BY JODI PETERSON
Forget standing around in an air-conditioned conference room, eating stale cake and sipping punch. When CEMML staffers recently held a retirement send-off for one of the Center’s key employees, it took place instead in a remote natural area, and involved weed pulling, trail clearing, and fishing. It was a fitting way to close out Cynthia Melcher’s five years as an editor and designer of natural resource management reports. The farewell event was held on July 8th at Phantom Canyon, a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) about 30 minutes northwest of Fort Collins. This spectacular canyon along the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River features imposing granite cliffs, more than 100 bird species, native wildflowers and plants, and incredible fishing for rainbow and brown trout. It’s not open to the public, but TNC hosted the CEMML team for a day of volunteer trail maintenance.
Thirteen team members and friends carpooled to the preserve, then gathered on the wind-whipped prairie to recognize Cynthia. Colleague Helen Davis presented her with a beautiful drawing of a golden eagle, and Jennie Anderson, who leads the “Eagle” team at CEMML, gave a short speech.
“Cynthia was one of the first members of our team,” said Jennie. “Her thoroughness and attention to detail vastly improved our deliverables. The team owes a great deal of gratitude to Cynthia for her contributions.”
Then everyone picked up packs and tools, and followed TNC staffers down into the lush lower canyon. Wielding hoes, loppers, and weed whackers, members opened overgrown trail sections, pulled invasive mullein and thistles, and trimmed overhanging branches. After lunch along the river, people scattered for various pursuits – some bushwhacked farther downstream, some wetted their fly-fishing gear, and others scanned for interesting birds. A welcome thunderstorm cooled everyone off as they climbed back out of the canyon at the end of the day, sweaty and smiling.
“Some places and people are so special they are worth protecting and celebrating,” said Jennie. “Pairing Phantom Canyon with a celebration of Cynthia’s career was a natural fit.”
As for Cynthia, she was delighted to finally fully experience Phantom Canyon. She’d visited once before with the National Audubon Society, but ended up stuck inside on lunch duty while others went in search of unusual birds. “This was the perfect way for natural resources folks to come together and care for our natural world, as an alternative to more traditional retirement send-offs,” Cynthia said. She’s looking forward to spending more time outdoors, although she plans to keep writing about one of her main passions—birds. “Stories about American dippers and western meadowlarks are already in my readers’ hands and I hope to include them in a collection of new stories. I’m also planning to volunteer with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and the Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center,” she said. “And then there’s that travel bucket list…Australia, Africa, Antarctica—basically, any place that begins and ends with an A.” Happy trails, Cynthia, from all of us at CEMML!