Giving back to the Blue River |

Giving back to the Blue River

The Blue River is one of the premier trout streams in Colorado holding the highest honor bestowed on a river, Gold Medal waters.

This distinction is not easily achieved. It also is not easy to keep. A variety of factors have directly contributed over the last several years, to the slow demise of our river – such as low flows, lack of habitat and sediment buildup.

Fortunately, local government and nonprofit organizations have teamed up to take on many of these issues and try to ensure the continued status as Gold Medal waters.

The importance of the Blue River is immeasurable to our community. It has long been one of the important parts of what makes Summit County the world-class destination that it is.

Summit County offers world-class snow sports, world-class summer activities and world-class fishing year-round. From most towns, you can do all three within 15 miles.

Too often, we take for granted what nature has given us. Overlooking our diverse wildlife, recreational opportunities and amazing scenery would be a mistake.

Fishing has a staggering impact in Colorado. The state estimated close to $1 billion is spent annually on fishing by residents and tourists .

While the state does not break out how much revenue Summit County receives annually, a 2001 survey reported about 80 percent of the state’s fishing as cold-water fishing with a interest specifically in trout.

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that Colorado has only a handful of Gold Medal waters and Summit County is at the center of most of them. Within a two-hour drive, you can get to more than half of these fisheries and most of those within an hour’s drive.

If Summit County is to continue to remain a year round destination area for fishing, we need to preserve and protect our fisheries ,too.

The Blue River Restoration Project (BRRP) was formed by local government agencies and nonprofits to improve the Blue River and maintain the river’s destination status.

The BRRP Committee recognized the Blue River was in trouble and decided that, despite the fact we cannot change all of the environmental factors degrading the river, we can have a positive impact and help it thrive.

The BRRP recently received a matching grant of $94,750 from the National Forest Foundation. To give you an idea of the importance it saw in this project, this was the largest grant the foundation awarded this year.

The grant requires a match, which means that for every dollar we raise as a community, the foundation matches dollar for dollar up to $94,750. More than $30,000 has been raised.

On April 26, from 4-8 p.m., BRRP will host the Blue River Festival, a major fundraising event at the Silverthorne Pavilion.

The festival will have live music and entertainment. There will be live and silent auction items including guided fishing trips, fishing equipment, restaurant gift certificates and more.

Local fly-fishing shops will be on hand to answer questions about fishing, and to give fly-tying and casting clinics. This is a rare opportunity to get expert help for beginners and experts alike. We even have a commemorative watercolor poster painted by a local artist, Lana McCleary. The poster depicts an angler reeling in a rainbow trout on the Blue River and is only $5. The posters, along with tickets for the event, are available at local fly shops and at the Silverthorne Recreation Center.

As an avid angler and local Gore Range Trout Unlimited Chapter president, I am often asked, “Is this just about fishing?”

My answer to that is twofold.

– How many of us look forward to the osprey returning each year to Silverthorne? The reason they come back is a tremendous fishery to supply them with the food they need to raise their young. Many other animals depend on this river for food. Gold Medal status is not just an attractor of anglers; it is an overall indicator of river health.

– Summit County did not earn its renowned status on skiing alone. Without this river, our community would lose its share of the estimated $1 billion spent on fishing. Without this income, summers might be more difficult for local businesses than they already are.

We have the ability to impact our quality of life and give back to a fishery that has given so much. Donations, monetary or items for the auction, can be sent to: Blue River Restoration Project, c/o NWCCOG Foundation, PO BO 2308 Silverthorne, CO 80498. You also can e-mail me at or call (970) 262-7573.

The writer is from Silverthorne and is president of the Gore Range Trout Unlimited chapter. He can be reached at the numbers listed above.

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