Roaring Fork Conservancy Ribbon Cutting

Rick Lofaro, executive director at the Roaring Fork Conservancy, cuts the ribbon to open the organization's new facility on the banks of the Roaring Fork River on Friday morning in Basalt.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy held a ceremony Friday to officially open its new River Center in Basalt. An open house is planned today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the facility, which is located at 22800 Two Rivers Road.

A news release from the nonprofit conservancy states that the center is dedicated to watershed health, research, preservation and education.

“Local concerns of fire and drought are compounding the already complex and delicate balance of water and water management,” the release says. “With [the conservancy’s] education programs and technical advice continuing to increase each year, the timing is perfect to grow both awareness and capacity.”

The conservancy was established 22 years ago by the Roaring Fork Club and the town of Basalt to promote water conservation and the protection of the Roaring Fork watershed. According to the nonprofit, as the organization moves into the next 20-plus years, the River Center will provide “an unparalleled location” to bring together visionaries, researchers, policymakers, elected officials and academic researchers to discuss water issues and share ideas.

“It’s great for this to be coming online, because we all know that water is the issue of our time,” said executive director Rick Lofaro. “The completion of the River Center speaks volumes about the commitment that this community has for its rivers.”

A ribbon-cutting for the facility Friday featured speakers including Lofaro; John Stulp, special policy adviser to the governor on water; and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

“It’s the first facility of its kind in Colorado specifically dedicated to watersheds, rivers and protection,” said Lofaro, eliciting applause from the crowd of nearly 100 who attended the ceremony.

Stulp said he was impressed by the passion and enthusiasm he witnessed for the center during his morning visit.

He recalled what he said was a “parable” of two chefs that were preparing separate dishes and both needed an orange.

“They both went to the cooler, and there was only one orange left,” Stulp said. “They began to discuss whose dish was the most important, and so rather than spend a lot of time on it, they did the most natural thing, they cut it in half. 

“One chef took his half and made an orange glaze out of the juice. It wasn’t quite enough but he kinda got by. The other one needed the peel off of his half of the orange, and so he took the peel off and garnished whatever it was he was baking,” Stulp continued. “It was only then that they realized, if they both had communicated better, they could both have all of what they wanted.”

Water is a lot like that, he said.

“When we’re in litigation, or we’re fighting over water, we don’t get much done with it,” Stulp said. “But when we come together, and we work together, and we understand each other’s situation, we’re able to get a whole lot more out of water — we get multiple purposes, we get multiple benefits.” 

Earlier in the morning at the River Center, conservancy officials presented Gov. John Hickenlooper with the first River Conservator Leadership Award. The honor was based on his “key role” in the development of Colorado’s Water Plan. The conservancy worked in the development stages of the water plan, the news release added.

Today’s open house will include water-quality demonstrations, information on the state of local rivers and family-oriented programs.