Plastic pollution, riparian habitats to be focus at Yampatika's inaugural Spring Festival |

Plastic pollution, riparian habitats to be focus at Yampatika’s inaugural Spring Festival

Young nature lovers celebrate Yampatika’s Fall Festival in 2018 with environmental-themed activities and games. The inaugural Spring Festival is Saturday, May 4.
Photo courtesy Kellie Gorman

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yampatika is celebrating spring with an inaugural festival Saturday, May 4. The free, family-friendly event offers hands-on activities and learning opportunities for nature lovers of all ages.

The Springs Festival is held in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day, which aims to increase awareness of threats birds face as well as bird conservation worldwide. The day has been celebrated locally for years with bird watching, counting and identification events.

This year’s celebration features Sedalia-based nonprofit Nature’s Educators, which will bring its flock of winged creatures and interactive presentations to town.

The theme of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day is plastic pollution. Plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the world, with an annual production of more than 300 million tons, according to the event website. Single-use plastics that are thrown away are broken into smaller particles by water, sunlight and wind, and then are often ingested by birds, fish and other animals. With a stomach full of plastic, an animal slowly starves.

Bird deaths also occur when the animals become entangled and smothered by plastic rings and nets. An estimated 1 million seabirds die from plastics annually, and 90% of seabirds are estimated to have plastic in their gut, according to the World Migratory Bird Day website.

“There’s a lot in the news about plastics in the oceans, and obviously, that’s a huge problem,” Yampatika Executive Director Joe Haines said. “But here in the Yampa Valley, the Yampa River is our focus. There’s a reason we have two, three, four river cleanup days every summer — people aren’t handling their trash appropriately.

“Leave No Trace isn’t just for camping; it’s a concept you should apply when you’re on the river. It’s awareness and personal responsibility.”

If you go

What: Yampatika’s Spring Festival and World Migratory Bird Day
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: Legacy Ranch. Parking and free shuttles at 925 Weiss Drive

For more:
• Yampa Valley Sustainability Council will lead programs about recycling
• Bee Grateful Farm will host gardening activities, including a station where children can make seed balls to grow flowers for bees and other pollinators
• 4-H Club’s Town Kids program will bring pigs
• Yampatika will host activities from its environmental education summer camps
• Colorado Parks & Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service officials will be available to chat about citizen science and the local bird landscape

Haines noted, within the past few years of conservation efforts, bobolinks have returned to Yampatika’s Legacy Ranch after several years of absence. The hayfield also hosts cranes, starlings, red-tail hawks and red-winged blackbirds.

“Birds are an important aspect of living in the valley and of any ecosystem,” Haines said. “They eat insects, and they are pollinators. Birds are an important part of a healthy, natural environment in the Yampa Valley.”

The Spring Festival will be similar to Yampatika’s Fall Festival, which has been held for several years. Yampatika was able to add the spring event this year with the help of a U.S. Forest Service grant to expand community events, according to Haines.

The Spring Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Legacy Ranch. Parking will be available at the U.S. Forest Service office, 925 Weiss Drive, with free shuttles to transport festivalgoers to Legacy Ranch. Haines urged attendees not to try to park at Legacy Ranch or along U.S. Highway 40.

“You can also bike to Legacy Ranch,” Haines said.

To reach Julia Ben-Asher, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @juliabenasher.

How to help

• Avoid disposable, single-use plastics — such as grocery bags, leftover containers and coffee cups — by keeping reusable alternatives in your car.
• Reduce your consumption of plastic packaging by shopping the perimeter of a grocery store or buying in bulk.
• Avoid synthetic clothing, the fibers of which end up in the water system.

Source: Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Waste Diversion Director Cameron Hawkins

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