We turned a horse pasture into a botanic park !
The Park sits at an altitude of 6,880 ft in a cool valley at the foot of Mt Werner, the Steamboat Ski Mountain. In winter, cold air flows down the mountains into the Valley so that temperatures can reach as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (and Celsius). The Park gets an average of only 60 days a year without a killing frost. These low temperatures, together with very dry summers and high levels of ultra-violet make this a challenging climate in which to grow plants. Native species thrive, but so do plants from similar climates in other parts of the World, and cultivars of lower-altitude plants. The gardens contain mostly perennials.
The Yampa River Botanic Park is an innovative, perhaps unique, experiment in private/public development and maintenance of a public botanical gardens. The 6 acre park sits on land donated to the City of Steamboat Springs. The Park is maintained by an Association, a volunteer organization that was delegated by the City to manage the Park, raise funds, hire staff and design, create and maintain the gardens .
The Park is free and open to the public from dawn to dusk, May 1 through October 31. Free entry encourages people to visit often, to feel ownership in the Park, and encourages donations. The Park is high on the Chamber's list of tourist attractions.
Most plants in the Park are labeled with common and scientific names and show which plants are native only to Northwest Colorado (endemic).
Since 1999 the Park has hosted "Music on the Green", which is supported by local sponsors and is a partnership with Strings Music Festival. These events are free lunchtime classical and contemporary music concerts in a very informal atmosphere. Each season some 3,000 people attend these concerts, at least half of whom are visitors.
The Park is a popular venue for weddings and public events. Schools conduct classes here, summer camps regularly visit, The Green is used for live theater, opera, yoga, school classes and many other activities. In a corner of the Park is the Children's' Garden with gardens, bird nests, a play-house and an amphitheater. All through the park stepping-stones over streams, interesting trails, and sculptures attract children's attention.
- The Association's membership consists of citizens and people who live far away but have Steamboat connections. Membership totals over 400.
- The Association's Directors are elected to the Board by its members.
- The Board is active in building financial support for the Park.
- The Board manages the Park, hires employees and manages the facilities.
- The Facility's annual budget is less than $150,000. A combination of a hard-working board, hard-working staff, volunteer help and in-kind help make this possible.
- The Park receives support from the public that is truly incredible for a small town of 12,000 souls.
- There are some 50 gardens, many of which are sponsored by individuals and organizations. Some sponsors work their own gardens, while others support them financially.
- Volunteers attend Wednesday morning "Social Gardening" sessions to weed and help in other ways. Volunteers come in groups or individually at other times.
- Some businesses give discounts and free services, including $2,000 annually from Ace Hardware.
Help from the City
In this venture the Associations partner and supporter is the city of Steamboat Springs:
- The City does not contribute cash operating funds, but it helps in many other ways.
- The Parks & Recreation Department performs office functions, maintains equipment, and helps the Park in a hundred ways.
- The City holds and disburses the Association's funds, which are controlled by the Association. The Finance Department does the Association's payroll, pays its bills and accounts for its revenues and expenditures.
- Every department of the City helps in some way.
- With this help, the Association has a very low overhead and is able to concentrate its efforts on the gardens.
A Successful Park
This has been a 20-year experiment in a private/public partnership. We believe its success is due to:
- It is located high in the mountains where flowering gardens are not expected.
- It was planned and built with solid concepts.
- The Park does not use public funds.
- We do not charge admission, which makes it easy for young people to come and learn about plants.
- Children had classes in the Park and planted trees. They grow up respecting the Park and Nature.
- We have financial backstops provided by the endowments of the founders and others.
- We make a point of not operating like a governmental body and our design idea is "no straight lines".
- We use nature and native species to guide us in plant selections.
- We have a very lean operating staff without CEO ego and expense.
- The members and volunteers have become dedicated to the concept of the Park.
- The members and sponsors have been generous in supporting the gardens in many ways.
- Even more dedicated are the Board Members who devote their time and devotion to making this all work. They are the heart of this endeavor.
On September 9th 2012 the City of Steamboat Springs awarded the Enevers its City's Heritage Award, which is awarded every two years to people who have made a large contribution to the Community.