Following the devastating floods in September 2013--during which the Estes Valley received more rain in a few days than it normally does in a whole year--a small group of citizens volunteered to form a grassroots organization to assist with resource allocation and the coordination of recovery efforts, known as the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition.
The Estes Valley watershed is comprised of the headwaters of the Big Thompson river, which includes several smaller creeks and rivers originating mostly within Rocky Mountain National Park and ending up in Lake Estes. Water from this system supplies over 1 million urban and rural users downstream along the Northern Front Range, making it a very high priority for restoration and continued protection.
EVWC works with local and downstream communities and partners to protect this invaluable natural resource. While our focus was initially on restoring the most heavily-damaged areas in order to minimize risks to human safety and to restore natural habitats for wildlife, we have since broadened our scope of work to include wildfire mitigation via fuel-reduction projects throughout the region, since fire is as much a threat to the continued health of our waterways as is flooding.
In 2019, EVWC formally updated our vision and mission to incorporate this more comprehensive approach to protecting the Estes Valley’s waters, forests, and wildlife. We will continue to partner and collaborate with a wide variety of organizations, agencies, and the Estes Valley community to implement resilient and sustainable solutions for the environment.
With funding from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Northern Water, and many other foundations and local donors, EVWC has accomplished the following from 2016-2023:
•Completed over $4.5 million in water restoration and wildfire mitigation projects in 23 of the most heavily damaged and high-risk areas in the Estes Valley.
•Marshaled over 6,300 hours of volunteer labor from our community and regional organizations.
•Removed 24,000 cubic yards of silt and sediment from our waterways.
•Recovered 27 riparian acres, including planting 21,000 trees and shrubs to date.
•Restored over 5 miles of streams, making them more resilient to future flooding.
•Built low tech processed based structures and beaver habitat to encourage the return of beavers.
•Removed over 100 pounds of trash, fishing line, and lures from Lake Estes.
•Provided over 300 hours of community outreach & education programs focused on wildfire mitigation and human-wildlife conflict awareness.
•Sponsored and mentored students from the Estes Park Middle School Environmental Club and worked with student volunteers on restoration ecology.
•Supported 325 property owners in creating defensible space by removing over 224,000 pounds of flammable slash in 2022.
•Performed invasive weed control
•Won the 2018 Larimer County Environmental Stewardship Award.
"As landowners who were impacted by the 2013 flood, we have been closely involved with watershed restoration activities since even before the Watershed Coalition was formed. We actively supported the formation of the coalition and have worked closely with EVWC in a variety of capacities over the past few years. During the past year, our property (along with many others' properties) benefited from an EVWC project that not only helped with flood recovery issues, but also provided a means for greater security and resiliency during future flooding events."
--Mary Banken, former Executive Director, Estes Valley Land Trust