Yampa River Botanic Park still in full bloom after 20 years
Two words are all Evlyn Berge, board member for the Yampa River Botanic Park, needs to sum up what the Steamboat Springs gardens mean to her.
“Simple pleasures,” she said. “It’s simple pleasure that you can escape to, and what makes me most proud is that it is a reflection of our community — our community’s energy and support.”
The Yampa River Botanic Park, an idea spurred by Bob and Audrey Enever, will mark 20 years in Steamboat with a special celebration from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the park.
The event will feature a brief introduction, anchored by speeches by Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter and Yampa Valley Community Foundation Executive Director Mark Andersen, followed by a line-up of local talent with performances by Todd Musselman at 2:15 p.m.), the students from Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp at 2:45 p.m., the Steamboat African Drum and Dance Ensemble at 3:30 p.m., a celebration toast at 4 p.m. and performances by the Steamboat Piknik Theatre Festival at 4:15 p.m.
Stuart Handloff said the Piknik Theatre performances will highlight several songs from William Shakespeare’s “The Chosen One.”
“It’s a community celebration because the park is totally funded by donations and volunteers,” Berge said.
In 2016, the gardens at the Yampa River Botanic Park, which opened to the public in 1997, attracted 30,000 thousand visits — a mark that board members expect will be shattered this summer.
“Last year, there were almost 30,000 visitors at the park, and we think this year we are way over 30,000 visits, way over,” board member Sonia Franzel said.
She said people are drawn to the park’s serenity and enjoy strolling through an iconic landscape filled with blossoming flowers, majestic trees and relaxing pounds and streams.
“We had the park designed with ‘no straight lines’ then built it with our own money and work,” Bob Enever said. “In two years we built the hills, the ponds, the roads, the paths, the irrigation system, planted 500 trees and started a few gardens. We created an endowment that would provide enough income to support the park with about 20 gardens.”
These days the park runs on a nearly $200,000 annual budget, and has two full-time employees, including Gayle Lehman, who has supervised the park since it opened. There are also five part-time employees, and the park also gets a helping hand from nearly 50 volunteers.
The money to operate the park does not come from taxes but is raised through garden sponsors and donations and fees that are collected to host weddings or special events at the Trillium House House.
But Enever said the idea of the park, and the agreements that made it possible, began several years earlier.
“Twenty-five years ago the city was building the (Yampa River Core) Trail along the Yampa River,” Enever recalls. “Audrey and I owned the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, with 1,000 feet of frontage on the river. We gave the right-of-way for the trail if the city would buy all the land that is now Emerald Park and assign six acres of it for our park.”
For the first 10 years, the Enevers spearheaded the development work and the planting. Ten years ago, a board was formed, and today, that group of 16 people, which work in committees, oversees the sustainability and future of the park.
“The last 10 years have seen a blossoming of public support that has increased the p ark to 50 gardens and built Trillium House, with an office and elegant facilities,” Enever said. “Free entry encourages thousands to visit the park.”
Saturday’s program will encompass all of the things that have drawn people to the park, and organizers want the entire Steamboat Springs community to share in the accomplishment.
Franzel said it’s also a chance to thank the Enevers for all their efforts to make the park what it is today.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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