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Steamboat Magazine

Colorado Mountain College Expands Sustainability Studies Program with Bear Park Growing Dome

07/29/2020 04:47PM ● By Rachel Miller

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS- Bill Mollison, the first to coin the term permaculture, once said, “Animals are the messengers of the tree, and trees the gardens of animals. Life depends upon life. All forces, all elements, all life forms are the biomass of the tree.” We co-exist in natural ecosystems every day, consuming plants and animals to sustain our own health and longevity.

Sustainability is one of the core values of Colorado Mountain College, and one of the focuses of CMC’s sustainability studies program is permaculture. Tina Evans, professor of sustainability studies at CMC, says, “Permaculture is a vision, a set of ethical and practical principles, and a design system that you can apply in your home and life. Permaculture supports human needs while promoting the long-term health and integrity of nature and culture. It is sustainability in action, with a specific focus on creating food systems that mimic the dynamic stability of healthy ecosystems.”

                                     Structural photo of Bear Park growing dome.

The majority of CMC’s education on permaculture takes place at the Bear Park Permaculture Center in Steamboat Springs. The park has a handful of gardens that serve as areas for students to learn the aspects of growing food and sustaining life with hands-on experience. Last year, CMC students harvested over 400 pounds of food from Bear Park, and they hope to harvest even more this coming year.

Recently, CMC expanded its permaculture program by building the Bear Park growing dome. The Bear Park dome is a 42-foot growing dome greenhouse custom-designed by Eco Systems Design, Inc. Due to the harsh weather that comes with Steamboat Springs winters, focusing on insulation was key to installing the growing dome. A ventilation fan system transfers cold and hot air throughout the dome in order to maintain desired climates. The growing dome will expand CMC’s sustainability education, allowing for the study of diverse plants and aquaculture in the dome’s fish tanks. 

The work being conducted at CMC encourages students to sustain a green lifestyle and protect our ecosystems. Bill Mollison said it best: “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”