Jewel in the Crown
By Karen Vail
Potential: that is what Bob and Audrey Enever saw in their flat, dry and weedy land tucked between a trailer park and subdivision along the Yampa River. They envisioned greatness in the nondescript meadow that, 20 years on, is a place of serenity, beauty and learning. The Yampa River Botanic Park has blossomed into a nationally recognized garden and a crown jewel for the City of Steamboat Springs.
The transformation began with the Enevers’ passion and hard work. The park started with a concept of sinuous paths, berms, roads and garden “neighborhoods,” developed by Bob Enever and Michael Campbell. Then, under the steady hand of C.D. Johnson, truckloads of soil were molded into berms, forming natural “walls” and “rooms.” Crews created a large amphitheater area and dug the ponds and waterways. Carefully placed trees started dotting the berms and gardens as a three-dimensional plant palette defined the newly formed “neighborhoods.”
A gentle melody of water soon filled the space as the hard-working garden staff, under the guiding hands of park supervisor Gayle Lehman and Audrey Enever, worked their green-thumb magic in expanding the gardens. An ever-increasing cadre of community volunteers eagerly weeded, dug and planted, and the all-volunteer board of directors defined this emerging garden’s mission as “a place of serenity celebrating the trees, shrubs, plants and birds of the Yampa Valley.”
Over the years, this oasis of serenity in a busy valley has evolved into a favorite place for weddings, yoga classes, visits from local schools, art and photography classes and live music. Peace and serenity exists among the plants.
Discreet signage throughout the park highlights the native plants of Northwest Colorado. A journey from high-altitude desert to alpine terrain is a simple stroll along winding paths. Wander through the Hummingbird Neighborhood, Rainbow Neighborhood, Wind Neighborhood, Reflecting Neighborhood, Pond Neighborhood and Green Neighborhood, to name a few of the park’s garden collections. Kids get their hands dirty and their minds stimulated in Stumpyland Fairy Garden in the Children’s Garden. People crouch down with their nose to the ground as they peer at minute flowering alpines in the Crevice Garden. Bookworms settle down to read beneath a shady canopy with splendid views in Dorothy’s Garden.
Just like the water that flows through this special space, the Yampa River Botanic Park is an ever-evolving connection to the landscape. A dry meadow no more, but an asset for all to enjoy.