river fund seeks to engage our business community to help provide another avenue of support for the fund. Many businesses benefit from a healthy Yampa, and we aim to find creative ways for them to support the fund. In return, we hope to create and promote a community of businesses that will benefit from its support of the fund. We already have had amazing backing from the business community.
Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. is a fund board member and made the largest gift in its history — $500,000 — to help establish the endowment. Local heroes, Big Agnes, recently presented the fund with a check for $5,000 from sales of a special chair produced to support the fund. Cruisers Sub-shop owner, Kris Shea, created a series of beautiful trout stickers with a portion of their sales going to the Yampa River Fund with several thousand dollars donated already. There are many other examples of business support, and we thank them for this incredible support and dedication to the community.
As you know, this was a challenging summer for the river, and the establishment of the Yampa River Fund couldn’t have come at a more critical time. We are grateful that we have been able to get dollars on the ground and “in the water” in these first two years. And, we look forward to a busy and exciting year — and many years — ahead thanks to the dedication and support of our partners, donors and members of the Yampa River Fund.
Andy Baur is manager of the Yampa River Fund.
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