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GARNA (Greater Arkansas River Nature Association) is hosting a virtual awards ceremony from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10 to honor this year’s local environmental heroes.

This year, instead of hosting a typical fundraiser, GARNA is celebrating its four 2020 heroes with the goal of igniting hope in communities and inspiring others to become environmental stewards. The event kicked off on National Public Lands Day Sept. 26.  Register here for Saturday’s event.

This year’s heroes are:

Mike Conlin is GARNA’s 2020 award winner for stewardship.

Mike Conlin – Award for Stewardship

As coordinator for Lake County Open Space Initiative (LCOSI) since its inception 23 years ago, Conlin is known for leadership in projects that provide long-term protection of critical landscapes, habitats, and the river corridor in the Upper Arkansas Valley.

He has also played pivotal roles in the establishment of the Mineral Belt Trail, the successful nomination of the Top of the Rockies National Scenic Byway, and the restoration of the Arkansas River, once considered an industrial sewer, but now classified as a gold medal fishery. Through GARNA, Conlin has led high school students through activities including site clean-ups, willow plantings, and bird and bat boxes.

“This award is especially meaningful since it comes from an organization that exudes the basic values, the pillars of conservation that have formed my career, and that direct my life,” he says. “It means a lot coming from this organization full of peers and people I respect for the conservation efforts they have made over the years.”

Jacy Doumas is the 2020 GARNA award winner for sustainability.

Jacy Doumas – Award for Sustainability

Through Doumas’s work with Envision Chaffee County, she helped form relationships with others concerned about single-use plastics, waste management, recycling, composting, environmental health, renewable energy and conservation throughout the region that ultimately grew into the creation of Chaffee Green. Since Chaffee Green has become a program of GARNA, Jacy continues to serve as a board member, promoting and inspiring engagement in GARNA’s mission with hopes to contribute to a future County Sustainability Plan.

“As long as I continue to breathe, walk and drink, I will continue to be driven to protect the air, land, and water,” she says. “I have given a significant amount of time to GARNA because I believe it is a proven and dedicated nonprofit that protects that which cannot protect itself in a positive uplifting way.”

Keith Krebs is GARNA’s 2020 Education award winner.

Keith Krebs – Award for Education

Krebs, a GARNA supporter, member, and volunteer for 10 years, has been a driving force behind the Stream Explorers program, an immersive, fun, hands-on learning experience that connects young people to the rivers flowing through their backyard.

“We need to keep exposing kids, who are the future of environmental work and our world – to the outdoors,” says Krebs. “What’s most important is that we get them away from the screen and into the stream where they can really interact with the resources we work to protect.”

Denny Arter is GARNA’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Denny Arter – Lifetime Achievement Award

Arter’s passion for nature started early and only grew stronger throughout the years. In her 20 years of service to GARNA, she served as board chair and board member, and founded the popular birding club, which provides an “educational opportunity and expands people’s understanding and appreciation for nature and the incredible environment we live in.”

Despite her accomplishments and lifelong commitment to environmental causes, Arter says receiving GARNA’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award is a complete surprise.

“What an honor! I never expected anything like this,” says Arter. “So often through life, we get tiny pats on the back that are nice, but every once in a while, something bigger comes along and you think: Really? For me? It makes me think: maybe I really did make a difference here and there, which we all do in different ways.”