Since its inception in the mid-90s, the Yampa River Botanic Park has become so much more than its spectacular gardens. Today, it’s a true community space, a place where all kinds of gatherings, from music festivals and weddings to yoga classes, can be celebrated surrounded by nature.

“Our founders, Bob and Audrey Enever, gifted this land to the City of Steamboat Springs to be built as a botanic park. Their original vision was to have trees, flowers, and some benches. Never did they realize it would grow to be what it is today,” says Jennifer MacNeil, Yampa River Botanic Park Executive Director. In fact, YRBP, with over 60 themed gardens, was ranked the number one Free Attraction by Trip Advisor. “It was very important to the Enevers that this garden would always remain free to residents and visitors, so when we open our gates in the spring, they never lock again until winter settles in during late fall.”

Today, the park has exceeded its mission “to create a place of serenity that celebrates and conserves the plants, trees, and birds of the Yampa River Valley and similar ecosystems worldwide.” Here are a few more things you might not have known about YRBP.

Locally Grown

For new homebuyers who come to the Yampa Valley from other regions, YRBP has become a primary resource for landscape design. “Many of our gardens highlight plants that can thrive in our harsh environment,” MacNeil says. “It’s a great resource for people who are buying new homes in Steamboat Springs and want to add or create new landscaping. It’s great to be able to see the different plants in person and to take photos, to get ideas, and then to share with a landscaper or to design a garden yourself.”

By the People, For the People

For most of its 24-year history, YRBP was entirely run and operated by a volunteer board and seasonal staff until MacNeil was hired as the first-ever Executive Director in 2019. Under MacNeil’s leadership, the park is a non-profit that depends on funds raised through its membership program, donation, grants, and fundraising events. “Last year was the most successful year financially the garden ever had,” MacNeil says. “It became a trend during the pandemic to find new outdoor activities, and people who might not otherwise have visited were looking for things to do that were safe and healthy. It became a real destination, surpassing Fish Creek Falls as the most popular free destination in Steamboat.”

Hydrate or Die

Education and conservation are central values instilled in its gardening practices and programming, especially for people who might not be as familiar with the challenges of the Colorado River Basin. “Water in the west is a dwindling resource. We do a lot to promote water-wise plant selection and water conservation,” MacNeil says. “We try to plant plants that don’t require heavy water use and show people how you can create a beautiful, lush landscape without the need for a lot of irrigation or chemicals.”

A Gathering Place

A little-known fact: YRBP is the most affordable venue in the valley, particularly for special events like weddings and celebration of life ceremonies. The park is also generously shared with other local non-profits, including Strings in the Mountains who hosts their annual 8-week Music on the Green series there for the last 23 years; the Bud Werner Library with the ever-popular storytime, held in the Children’s Garden every Friday, and weekly outdoor yoga classes every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning during the summer, which attracts around 100 participants each session. Free garden tours are hosted every Friday and Sunday throughout the summer, with private tours available upon request. “We’re able to share our resources and assets as opposed to overstepping programming,” MacNeil says. “Together, we can make more of an impact in the community.” //yampariverbotanicpark.org

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