MPEC's Biomass Boiler Project!

A break in the weather allowed for the pouring of the foundation of our Biomass Boiler Building on this Christmas Eve. We project that before winter is over, we will be heating Horseshoe Lodge utilizing our new Biomass Heating System. We already have a hot water system installed in the Lodge, currently buring propane as fuel. The biomass system will utilize 2 GARN 2000 boilers that burn wood (which will initially come from fire mitigation and other forest cleanup efforts in the park) to heat the water that heats the lodge (as well as domestic hot water needs). We calculate that this will save us nearly 70% of the cost of burning propane for our heat. And, it is much more environmentally friendly, burning a renewal fuel instead of a fossil fuel. According to the forestry and energy scientists, "utilization of woody biomass for bioenergy can help mitigate greenhouse gases, contribute to the development of healthier forests, bolster rural economies, and reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign oil." A win-win for all of us!

Winter at MPEC!

MPEC held its first Winter Festivity Day on Saturday, Dec 21, a very cold Winter Solstice Day. Santa, some fun games, and s'mores around the fire were a part of this next to last MPEC program of 2008 (we had a Solstice Drum Circle later that same afternoon). What a year it has been for MPEC - we started and completed Phase 1 of the Horseshoe Lodge Project while facilitating a record 322 program sessions for 7971 participants. Happy Holidays from all of us at MPEC!


Out in the Snow!!!

With the recent snows, MPEC's Earth Studies students have been experiencing our outdoor classroom decorated in its winter garb. This month we've been working on using a compass, so students got to find their way around with snowshoes strapped to their feet (a first for essentially every one of them). Winter has finally arrived, and one thing MPEC does with it is teach that it is perfectly OK to be outside when it is cold or snowy (a real eye-opener for many more of our students than you'd think). We teach them that as long as they are properly prepared with the right gear (we're using lots of our donated hats and gloves lately), being outside in winter can be wonderful! Here are a few photos tken over the past few days here at MPEC!


First Real Snow of the Season!!!

Dec 8 & 9 brought 14" (with nearly 1.5" of moisture) to Pueblo Mountain Park. Come on up, it's a winter wonderland!


Colder nights evident with pond ice!

As a closet phenologist, I like to keep track of when certain natural events take place, especially as they relate to the changing seasons. In spite of a mild fall, the shortening of the days and the chilly and longer nights are making their mark on the landscape. This morning, I took a "scenic" route to the office, and noticed ice on the pond. It certainly isn't solid, and the ice will probably disappear during this relatively warm day. But the earth is definitely tilting our little part of it further away from the sun, and the ice on the pond will eventually become solid. Last year, the pond was "officially" in its winter ice garb on November 24 (and became officially ice- free on March 29 of this year).


Horseshoe Lodge opens in a grand fashion!

A gentle warm mid-autumn day was the backdrop for MPEC's celebration of completion of the first phase of the Horseshoe Lodge Project. An estimated 300 people showed up to celebrate, enjoy some delicious goodies, tour the Lodge, and learn a bit about what comes next for MPEC at Horseshoe Lodge. Words of wisdom, story and insight were shared by Pueblo City Councilman Randy Thurston, MPEC Board Member Anne Warren and her son, MPEC camper Zach Warren, camper Jackson Reed, founding MPEC Board Member Tim Sandsmark (now Director of Lookout Mountain Nature Center in Jefferson County), Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, and MPEC Founder and Director Dave Van Manen. A surprise visit by Dudley McFarland, a CCC worker who worked in Pueblo Mountain Park in 1935 (he's now 95) and a donation by the National Automobile Sales Association presented by Barbara and Bill Vidmar added to the day's delight. A few youngsters from our Nature Toddlers group cut the ribbon that officially opened the Horseshoe Lodge as MPEC's new home. The day was both a celebration of the completion of Phase 1 and a kick-off of fund-raising for the remaining phases of the exciting Horseshoe Lodge Project - which we already have quite a bit of the necessary funds to get Phase 2 - the overnight rooms in the west wing - started and completed! Click the ribbon-cutting photo on the right to see lots of Grand Opening photos.


Many people remember the old dining hall of the Horseshoe Lodge as this big dark dungeon of a place. We can't wait for you to see the transformation of this space which will become the gathering spot for many children and adults in the near future... a place for eating delicious healthy meals after a day of hiking and learning. With the help of Pueblo Artist Jean Latka (and many hours of framing interior walls, insulating for warmth, dropping the ceiling and cleaning like mad) the Dining Hall has amazing paint and is sparking. Dave and Jean created animal track templates and will make the downstairs of Horseshoe Lodge another inspired place for learning.


October color in Pueblo Mountain Park!

October arrives with lots of color - from many flowers still in bloom and leaves as colorful as flowers in their autumn look. I finally have another camera (thank you, Helene) and have stolen a few moments to try it out. Here is some of what Pueblo Mountain Park has to offer these soft autumn days: Lots of members of the Sunflower Family, and, yes, that is poison ivy (the Sumac Family). The deer are very plentiful - I saw this one walking home from the office yesterday evening around 6pm right at the entrance to the park.


Painting Volunteers Make A Huge Difference

In the Last 3 Weeks This Has Happened At The Mountain Park Environmental Center

At the Horseshoe Lodge we have:

- Painted about 10,000 sq feet of walls and ceilings x 3 coats
all by volunteers
-Tongue in groove ceiling is almost completely installed
-Bathrooms are primed for completion and will feature Clivus Multrum foam flush composting toilets
-Electrical finish work is near completion
-Floors are being repaired where needed and old baseboard removed last winter are being sanded and restored by a volunteer and will be installed in the next week or two
-New phone systems are ready to be installed
-New Interior doors will arrive August 6th

We plan to move from our overcrowded MPEC headquarters to the new Horseshoe Lodge on Saturday August 23. We are rallying volunteers to help us move that day and celebrate this huge grassroots effort. We need helpers at every level including people to cook and bring food to feed our moving troops. email us at I WILL HELP MPEC MOVE


Don Richmond's Show on the Porch of the Horseshoe Lodge was a special evening !

Rain graced Don Richmond's solo concert last night which was divine and sooo needed as the summer temps in Beulah have been hot and dry . Our first concert on the porch of the Horseshoe Lodge was magical indeed and the 60+ music lovers who came out for the show were smiling ear to ear...as the Lodge itself seemed to be doing. When darkness came there was a deep quiet between songs amidst the " stately pines" as Don refered to them. There was no visible moon due to the clouds but some deer showed up in the horseshoe circle and someone commented to me that it was like being in a national geographic park..with the animals emerging from the woods.

More details soon on the total raised for this event underscored by the matching grant that will double every dollar earned by a generous donor from Colorado Springs. Don donated a portion of the concert fee as well as Michael and Becky Poisson from Westcliffe covering Don's balance. This all made for a strong evening that will further Phase 2 goals of the HSL renovation.

If you don't know the music of Don Richmond we recommend you visit his site and get one of his great cd's. No Man's Land is a collection of fine folk music inspired by the San Luis Valley and Don's connection to Nature. Our favorite song from this cd is Wide Open.


Backpacking, hiking, and Horseshoe Lodge!

June has been a busy month at MPEC! Here are some photos showing a bit of what's been happening: backpack camp in the Greenhorn Wilderness for middle school age kids (after a dayhike to the peak, they were treated to a lovely sunset over the Sangre de Cristos back at camp) and a guided hike from Hwy 165 back into Pueblo Mountain Park along the South Creek Trail (in collaboration with Wild Connections and the local Sierra Club chapter). The wildflowers were terrific, including several columbines. The Lodge photo shows that the insulation is in, hanging drywall is about complete for the upstairs (taping begins this week, as does downstairs drywall hanging), and the project is in full swing. We are looking for volunteers who would like to help out with painting, which we will be getting to in the next couple of weeks. If you're interested, please call me at 485-4444. Thanks, Ranger Dave


Mountain Park Alive with Nature!

This past Saturday, I was out along the park's trails doing some trail maintenance, and couldn't help but notice that the flowers are probably at their peak for the park, easily 3 or 4 weeks later than usual. Pictured in this blog are senecio, yucca, stonecrop, dwarf penstemon (p. virens), and mountain harebell, a few of the many wildflowers blooming right now. And at yesterday's birding hike, we saw several western bluebirds and at least a couple of western tanagers, two of the more colorful avian species found in the park at this time. It's a great time to take a leisurely hike in Pueblo Mountain Park to enjoy Nature's loveliness.