Poudre River Fest 2023
Director of Operations and Business Development Katelynn Martinez presents at the collaborative workshop with Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. Photos by Eric Tokuyama.

As printed in The Rocky Mountain Collegian>>

The annual Northern Colorado Poudre RiverFest took place at New Belgium Brewing Company this past weekend.

The focus of the festival is to bring the community together to celebrate the Cache la Poudre River while simultaneously informing the public of the river’s impact on Northern Colorado, said Hally Strevey, executive director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, a Fort Collins-based nonprofit.

The Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed has been involved in the planning of the festival since 2014, when the modern iteration of the Poudre RiverFest began.

“It’s a great day to showcase our work and to be here with a bunch of different partners who all care about the Poudre River,” Strevey said. “The community collaboration piece is really key, which is why this event is so important to us. It’s a really great time for the community to figure out the ways that they can get involved with our organization.”

The event boasted booths from 60 organizations and businesses, said Annemarie Fussell, volunteer community coordinator for the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers.

The festival also featured a lineup of diverse live music and periodic classes and seminars on everything from the basics of bird-watching to an in-depth breakdown of current efforts to support the Poudre River ecosystem through the impact of the devastating Cameron Peak Fire.

The Wildlands Restoration Volunteers were another of the six collaborating organizations responsible for organizing the event. They became involved with the event because of the opportunity it provides to inform the community on what dangers face the Poudre and other local rivers, what can be done to help and how the community can get involved, Fussell said.

Fussell explained that the organization works to restore rivers after floods, fires or other human-created impacts that have damaged a river and that the donations the Poudre RiverFest generates were responsible for funding some of the work the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers were currently looking to undertake.

Fussell said donations were being put to use on two projects the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers were involved with this year. The first was a project to collect native ponderosa pine cones and grow them in a nursery into plantable saplings in an attempt to combat the native pine tree shortage Colorado currently faces.

“The Poudre is the lifeblood of Fort Collins.” –Caroline Denison, Colorado State University student

The second project bookends the first: Once the saplings have grown large enough to be planted, volunteers will plant the trees specifically in the areas impacted by the Cameron Peak Fire in an attempt to heal some of the damage the fire caused to the Poudre River watershed. Fussell emphasized that the undertaking was a joint project with partner organizations OneCanopy and the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed, both members of the festival’s planning committee and sponsors.

“A lot of our work is the same, and the great thing about this festival and a lot of the groups involved is that we all work collaboratively together because there is too much for all of us to do,” Fussell said. “So the more that we can work together, the more we can get done.”

The festival appeared to succeed in its goal of engaging the community with a large crowd circulating through the booths and enjoying the live music on New Belgium’s outdoor lawn for the duration of the event, despite the threat of rain early in the day.

New Belgium has been an integral part of the event for several years, said Tera Been, the event coordinator on New Belgium’s side. Been said the festival is one of the busiest days of the season for New Belgium and is aligned with the core values of environmental stewardship and sustainability that the brewery has championed since its inception.

Several community members present at the festival mentioned how impressed they were with how informative the event was while also being a fun time.

Several also commented on the importance of the Poudre River and expressed pride that there was an event dedicated to celebrating it in Fort Collins.

“Go spend time at it,” said Noah Gonzales, ex-rafting guide and Colorado State University student. “Stick your feet in it. Splash your face with some Poudre.”

“The more time you spend around it, the more I feel like you (realize) it needs to be saved,” fellow CSU student Caroline Denison said. “The Poudre is the lifeblood of Fort Collins.”

This sentiment was also expressed in depth by Fussell, who painted a vivid picture of the impact the river has on the Northern Colorado community.

“Anyone who lives here in Fort Collins, even if you never go rafting, you never drive up the (Poudre) Canyon — maybe you’re not a hiker, maybe you’re not even outdoorsy — we all need clean water, and we all need our watershed to be healthy because this is where we get our water that grows our fruit and grows our crops, that comes out of the tap here in our cities,” Fussell said. “Without that water, we don’t have a city here.”