Grand Lake undergoes mini-makeover as students, 'guardians of wilderness' plant trees in burn scar

Denver7 viewers donate $20,000 to tree project
denver7 gives grand lake tree planting.jpg
Posted at 11:27 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 01:27:42-04

GRAND LAKE, Colo. — Sometimes, some of the best lessons learned are those that happen outside the classroom.

“What we are doing here today is starting to rebuild that ecosystem,” said Heather MacSlarrow, executive director of the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, a nationwide organization based in Grand Lake.

“Instead of a traditional classroom where we all sit at a desk, we all go out into the community and help around with volunteer work,” said Dustin Neal-Murphy, a senior at Middle Park High School in Granby.

That lesson this time has taken this group of Middle Park High School students up to Grand Lake.

“It’s devastating, but we’re trying to lighten up the scenery around here,” said Kyle Moulder, another senior at Middle Park. “Getting ready to plant some trees along this road that’s being built.”

One year after the East Troublesome Fire, the scars from that devastating blaze still run deep.

“I think it’s really hard to articulate the level of devastation,” MacSlarrow said.

The Society for Wilderness Stewardship is a nonprofit working to beautify the area after devastation and destruction.

“And find a way to infuse it with resilience,” MacSlarrow said.

The society, along with the class from Middle Park High School, is planting trees along Park Avenue in Grand Lake and in areas scorched by the blaze to help restore what beetle kill and fire decimated.

“It is an expensive project, but we think it will pay off in the decades to come,” MacSlarrow said. “If you’re looking at big trees, you’re talking in the $2,000-$3,000 range.”

For the students, it’s about as hands-on as learning gets.

“Personally, I like trees,” Neal-Murphy said.

“We’re going to go ahead and name the trees as a respective memorial,” Moulder said.

It's a project that even got the attention of Congressman Joe Neguse.

“Future generations will look back and draw inspiration from those trees that you planted,” Neguse told the students via a Zoom conference.

The project also inspired Denver7 viewers to give back. As students and the nonprofit helped to give back, Denver7 presented them with a check for $20,000.

“Oh my gosh,” MacSlarrow said. “Thank you. I can’t thank you and your viewers enough. This is really the start of something amazing in Grand Lake, and we hope you’ll all come up and visit these trees.”


Click here to go directly to the Denver7 Gives donation form then choose a campaign

Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.