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On Saturday, Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day, the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) will kick-off an online celebration of local environmental heroes meant to ignite hope in the community and inspire others to become environmental stewards.

The two-week media campaign highlighting four local environmental heroes through short videos, social media posts, print ads, articles, email, and radio will culminate on Saturday, Oct. 10 with a virtual awards ceremony where each recipient will receive a functional, sustainable, one-of-a kind award handcrafted by Mark Rittman of The Maverick Potter.

One of the longest-serving nonprofits in the area, GARNA relies heavily on volunteers to provide stewardship and educational opportunities on public lands in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. “GARNA reaches over 45,000 residents and visitors per year with messages about sustainability, conservation and responsible enjoyment of our local natural resources,” says Dominique Naccarato, Executive Director. “Our work wouldn’t happen without broad community collaboration and hard-working volunteers.”

Long-time volunteer and activist, Denny Arter of Salida will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for over 20 years of service to GARNA. Additional awards align with GARNA’s three pillars of activism: Stewardship (Mike Conlin of Leadville), Sustainability (Jacy Doumas of Buena Vista) and Education (Keith Krebs of Nathrop).

“We had to get creative this year, but hope our online celebration will honor these heroes, and engage the community and allow them to support our work,” says Naccarato. Contributions from sponsors such as Freeport-McMoran, Eclipse Real Estate and Property Management, LaGree’s Food Stores and local individual donors are helping to make the event possible.

Through a matching program using contributions from local businesses, GARNA hopes to multiply the impact of individual donations. Those who participate in social media and online events will also be entered into a drawing for packages including donated items and experiences such as vacation stays at local venues, gift certificates to restaurants and more. Stay tuned for ways to participate.

“The Environmental Hero Awards shine a light on GARNA’s many volunteers, supporters and partner organizations who are critical to the progress we have achieved,” says board chair Lisa Martin. “GARNA depends on our supporters and allies to work together to create positive change. With the rapid increase in outdoor recreation, influx of new residents and building permits, and large scale public lands issues including climate change, GARNA’s work is more important than ever. Our hope is that together, you will help create a community of public lands lovers that will prevail to future generations.”

Become a part of the action. Donate and learn more at

Register to join the virtual awards ceremony on Oct. 10: