Mountain Rescue Aspen is launching a public fundraising push to raise the last $1 million it needs for its planned new headquarters on Highway 82.
The nonprofit search-and-rescue team has raised more than $4 million in recent months, to fund a new building outside Aspen. Last fall, Mountain Rescue bought the former Planted Earth property on the highway, and in March received final approval from the Pitkin County commissioners to build a 13,900-square-foot education and research center there. It would replace the existing Mountain Rescue headquarters cabin on Main Street in Aspen.
The 48-year-old rescue team recently launched a “donor tile” fundraiser, where people can buy engraved tiles for a wall at Mountain Rescue’s future home. Small tiles run $2,500; large ones are $5,000. Donors can plant trees on the property for $1,000 each.
Jeff Edelson, the team’s director-at-large, said they need to raise a total of $5 million to cover the land costs, and build and outfit the new headquarters.
Mountain Rescue will soon be offering naming rights for various rooms in the new facility.
The fundraising campaign, dubbed “One on One,” has already covered the $2.4-million construction of a new headquarters. It will be named after C.B. Cameron, who died in a private plane crash in 1977. Mountain Rescue saved Cameron’s daughter, Lynda, and four others from the crash site. In 2011, Lynda Cameron, of Oklahoma, gave $1.5 million for the project.
That donation nearly covered the $1.6-million purchase of the highway-side plot.
Naming rights for the facility range from $10,000 for the garage to $465,000 for MRA’s “mobile command vehicle.”
The organization’s fundraising haul thus far came without a prominent public campaign. Edelson said many of the donations came from families and loved ones of people Mountain Rescue has assisted in danger, or whose remains they’ve recovered from the backcountry.
“We often get gifts from people in memory of certain missions or certain people,” Edelson said. “It’s nice that they come from a lot of people we have interacted with — good and bad.”
Several five-digit gifts have come from donors asking to remain anonymous.
A series of gifts came in to Mountain Rescue last month after the days-long collaborative search for missing skier Jeff Walker, who was eventually found dead of suicide in the backcountry near Aspen Highlands.
While Mountain Rescue attempts to raise the last $1 million it needs for the new headquarters, the nonprofit has enough money in its coffers now to begin construction in late May or early June. Edelson said they plan to submit their building plan to Pitkin County this week. Construction should take a full year, with the new facility potentially opening next summer.
“Hopefully it will take less time than that,” said Edelson.
Mountain Rescue’s operations are funded solely by grants and donations. Its 50-member team works on a volunteer basis. The organization runs on an annual budget of about $100,000 and has no endowment, so this big fundraising push was unprecedented for its members.
“We’ve had to raise more money than ever in the history of the team,” said Edelson.
The future of Mountain Rescue’s historic headquarters on Main Street in Aspen is undetermined. The nonprofit owns the building, but the city of Aspen owns the land beneath it. They have not yet discussed the possibility of the city buying the structure from Mountain Rescue.