Dillon resident biking length of the Colorado River to educate nearby communities about watershed
Dillon resident Leah Weisman is one of six women preparing for a three-month bike trip along the Colorado River to learn and share the stories of people with connections to the river.
The group of women form The Water Cycle and will be stopping in towns along the Colorado River to provide educational programming to local schools focusing on science, stewardship and storytelling.
Weisman said the primary goal of the trip is watershed education and connecting with locals, while the secondary goal is storytelling. The team will also be making a film to document the trip and the stories they hear, which Weisman said she hopes to have released early next year.
“We’re really hoping that — especially the kids that we connect with — they know their own place and what’s immediately around them, (and) for them to be able to … connect that to the bigger picture of the river in the watershed as a whole and how they link into that big story,” Weisman said.
The educational programs are intended to help kids understand what makes a watershed and the role they play in it while also talking about their personal connections to the river through storytelling. The group used state and national education standards when designing the programming, Weisman said.
Another aspect of the educational program will have kids in the classrooms write letters to other students downstream, with the group delivering the letters throughout its ride.
The purpose of the storytelling component, Weisman said, is to develop an oral history of the river as it is now.
“(We’ll) be interviewing people that we meet along the way and then also hosting some storytelling events, sort of open-mic night style events. … People will just get up and share really any river-related story,” Weisman said. “We are just connecting with people as much as we can.”
The idea for the trip started while Weisman was still pursuing her master’s degree in science education at the University of Northern Colorado about two years ago. She and Kate Trudeau, another woman going on the trip, went through the program and noticed that most of the books and stories they read about water in the West came from a man’s perspective.
“Water is so valuable and so important, and it needs to be heard about from all different perspectives,” Weisman said.
Weisman said everyone in Colorado is impacted by the Colorado River Basin — of which Summit County is a part — and many Summit locals take advantage of the river’s recreation opportunities.
“The whole story of the Colorado River is a big one because it’s a big river, but all the water in the West is kind of going through the same situation with diversions and all that,” Weisman said. “Summit County doesn’t sit directly on the Colorado River, but the Blue River feeds into the Colorado in Kremmling, and so it’s all part of the watershed.”
The group received funding for the trip from the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant as well as the No Man’s Land Film Festival, which Weisman said is an all-women’s adventure film festival.
The Water Cycle will take off on its three-month, 2,000 mile bike trip Saturday, Sept. 4, from the Colorado’s headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park. Keep up with the trip by visiting the group’s Instagram or Facebook pages.
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