Roaring Fork Conservancy keeps waves in the river |

Roaring Fork Conservancy keeps waves in the river

Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

BASALT ” Gander at a calendar of community events for the Basalt area for any time of year and chances are good that the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s name will pop up.

The Basalt-based nonprofit, which is dedicated to Roaring Fork River watershed issues, hosts everything from guided snowshoe tours on full-moon evenings to wildlife watching and a wildly popular float down the Roaring Fork River. Saturday the organization hosted its 10th annual Fryingpan River Cleanup, enlisting residents to pick up trash along a stretch of the river.

The exposure from hosting all those events is one of the keys to success for an organization that depends on public contributions for its financial well-being, said Executive Director Rick Lofaro.

The Conservancy was created in 1996 in a collaborative effort between the town of Basalt and Roaring Fork Club, a private golf community that was being reviewed at the time. The Conservancy is an independent nonprofit with a mission to keep adequate water in the watershed’s rivers and streams; to keep the waterways healthy; and to keep the riparian habitat intact.

To accomplish those goals, it needs to inspire people to explore, value and protect the watershed. That’s where the regular lineup of events helps. The Conservancy has conducted about 1,450 education programs with kids and adults since its creation.

But it’s not all fun and games for the Conservancy. It taps into science, directly or as a conduit, so it can be an authoritative source on watershed issues ranging from diversions to Colorado’s Front Range to water quality in the valley’s namesake river at a time of drastic growth.

Its direct role includes taking water quality samples at 22 sites in the watershed. When Seven Castles Creek pumped tons of sediment into the Fryingpan River last August, the Conservancy took the lead in hiring experts to study the damage to habitat and recommend possible courses of action.

The Conservancy educates but rarely advocates. It’s not the kind of conservation organization that distributes press releases with screaming headlines or enters a fray with all literary barrels blazing.

The reasoning is simple, Lofaro said: There’s no room in watershed conservation to alienate people and point fingers.

“There’s either no villain or we’re all villains,” he said.

That approach helps the Conservancy appeal to a broader, more diverse collection of people. And more supporters translates into more contributors.

The Conservancy collected $181,413 in direct public support in 2006, according to the latest records on file with the Internal Revenue Service. Its special events ” which include the Conservancy’s signature event, the River Rendezvous ” raised another $193,474.

It also collected $8,250 in indirect support; $34,010 in government grants, nearly $100,000 from fees for programs; and roughly $65,000 from interest and other sources, according to a form 990 on file with the IRS.

The Conservancy’s total revenues for 2006 came to $582,180.

The River Rendezvous produced about 22 percent of those revenues. The event features a top-notch dinner and dance, with a live and silent auction. The event produced a net income of $129,385 in 2006. This year’s event will be July 16.

The Conservancy spent $369,295 on program services; $95,161 on management and general expenses; and $21,633 directly on fundraising efforts, the form showed. Total expenses were $486,089 leaving the Conservancy $96,091 in the black for that year.

The organization’s net assets and fund balances total $952,832.

The strong financial position means more programs. The Conservancy went from one full-time and three-part time workers for many of its initial years to a current staff of five full-time and three part-time workers. Lofaro joined the organization about one year after it was formed and served in one of the part-time roles. He was hired as executive director in May 2005.

The staff includes a director of education programs and two educators, and a person who oversees the water source functions and research.

One key focus for the organization now is to help craft a “State of the Watershed” report that looks at many of the water quality and quantity issues. The Conservancy is part of a team working with sponsor Ruedi Water and Power Authority. The report will provide a definitive resource for conditions in the watershed and could help policy makers set courses.

“This is your favorite cookbook or owner’s manual to your watershed,” Lofaro said. It will be out this summer.

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