AMITY VARGAS – INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
Amity has a diverse background with over 15 years’ experience that includes work in business development, organizational management, and the entire spectrum of non-profit operations. Some of her previous positions have included working as the Executive Director and Director of Operations for the Mountain Post Historical Association and the Assistant Director at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center.
Her professional achievements include being selected as one of Colorado Springs Business Journal’s ’40 Under 40 Rising Stars’. This award honors Colorado Springs area’s best and brightest young professionals based on an individual’s professional accomplishment and community involvement. Amity spent several years serving on AUSA’s National Young Professionals panel and has also been featured as a Colorado Springs ‘Mover and Shaker’ within the Gazette publication.
She has dedicated herself to giving back to the community and spends an extensive amount of time volunteering for organizations like Blue Star Recyclers that employs ethical recycling practices while creating employment opportunities for adults with disabilities. She is also a community advocate for sustainable community gardens and curbside compost programs. Amity has served on the Board of Directors for Women in Defense (WID) Rocky Mountain Chapter, The Mural Project of Colorado Springs, and Women Mentoring Women. She has previously served as a Chairperson for planning events like the annual Pow Wow event for One Nation Walking Together that hosts over 5,000 attendees and the USO’s annual gala.
Amity is the proud mother of four children, grandma to one, and wife to her husband Jorge Vargas. She enjoys painting, hiking, reading, and spending time with her family.
KRISTIN BARRETT – PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Kristin grew up among the aspens and pines on a cattle and hay ranch in the mountains of Idaho, where she developed her love of the land and the environment. Her family raised dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, cattle, horses, and a goat. She carried water from a spring, collected eggs, churned her own butter, and rode horseback though miles of mountain forests, enjoying a rustic lifestyle in her early years.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Idaho in Agribusiness and spent several years in the ranching, veterinary, and dairy industries before completing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Idaho.
Seeking adventure and a warmer climate, she took a job on a remote atoll in the Pacific. She developed a love of the ocean and its inhabitants, so she took a break from the corporate world and became a SCUBA instructor in St. Lucia. She also attended massage therapy school in Santa Fe, New Mexico and ran her own massage therapy business in Santa Fe for several years.
She took a job with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2001, which provided great experience in sustainability, pollution prevention, and energy conservation. She worked with engineers and architects to incorporate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles into standard construction documents for the lab and worked to help the lab become more sustainable through recycling, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and green purchasing programs.
In 2010, she met the love of her life at a music festival in Alma, Colorado. They were married and now live in the house they built together on Mosquito Creek at 10,600 feet. They are musicians and play at some local events.
She was amazed and impressed from day one with Beaver Ponds’ beauty and mission. She is honored to be part of the Beaver Ponds family and looks forward to assisting in the many fascinating plans and activities the organization is pursuing. She is also an instructor at Colorado Mountain College, teaching environmental science and sustainability studies, as well as a volunteer for Colorado River Watch, helping to ensure the water quality of Colorado’s surface waters.
ERIC CHATT – SITE MANAGER
Eric has been fascinated by sustainable technology and medicine since he was 8 years old. He began learning about medicine by shadowing chiropractors in Omaha, Nebraska as a fourth grader through high school. His old sketchbooks from fourth grade show a solar sports car design and chiropractic manipulation. Healing pain and helping the environment have been Eric’s primary curiosity and motivation.
As a seventh grader he read “The Healer Within.” This was a book about psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, which was unbelievably fascinating for him. In undergraduate studies he conducted two years of research on the placebo response and pain. Through his studies, he discovered John Kabat-Zinn, known for his work on mindfulness meditation and the effects on pain. Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Coming To Our Senses,” links the idea of mindfulness with environmental health, as well as our individual health.
Sustainable agriculture became a passion for Eric in graduate school at Bastyr University in Seattle. In his practice as a naturopathic doctor, he has focused on pain management and organic methods of medicinal herb production and has owned and operated a healing art center and medicinal herb production company for 5 years in Alma, Colorado. He has been a registered massage therapist since 2001, and is now a registered naturopathic doctor in the state of Colorado (2014 was the first year Colorado accepted registrations for N.D.s).
He has been an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge for 10 years, teaching Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Capoeira, a martial art dance. He also tutors in the biology and disability student tutoring programs. “Docere” is the Latin term meaning “doctor as teacher,” and Eric firmly believes in transcending the self and helping others in this way.
To Eric, the two naturopathic philosophical principles of Docere (doctor as teacher), and Tolle Causam (treat the cause), are crucial for biodiversity and environmental health, as we know it.
He believes that the goals of inspiring stewardship of the Earth and teaching people about sustainability are the challenges of our time. As a biologist and a doctor, Eric is thrilled and honored to care for the plants and animals in this stunningly gorgeous natural setting in Park County Colorado, while teaching others about sustainable ways of living.
GAIL SMITH, MA Ed; MA Cert EE –
SCHOOL GROUPS and OUTREACH COORDINATOR
Gail has over 30 years’ education experience, which includes classroom science and environmental studies in both Park and Summit School Districts, and program coordinator experience through the Colorado Department of Education. For over 15 years, she facilitated a national education and professional development program with the Keystone Science School called, “Key Issues, Teaching Environmental Issues In The Classroom.” In 2012, Ms. Smith served as the national coordinator for the “Hands on the Land” initiative, a network of public land and waterways field-site classrooms that supports K – 12 environmental literacy and curriculum standards. “Hands on the Land” is affiliated with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). Ms. Smith completed her Masters Certification in Environmental Education in 2015 and has since worked primarily with outdoor environmental programs and school groups both in Park and Lake Counties of Colorado.
Gail and her husband Randy moved to Park County in 2002 and reside within five minutes of Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center. They both teach skiing at Breckenridge Resort in the winter, and enjoy playing music (piano and guitar), hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing.
FOUNDERS – AL & TERRY HERSHEY
Al and Terry Hershey are the founders of Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center at Sacramento Creek Ranch. Although not their career, their long-term passion and full-time focus after business careers revolves around the environment and education.
After moving full-time to Colorado, they spent several years looking for just the right piece of property to combine those two passions. When they saw the land that is now Sacramento Creek Ranch, they knew it needed to be preserved, explored, and shared.
They developed the property and now invite others interested in environmental preservation, livestock, horticulture, and alternative energy systems to visit and learn about what we are doing on the property and how the features of the Ranch and Center can be used to enhance environmental and other learning experiences.
Al and Terry both graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After graduating with a degree in accounting, Al started his career in public accounting and then moved into the medical device industry, where he spent 40 years. Terry graduated with a degree in international relations and spent her entire business career in the media industry, with the last 25 years focused on electronic media and business strategy.
Today they focus on maximizing the educational impact of Sacramento Creek Ranch, and when time permits, they enjoy biking, hiking, skiing, cooking, and their dogs. In addition, Terry is the chairperson of a new charter school, the Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, which opened in August 2013.
Events & Programs
There's always something fun to do at Beaver Ponds this summer.
Here are some upcoming programs and events.
KSS Wilderness Campers
July 17 - July 19, 12pm - 8am
For more information visit https://keystonescienceschool.org/
Alma Festival in the Clouds - booth
July 20, 3pm - 7pm / July 21 & 22, 10am - 4pm
Contact Amity Vargas for more information at (719) 209-5813
Mountain Top Children's Museum
July 24, 12pm - 3pm
Contact Tiernan Spencer for more information at (970) 453-7878
KSS Overnight Wilderness Camp
July 25 - July 26, 12pm - 12pm
For more information visit https://keystonescienceschool.org/
Beaver Ponds is located at the headwaters of one of Colorado’s major rivers, so we take watershed protection very seriously. Our Sacramento Creek Protection Plan uses both science and community collaboration to promote stewardship, education and conservation.read more
Here’s a great summer recipe for sunshine carrots, sure to become a family favorite. They’re delicious and easy to make!read more
Listening to the radio a week ago I heard a physicist having a conversation about beauty and nature. He asked the question. Does nature inspire beautiful ideas? A beautiful idea can come in many forms: a math equation, a poem, a sculpture, an educational approach, crafts, a song, a design, literature, social solutions, environmental solutions, a different perspective on reality, the possibilities are limitless. Different ideas may come from sitting by a stream or strolling through the woods than in other situations. Nature does inspire beautiful ideas.read more
Book of the Month A Kid's Summer EcoJournal: With Nature Activities for Exploring the Season A Kid's Summer EcoJournal invites kids to write about nature on pages exquisitely illustrated by Margaret Brandt. The author has included short entries from her nature...read more
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