Volume 1 | June 2021
Providing updates about our work in conservation, outdoor recreation, and the environment here in western Colorado
Our Inaugural Issue
Welcome Founders and Friends!

This is the first edition of our regional Community Foundation’s Building CORE Strength e-newsletter, which will be distributed four times a year to donors and friends interested in this topic. Our intent is to share news and updates about local projects and our funding efforts to preserve special landscapes, encourage environmental stewardship, conserve and protect open space and wildlife habitat, improve air and water quality, and promote recycling and alternative energy solutions throughout our region. 

In 2019, our Community Foundation launched the CORE Fund with a generous group of donors. Thank you for your commitment to protect and enhance the place that makes western Colorado a special place to live, work, and play. 

If you have questions, want to learn more about our work, or have suggestions on what you would like to see in future editions of Building CORE Strength, please contact Emily Orbanek at eorbanek@wc-cf.org
Anticipating a Hot and Dry Summer
Fire restoration, mitigation, and preparedness 

As western Colorado continues to recover from the devastating 2020 fire season, communities across the region brace for another challenging summer of wildfire. Our Community Foundation is proud to support community efforts addressing this issue and have in the last month committed $35,000 in grants to four projects.

We recently made a grant to Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) to support two wildfire-related programs. The first is the newly formed Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance to mobilize volunteers in restoration projects along I-70 and in the rest areas damaged by last summer's Grizzly Creek fire. In addition, RFOV will expand its Young Stewards Program to involve middle school students in fire mitigation and restoration efforts, as they cultivate an outdoor ethic from a young age.

The Two Rivers Wildfire Coalition (TRWC) is working with the Bureau of Land Management’s Community Wildfire Assistance Grant Program to accelerate fire mitigation work. Over the next five years, the Western Colorado Conservation Corps will conduct fuels reduction work in Mesa County, eliminating dry brush and other materials that feed wildfires, focusing on underserved communities in high fire-danger areas. Our Community Foundation is pleased to support this effort in its first months, while the program develops longer-term funding. Just a footnote: In 2019, our CORE Fund supported the development and launch of the Coalition’s website which provides wildfire preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery resources for residents in Mesa County. Check out the website here.

Additionally, our Community Foundation is awarding a grant to the Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross to support emergency relief efforts for those impacted or displaced by fire this season. Learn more about the Red Cross’ efforts to support communities impacted by wildfire here.
Fire fact: According to The Colorado Sun, last year’s fire season surpassed $226 million in firefighting costs and caused $1 billion in insured property damage.
A brave firefighter tackles devastating flames in the Grizzly Creek Wildfire in Glenwood Canyon
during the summer of 2020
Photo Credit: IMT photo; Wildfire Today
Back in Business
Outdoor Wilderness Lab Reopens

In 2012, a dedicated science teacher at Bookcliff Middle School partnered with local Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff and took thirty-three 6th graders on an immersive, environmental education adventure dubbed Outdoor Wilderness Lab (OWL). Since then, the program has expanded to provide all School District 51 6th graders an OWL experience. Rooted in Next Generation science standards and the District’s social-emotional learning framework, OWL’s mission is "to provide every student with meaningful learning opportunities by experiencing science and overcoming social-emotional challenges outside.”

In 2019, OWL found a permanent home at the Gateway School on the banks of the Dolores River in Unaweep Canyon. The setting in the heart of Colorado canyon country provides the ideal backdrop for outdoor experiences that will last a lifetime for D51 students. Renovations are underway at the site that will allow for more students, including additional bunkhouses and cabins that will eventually provide opportunities for multi-night adventures. OWL plans to restart three-day, two-night camps for 6th graders this coming fall.

All students in Mesa County deserve the opportunity to experience this amazing place, which is why our CORE Fund awarded a grant for student scholarships. $5,000 covers participation fees for over 25 students participating in the program. Visit OWL’s website to learn more.
Sixth grade students from Mount Garfield Middle School learn about wild turkeys during
a conservation investigation hike in April
Photo credit: Christopher Tomlinson, Daily Sentinel
Grantee Updates
West Middle School Solar Charging Station
This spring marked the successful culmination of a three-year vision set forth by the students of West Middle School’s M.E.S.A. Club (Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement). Students developed the idea of building a solar-powered cell phone charging stations on campus – a project that will serve nearly 400 students.

Students designed every aspect of the project, from the initial prototype drawings to the business model and budget. Club members made pitches to local businesses for funding and support with design feasibility. The project involved a unique cross-section of businesses, including Alpine Bank, West Star Aviation, CAPCO, Reynolds Polymer, and High Noon Solar. Our CORE Fund made a small grant for materials.

The solar-powered cell phone charging station is named in honor of long-time West Middle School science teacher and M.E.S.A. Club organizer, Heidi Ragsdale. Heidi has won national recognition for her science education efforts, including Girls in STEM, and currently is working on a program for National Geographic. 
Palisade High School Fish Hatchery
Students from Palisade High School (PHS) have spent the last couple of years raising razorback suckers. The project allowed students to learn about endangered fish species and how water flow in the river impacts habitat. In May, more than 250 hatched-and-now-grown fish were released into the Colorado River at the Riverbend Park/Palisade Boat Launch.

It was a bittersweet goodbye as students parted with the fish they had raised; many of the fish had been named, and students kissed their fish goodbye as they were lifted into the river.  

Patrick Steele, PHS science teacher, noted “This project is a dream come true for me and the students at Palisade High School! We could not have made it happen without the funding from the Community Foundation. Thank you so much!”
Palisade Plunge Now Open
Phase 1 of the Palisade Plunge opened over Memorial Day weekend. The 17-mile section, which is recommended for experienced riders only, takes thrill-seekers from Lands End Road to the bottom of the Palisade Rim Trail. Several years ago, we made a grant to support trail management efforts, including interpretive and educational signage that promotes thoughtful trail usage.
Photo Credit: Suzie Dundas
This new amenity is an exciting addition to western Colorado’s thriving outdoor recreation economy. Learn more about The Plunge here.
News Briefs
New Programs Manager
Welcome Emily Orbanek

Born and raised in Grand Junction, Emily Orbanek joins our Community Foundation after several years away from western Colorado. Emily brings nearly a decade of philanthropic experience to her new job, most recently with Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). At GOCO, she managed the multi-faceted relationship with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and oversaw $40 million of GOCO investments annually. Prior to GOCO, Emily spent a year working on public lands and conservation issues in southwest Colorado. Emily also participated in a two-year fellowship with El Pomar Foundation. Emily graduated from Santa Clara University and holds an MBA from the University of Colorado. When not working, you can find Emily casting to rising trout across western Colorado.
Tell Me More
What is CORE?

Conservation. Outdoor Recreation. Environment.

Our Community Foundation is making a committed effort to expand funding and better support the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of natural ecosystems important to the quality of life and economy of our communities in western Colorado.

With the enthusiasm and financial support of 30 founding donors who care about the environment, our Community Foundation is building an endowment fund to increase funding and distribute grants in support of conservation, outdoor recreation, and environment (CORE) projects.

The CORE Fund supports a wide span of projects as there are many issues to work on related to protecting and enhancing our environment and outdoor lifestyle. Like-minded donors who care about these issues and want to make grant investments are encouraged to join us! CORE Fund donors participate in the annual process to review projects and determine grants, go on project site visits, and attend special education events. For more information, contact eorbanek@wc-cf.org.
Building CORE Strength Here in Western Colorado...
Our goal is to provide more support through increased funding, technical assistance, collaboration-building, and education focused on conservation, outdoor recreation, and environment projects protecting and enhancing the place we live in and call home
Interested in supporting our work? 
Please consider a donation today.
Any size gift appreciated!