New endowment creates long-term funding for Friends of Wilderness
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s a new way to support wilderness areas in Routt County.
An endowed fund for the Friends of Wilderness has been established at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, which will allow the organization to have a stable source of funding in the future, Friends of Wilderness President Dan Schaffrick said.
Friends of Wilderness volunteers work to maintain trails and educate the public within Routt County’s three wilderness areas: the Sarvis Creek, Mount Zirkel and Flat Tops wilderness areas.
“We try to maintain the mission as a steward organization, rather than an advocacy organization,” he said.
“I think that sets us apart,” Schaffrick added. “We’re a benefit to anybody who is using those trails in the wilderness area — primarily hikers and equestrian riders in the area.”
He explained the all-volunteer organization works with the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations to help maintain the forest.
Volunteers help fell trees and patrol the forest as volunteer rangers. They also share maps and cards explaining the principles of Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and help the Forest Service monitor campsites and problems on wilderness trails.
Up until now, the group has completed this work with donations and grants. As public use of the wilderness areas and as the organization’s maintenance has grown, it has taken on more and more trail maintenance.
“We’ve grown tremendously just in the last few years,” Schaffrick said. “Five years ago, we had a budget of about $2,000 for the season. Our expenses are minimal.” The group spent this on repairing and replacing tools and printing literature handed out to visitors.
In the last year, with a large project repairing 70-year-old jeep tracks on the Continental Divide Trail and other similar projects, Schaffrick said their budget has grown to $18,000.
All of that came from individual donations, in-kind contributions and grants, he explained.
“We have no steady source of income,” Schaffrick said. “The establishment of this endowment really is the beginning of some future stability of our organization because we will have the interest from that endowment to contribute to our general fund expenses each year.”
A $10,000 donation from an anonymous donor allowed Friends of Wilderness to establish the fund. Friends of Wilderness will be able to use interest gained from that principal to continue their work in the wilderness, which provides a more stable funding stream than grants and private donations to their general fund.
The Yampa Valley Community Foundation is also currently matching donations to its endowed funds, giving 25 cents on the dollar for any donation to an endowed fund.
This means that, by July 1, matching funds will boost the endowment up to $12,500.
“What’s so exciting about this organization is it seems that the need for trail patrol and maintenance of wilderness trails just keeps getting greater and greater while the funding seems to getting smaller and smaller,” said Helen Beall, Community Impact Manager at the Community Foundation.
Schaffrick said the the news came as a bit of a surprise. He found out money was available to start the fund when Beall gave him a call and asked if Friends of Wilderness agreed to put the money to use.
“It caught us by surprise and was very exciting,” he said. “For just a moment, we could stop thinking about how we are going to pay for what we’re doing the next day to appreciating the generosity of that donor in setting up that fund and giving us some stability looking forward.”
Now, Schaffrick said the group is looking to continue their work and find ways to do it better.
“We’re focused on continuing to do what we do and to continue to do it better,” Schaffrick said. “We certainly want to get the word out. We want people to know that this fund now exists and give people an opportunity to support us in a new way. They can do that at any time. It can be part of estate planning for the future, or if they want to contribute to the fund right now and help build a principal in that endowment, we’d be grateful.”
If you’d like to contribute your time, Schaffrick said the organization would welcome new volunteers.
“We’ve got room for anybody who would like to participate, and we would welcome their participation,” he said.
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