In 1998, a small group of educators banded together with a common purpose: to provide supplemental, hands-on, outdoor science education to the students of Eagle County’s public and private schools. They used the shuttered Red Cliff School as their home base. It was called the Gore Range Natural Science School.
The surrounding White River National Forest soon became more of a classroom than the physical buildings from which they operated, and that small group of science educators knew they were witnessing the inception of something special. The Gore Range Natural Science School is now Walking Mountains Science Center, but it still serves the students of the Eagle County Schools with their diverse hands-on science education programs. However, they have also expanded their mission and reach to include a wide array of community education programs and sustainability initiatives.
In 2018, Walking Mountains Science Center celebrates its 20-year anniversary and all of the accomplishments and growth that has come along with this milestone. In its 20th year of providing programs to Eagle County, Walking Mountains will be giving back to the community that supported it with (exciting or unique?) special events highlighting its mission and history.
In 2002, the Tang Family generously donated the five acres of land the Avon campus currently sits on, dramatically increasing the Center’s impact on the community.
“We always had the idea that if we build it, they will come. I’m overwhelmed to see our lofty goals coming to fruition, and I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years bring us,” said Kim Langmaid, Founder & Vice President of Walking Mountains Science Center.
From the Avon campus, Walking Mountains has expanded the quality and quantity of its programs, as well as elevating the number and diversity of people reached by the organization. In 2010, the year before the Avon Tang Campus opened, Walking Mountains programs served just over 26,000 people with their hands-on natural science education programming. In 2017, its youth, community, and sustainability and stewardship programs reached more than 127,000 people, representing an exponential increase from the 900 served in 1998.
“The success of Walking Mountains exceeds my wildest dreams. Who would have known in 1998 in just 20 years we would have such a large impact on educating locals and visitors about the natural world that surrounds them and how to protect it,” said Langmaid.
The growth of Walking Mountains doesn’t stop there. In 2015, the center purchased 224 acres of land along Sweetwater Creek and near the Colorado River to further expand the quantity and quality of program offerings.
“The property provides a different ecological community for our field science programs and increases the diversity of Walking Mountains’ educational experiences for students, visitors, and locals alike. The lower elevation provides a moderate climate which extends the non-winter seasons to allow us to serve more students,” said Markian Feduschak, President of Walking Mountains Science Center.
In 2016, Walking Mountains purchased the 5.8 acres of land adjacent to their current Science Center in Avon with generous support from the Tang Family and Eagle County Open Space. Of the 5.8 acres, 3.5 will be held in a conservation easement by the Eagle Valley Land Trust and with the support of Town of Avon, an additional 96 acres was placed into conservation easement surrounding the Science Center. Walking Mountains will develop approximately one acre for additional classrooms, office space, and educator housing.
In order to continue to meet the growing demands of their programs, Walking Mountains will be breaking ground on the Borgen Precourt Center for Sustainability in 2018 which will provide additional classroom, conference, and office space at the Walking Mountains campus in Avon.
Walking Mountains Science Center’s success and growth could never have been possible without the generous and dedicated community support they’ve enjoyed since their modest Red Cliff beginnings. The staff at Walking Mountains are eternally grateful to the Eagle Valley community that shares their passion for our natural world. Learn about all of the programs Walking Mountains offers at www.walkingmountains.org.
About Walking Mountains Science Center
Walking Mountains Science Center’s mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education. Visit www.walkingmountains.org or call 970.827.9725 for more information.