Environmental Education at Coldharbour Institute

Western students get involved in local environmental projects

By Jeremy Wallace

Volunteers erect the first three poles of a teepee at Coldharbour Ranch October 8th. Photo by Jeremy Wallace
Volunteers erect the first three poles of a teepee at Coldharbour Ranch October 8th. Photo by Jeremy Wallace

A cool breeze from the West picks up the dry smell of sawdust from dozens of teepee poles being sanded and prepared for raising. College students and other volunteers work tirelessly on their small projects, conversing about upcoming assignments and wondering, just how does one raise a teepee, anyway? It’s a busy day at the Coldharbour Ranch, 332 acres of property East of Gunnison owned by the Coldharbour Institute. The ranch is a center for educating people about sustainable practices and the future site of Coldharbour Institute headquarters.  The teepee that is about to be raised will serve as a unique gathering spot for outdoor environmental classes.

“I wanted to raise more awareness about the institute,” said Michela Shultz, an environmental studies major in-part responsible for organizing a group of Western State Colorado University students to volunteer for the project. Shultz and many other students in Western’s Environment and Sustainability program are learning how to organize service projects, and collaborate with institutions such as Coldharbour helping to bring sustainable living practices to the public eye. “I’ve been passionate about the environment and lessening human impact since I was in fourth grade,” said Shultz. “I’ve learned a lot of skills [at Western], from big research projects to environmental policy.”

Service projects such as Shultz’s are a step in the right direction for Coldharbour Institute, a small sustainability-minded organization in the early startup phase.

“There is always more work to do,” says Briant Wiles, Director of Land Management for Coldharbour. “During service days we get a chance to expose more people to the property, and the potential for future engagement while talking about what it means to promote sustainable living practices.” While Coldharbour is still currently in a developmental stage- gaining financial stability and creating a strategic plan for the future- it hopes to soon expand educational programming and form partnerships with organizations in the valley that will foster sustainable living movements and ideas.

As the three initial teepee poles are hoisted up and set in place, the crowd of volunteers look on with the satisfaction of seeing a project completed. Without numerous people helping with small tasks, this process could’ve taken the small staff at Coldharbour multiple days- but many hands made light work, whether raising a teepee or creating sustainable living practices for people in the Gunnison Valley.