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Dear Editor,

It began as a compelling but simple idea; utilize local community resources to aid in public land management and conservation efforts.

Twenty-five years later, the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) has developed into the beloved organization we recognize today, known for community leadership in environmental education and stewardship work. Now, with the addition of sustainability as its third guiding pillar, GARNA continues to evolve to fulfill the current, local, environmental needs of the Upper Arkansas River Valley.

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Five years ago, I became involved with GARNA through work with a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) planning grant aimed at getting underserved youth and families outdoors. The results from this grant indicated that many of our residents have significant barriers to getting outdoors and are therefore not able to gain the many benefits of our nature world. As socioeconomic disparities continue to grow in concert with alarming changes within our natural world, I chose to dedicate my time to GARNA, our local educational environmental organization that has been making a difference in this valley for 25 years.

GARNA is committed to working in partnership with federal, state, and local land management organizations as well as community groups to create awareness, engagement, and action-oriented stewardship opportunities to protect our local natural systems. These partnerships are the backbone for a successful response to increased pressures on our natural lands.

Such partnerships have proven to be an effective approach to create greater resiliency within our communities. The recent development and approval of the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan is an example of collaborative work among partners and the community they serve. The plan, now being used as a statewide model, will guide land management agencies to balance stewardship, wildlife needs and lands access as recreation demands grow across our valley.

On behalf of the GARNA Board and staff, I hope you will join us to build upon our successes, and map out new solutions to environmental challenges facing the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Your support is invaluable.

In honor of GARNA’s 25th anniversary AND the many people who have contributed to making GARNA the Valley’s longest successful environmental nonprofit, we hope you’ll celebrate with us at GARNA’s 25th Birthday Bash Fundraiser at River Runners Raft Company on September 12th. To learn more, bid on silent auction items, and donate, visit our website. And yes – we plan to have some fun!

To the future,
Lisa C. Martin, GARNA Board Chair