Happy Holidays from UCRWG

By December 22, 2016UCRWG Updates

Thank You’s from Geoff Elliott, Lead Project Scientist


Our Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (UCRWG) wants to thank you all for being so supportive of our “community conversations” and welcoming our grassroots organization into the headwater communities of Grand County.   We’ve come a long way since April when the UCRWG Support Coordinator Joy Phelan recognized the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) WaterSMART Grant as a wonderful opportunity to bring a more cohesive approach to local watershed planning.  Shortly thereafter in June the Grand County Board of County Commissioners and Grand County Water Information Network steered us toward working with Shadowcliff Lodge as our 501c3 non-profit base.  This grew into a remarkable blessing as Shadowcliff executive director Hillary Mizia and her artistic cohort Kelly Yarbrough shepherded us through team building and public outreach emphasizing community dialogue and positive trends toward sustainability.

Filling out our WaterSMART team during the summer, we added Shaul and Emily Hagen for web design, Sam Bruegger for Community Outreach, and Ryan Lokteff on GIS analysis + watershed monitoring.  I’m proud to be working with such a great technical team and to be bringing quality work to these young local professionals with families right here in Grand Lake!  

Local water strategist Ken Fucik did most of the WaterSMART grant writing, getting us through the first interview with the USBR contracting group, with Hillary taking over the heavy lifting as we secured the Federal funding, never an easy task, in September.

Rotary Clubs from Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park/Fraser Valley, and Middle Park High School (Interact Club) and the Grand County Board of Realtors helped us shape our initial outreach, which was invaluable, then I bumped into our technical contacts at USBR Avra Morgan and Robin Graber at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference in early October.  Avra and Robin have been great guiding us beyond contracting and into our next phase of watershed planning that will better feed into actionable “Phase 2” projects likely to qualify for a number of public and private funding sources. 

We were grateful to have about 70 participants in our four “Community Conversations” in Granby, Grand Lake, Fraser, and Kremmling.  These folks, young and old, engaged for three hours sharing thoughts and vision for a sustainable, resilient watershed future.  Keeping it “grassroots” is Hillary’s successful strategy, making sure everyone is heard and keeping us focused in “assets-based” conversation.  Deliverables from these meetings include valuable information that came out of the conversations taken place written on Hillary’s favorite extra-large post-it notes, some new and refreshed friendships, and a remarkable amount of impressive pipe-cleaner art along with other doodles.

The cherished XL sticky notes!

Art from Grand Lake meeting.








Nicole Selzter of the Water Environment Network and Nicole Silk from River Network are also on board for 2017 as experienced watershed coaches who will help in the transition from our present planning/steering group into a lean, motivated long-term watershed organization ready to help folks meet their local watershed needs in the broader UCRWG perspective.

Moving forward into 2017, we’ll be expanding our technical support team with folks like Tiffany Gatesman, who taught science at Middle Park High School and is soon to receive her Master’s Degree in Environmental Chemistry.  Tiffany and others, including some energetic retirees, have been volunteering their time and expertise to the UCRWG project, showing the great depth in watershed know-how available right here in the Colorado Headwaters.

Finally, we need to thank Tim Hodsdon of Infinite West for graciously hosting our team during the process of reviewing information gathered from our community conversations (including all those post-it notes!). We’ll be sharing some results from that meeting soon. 

It’s been a humbling 2016 for this UCRWG project scientist, with so many people to thank and plenty to be thankful for this Holiday Season.  We look forward to a great 2017 Watershed Year growing right here in our beautiful, and now quite snowy, Colorado River Headwaters.  Happy Holidays to one and all!

– Geoff Elliott


Holiday Greetings from UCRWG Team


Happy Holidays Everyone!  Looking back, it’s been a wonderful year for My Family and I.  Wyatt conquered kindergarten, learning how to swim, and snowboarding this past year.  He is ridiculously lucky (and has no idea) to grow up in such a unique and beautiful part of Colorado.  After FINALLY graduating college, I can now focus on putting my skills to good use working for Grand Environmental which feels really good.  Shaun and I finished painting the outside of our house this summer and are overjoyed that its over (glad to have had the experience of doing that, but will totally get a contractor next time).  My sister moved out here at the end of last year and actually made it through the winter.  So yeah, we have a lot to be thankful for.  

A main highlight this year was being a part of Grand Environmental and the UCRWG project for sure.  I finally got skidsteer and E50 experience now (super stoked about that) and was able to bring Wyatt to work on some Fridays to harvest willows and tackle those “darn daisies and annoying prickly thistles”.  It’s also been fun contributing my body of knowledge to the UCRWG effort.  However, I’ve enjoyed more learning from all the wonderful minds on our team and in the community.  We have amazing environmental and community resources here.  I’m continually learning and loving every moment.  I look forward to seeing what more I can bring to the effort in 2017 and what new adventures await.  

See you on the mountain!   –Joy & Fam


The Fuciks are enjoying the new deep snow and looking forward to the New Year helping establish the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group.  We’ll be pressing for an impact fee for the new transmountain diversions (“firming” projects), looking forward to getting through our first hearing with CDPHE for our Outstanding National Resource Water designation for Grand Lake on way to final designation in 2019, and work to establishing a Rocky Mountain Wooden Boat School here in Grand Lake.

Happy Holidays!      –Ken Fucik


The Elliotts are enjoying our late, but now promising Winter.  I’m always relieved to get “snowed out” of (most) of our field work I can focus in on wrapping up our year.   Grand Environmental had a solid year, thanks to Joy’s firm hand at the helm, a steady stream of tricky construction challenges with some fine architects and builders, and the US Bureau of Reclamation choosing our unlikely team to develop the Upper Colorado River Watershed Resiliency Plan.  

Kate is diversifying her teaching, now working on a credential to teach English as a Second Language, Sammy will graduate soon in Applied Mathematics (whatever that is), and Isaac is off to Bavaria to work in a ski resort.  Pippin, not shown here, is at this time “top dog” at the GL Metro Rec District, telling us this is the best snow ever (he always says that) and yes, we did cut down a Christmas Tree with a machete for reasons only our boys understand.      -Geoff


The Mizias have had an incredibly full fall and early winter. Class plays and festivals have kept us busy as a family. Travel for both work and play have brought us new experiences. Now with the water holidays upon us we are gearing up for a week or two in Arizona with family. In 2017 we hope to hit the slopes a few times, play on the backcountry trails, and travel to some place warm for a family vacation. Wishing you peace this holiday season and beyond.    – Hillary


2016 has been full of new projects and opportunities that I’m incredibly thankful for. After graduating with my MFA from Kansas State University in May, and capping off my eighth season working with Shadowcliff Lodge, I moved to Colorado to further apply my art practice towards connecting people and place. Joining the UCRWG team as a support coordinator has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Grand County (a place that I’ve loved for years) and the centrality of water to virtually all aspects of life. I look forward to supporting Upper Colorado watershed efforts in 2017, and to an empowering watershed plan for Grand Countians. I’m spending the holidays with my family in Texas, so I won’t be having a “White Christmas”, but I won’t be worrying about temperatures in the double negatives either! 😛  Happy Holidays, everyone!     -Kelly


2016 has been quite a year, to say the least!  We had a lot of highlights in our household, we got married, adopted a puppy and still managed to get on the Colorado to canoe and raft multiple times this summer (puppy in life vest).  This year also marked the beginning of what, in my belief, is a critical time for our water.  Grand County began the UCRWG process, and in turn, Grand Lake made the decision to pursue Outstanding National Resource Water Designation.  ONRW provides Grand Lake with a tool to protect and promote the outstanding water in our community, and that is something we look forward to celebrating all year!  As we enjoy the building snow pack, my husband and I both are excited for a water resilient future.      – Sam


2016 has been a great year of growth and renewal for our family. We transitioned from a Home School environment to Granby Elementary and have loved watching our children grow and thrive in their classrooms! We have also taken on a huge remodel project in our home, and while it feels never ending, we are thankful for the opportunity to expand a home that we love and to see our dream take shape. UCRWG has been amazing way to meet like-minded, passionate people in our community and we are thrilled to be part of what we hope will become a huge impact on our watershed. We look forward to spending time on the water next spring, but for now we are more than happy to get on the slopes and enjoy our snowpack!       -The Hagens


I’m excited to be working with UCRWG in 2017.  I hope to contribute through my knowledge of GIS mapping and analysis, water monitoring experience, and a love of the outdoors. This past year I monitored water all over Grand County with Grand County Water Information Network (GCWIN), as well as completed GIS work with the Bug Lab at Utah State University.  I enjoy spending time in the outdoors with my wife Maegan and 5 yr. old son Curran.  I hope this coming year will present many opportunities for my family and I to continue having new adventures and experiences snowboarding, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and golfing.    -Ryan


Greetings from the North!

I am currently living in Fairbanks, AK finishing my Master of Science degree in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Alaska.  While I am diligently working on completing my thesis of modeling glacial contribution to overland streamflow using geochemical tracers, I am working with Grand Environmental and other collaborators to create management and research plans on the North Fork of the Colorado River.  My husband and I, along with our two sled dogs, will move back home to the Fraser Valley this spring where I will become more active in the community, environmental resources and, of course, playing in the great mountains. Happy Holidays!     – Tiffany Gatesman

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