Helping people connect with Nature

Tag Archives: Mountain Park Environmental Center

Volunteer Trail Stewards Needed!

The trails of Pueblo Mountain Park see a whole lot of footsteps from so many people – Earth Studies students learning about the park’s trees and ecosystems, MPEC’s guided hikers and many other hikers, folks looking to access the National Forest trails west of the park, birders looking for an elusive three-toed woodpecker and plant lovers wanting to enjoy the scarlet-red blossoms of a claret-cup cactus.  Yes, the parks six miles of trails are used and loved by many!

volunteers needed

Considering all of this use, the park’s trails are always in need of some TLC. With that in mind, MPEC is initiating a once per month Volunteer Trail Stewards day so these trails can receive some of that needed TLC.

Please consider becoming a Mountain Park Environmental Center Trail Steward and help improve and maintain the trails of Pueblo Mountain Park.  MPEC maintenance staff will be coordinating the trail projects. Individuals 12 years of age and up are welcome to participate in these trails projects that will keep Pueblo Mountain Park’s trails safe and enjoyable for all who wish to connect with Nature.

trail building VOC 09

Trail Days will be the second Saturday of each month (July 9, August 13, September 10, and October 8).  We will meet in the Horseshoe Lodge parking lot on each of these Saturdays at 8 am and will conclude trail work at noon.  Participants should bring water (at least 2 liters), snacks, hiking boots, work gloves, and sunscreen.  Additionally, a sun hat is highly encouraged, along with rain gear.

For more information, please contact Steve at 719-485-4444, or by email You can register by clicking HERE!

Forest Stewardship Project Update: Summer 2016

If you were standing in the forest that is now Pueblo Mountain Park 200 years ago, chances are you’d be in a place that had recently burned. Historically, ponderosa pine forests experienced a cool ground fire, usually started by lightning, every 5-10 years. It was a “cool” fire because it pretty much stayed on the ground burning grasses, forbs and shrubs, including most young ponderosa pines. The thick bark of the mature ponderosa pines could handle the scorching, and the lack of lower branches prevented the fire from working its way up into the canopy. Fire was the tool that Nature used to keep ponderosa pine forests open with relatively few trees and lots of grasses.

IMG_3381When settlers arrived in the West, they brought with them a European approach to managing forests, which lacked an understanding of the important role that fire played in many forest types. Anytime lightning would ignite a fire, every effort was made to to put it out. Over time, this approach led to ponderosa forests becoming wildly overgrown, and the combination of more shade from more trees and, often times, livestock grazing, the grasses that would carry a fire across the forest floor disappeared. In their place grew more and more trees and shrubs, which meant more and more fuel for catastrophic fires that burn up through the forest canopy and everything else in their path. Pueblo Mountain Park was a good example of such a forest.

IMG_3376Over the past 15 years, many efforts have been made to return the park’s forests to a more natural condition – less trees, less understory that could bring a ground fire into the canopy, and more grasses. Much progress has been made, as a good portion of the eastern third of the park now more closely resembles what a healthy ponderosa forest should look like.

If you’ve been wondering what the recent tree cutting is all about, it is our next step in reducing the park’s vulnerability to a catastrophic fire. All of the current tree cutting is taking place directly along the park roads. A road, lacking fuel, is a fire break that could effectively stop a fire moving along the forest floor. Our current efforts are meant to bring the potential of breaking the path of a fire into the upper part of the forest by opening up a gap in the tree canopy. If a fire were moving through the crowns of the trees, the gap we are currently enhancing stands a better chance of stopping it. It also gives firefighters a good place to “take a stand” in the case of a fire moving through the park.

IMG_3371As an added benefit, the removal of these trees will increase the amount of snow that reaches the park roads, which we close off in the winter, making for better snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And, the wood we get from the trees will be burned in the Horseshoe Lodge’s biomass boilers to heat the lodge, saving the burning of thousands of gallons of fossil fuels.


So, please excuse the temporary mess – we will soon be removing the remaining branches as we’ve arranged to have use of the City of Pueblo’s huge chipper in July. When this project is done, we all will have a safer, healthier and better Pueblo Mountain Park.


I frequently talk about “Nature deficit disorder” in my work as a Nature educator. I recently saw the phrase “noticing deficit disorder” the other day and it immediately registered as another downside to the techy plugged-in world we live in. Here is a wonderful article (click on the image below) on an antidote to these modern-day challenges – a way to reconnect with the other world we all live in – Nature. ~ Ranger Dave


Bumps and Challenges are Nothing New for this Non-Profit

If you have been a follower of MPEC over the last couple of years, you are likely aware of the fact that MPEC has been down a somewhat bumpy road administratively. It was just under two years ago that our organization put in motion an Executive Director Succession Plan that ultimately was not successful. Earlier this year, we embarked on what we believed was a better Executive Director Succession Plan, but that proved unsuccessful as well. So, we are now applying lessons learned and are hopeful the third time is the charm.

Yes, it’s been tough. No, things have not gone the way we expected. But are we going to pack it in and give up? The answer is an emphatic NO! The truth is, bumps are nothing new to MPEC. In fact, before MPEC ever opened its doors there were years of unsuccessful proposals, “it will never work” comments, false starts, and countless frustrations. Back in the late 90s, when we began the long path of bringing the dream of MPEC into reality, it was nothing but bumpy. We could have thrown in the towel, but the attitude captured in thoughts like “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”kept us plugging away during MPEC’s earliest challenges, and that same attitude is inspiring us now to do the same. Why? Because MPEC was, and is, too good an idea to give up!

SeeYouNextTimeMPEC has always dealt with bumps and challenges – not unusual for any business, and especially so for the non-profit sector lately. Like in 2002, when the the school district suddenly initiated a new policy not allowing students to be transported in 15-passenger vans, a month before school started and we had just raised the money to start a new program, Earth Studies, which would utilize vans for transportation. (So, we found the money, bought an old bus, and got CDLs so we could drive the bus). Or in 2007, when we learned that the initial estimate of $650,000 to renovate the Horseshoe Lodge was off by about a million dollars. (So, we raised another million dollars.) Or in 2013, when the basement of the lodge flooded with 6″ of muddy water during a heavy rainstorm, and then, after cleaning it all up, it flooded again three weeks later. (So, we came up with a flood mitigation plan, wrote a successful grant proposal to pay for the project, and so far no more floods.) And a hundred more bumps…

So, it’s been a bumpy ride since the very beginning for all sorts of reasons. Yes, it’scampjump2015 been challenging administratively the last couple of years, but our campers and students haven’t an inkling of it. If you were a 5th grader participating in our Earth Studies program, or a summer camper during the last couple of years, it would not have been bumps but animal tracks, birds, trees, and other natural wonders that you would have been aware of. In spite of the bumps, MPEC’s programs continue to do our most important work – connect people, especially young people, to Nature.

Summer Seems to have Finally Arrived!

After an average winter of snowfall, May arrived with a bit of snow and lots and lots and lots of rain, all to a backdrop of chilly temps. Mid-spring was not turning out to be the warm flowery month we have all come to expect. Yes, the park had a fair share of wildflower species in bloom, but winter’s grip seemed to not want to let go. June arrived with some warmer temps, the faucet of rain turned to moderate, the end of MPEC’s school programs and the start of camps. Yes, summer has finally arrived. Just this morning, the pine woods under the early morning sun were alive with the clicking of cicadas, a sound that was not present just yesterday morning. So, the summer season, with all of its vibrancy and life and activity, is unfolding in Pueblo Mountain Park! Please come on up and enjoy it with us!senecio

Summer Camp Registration Open

Camps blue marketing box shoafMPEC is excited to offer a great summer of camps.  We love how MPEC provides so many children with precious summer days filled with Nature fun and life-long memories through our summer camps. We have camps available for children in Kindergarten, starting with our Little Kids Camps, all the way through 12th grade – Mission:Wolf Camp!

Transportation from Pueblo is included in all of our camps, and through our amazing scholarship program we are able to send many children to camp at a reduced rate. Please visit for more information and to register.

A blast of Arctic air is visiting the park!

There is something so invigorating about being out when the the thermometer isn’t too far from 0F. I took these photos on a chilly walk this morning – the park from a distance, and a dried aster in a snowy coat. The sun was trying to make its presence known, but it was a weak one at best. I was dressed to be out and was enjoying the inch of new snow. The clouds have been very stingy with their snow so far this winter, so I welcome any little bit we get as I wait for some big snows.

Earth Studies for 5th Graders starts Sept 4th


What is the Earth Studies Program?

Earth Studies, now in its 11th year, is a comprehensive, outdoor-based Nature education program that takes place among the ponderosa pines of the 611-acre Pueblo Mountain Park.  MPEC’s Nature Educators are busy training and getting organized for our first class to arrive on Sept 4th!  If you live in Pueblo and have a 5th grader in Pueblo City Schools, then your student will be coming up to spend 6 full days over the course of the upcoming school year. They will learn to identify birds, explore what bioregions are near where they live, hike the Pueblo Mountain Trails and experience MPEC’s wonderful outdoor classroom. Parents are welcome to join their child’s class for the day so we hope to see you!

This photo is from an Earth Studies Day during winter 2011 where eager students gathered during snow falling. ES Students love seeing MPEC’s outdoor classrooms in many different weather forms and cold and snow don’t deter them from being willing to learn!