|3P Race Salida-April 2010|
by Sylvia Hagan
In their small village, farming and mining were the main means of support, so upon arriving at Ellis Island they were sent where their mining skills could be put to use: Silvio to Ohio, and Louis and Guido to Aguilar, Colorado. Opportunity! Louis married Mary Canistrini around 1908 and some years later bought a farm in Wetmore. There was no home on the 80 acres so the children helped haul sand rock from Newlin Creek seven miles away in the south coal field. The lumber came from a sawmill in the North Hardscrabble Creek area. Louis worked on the Gamar Ranch putting up hay to feed his family and later began work at the Double Dick coal mine between Wetmore and Florence. Their 11 children helped on the farm where they raised hay, wheat, beans, and corn, and soon they were able to buy more farms. Opportunity!
As the story goes, Louis, a prospector at heart, was walking and stumbled over a rock, which turned out to be bituminous coal (soft coal). What an opportunity! He quickly went to town to stake his claim. Being an industrious, forward thinker, Louis, along with his two eldest sons, set out next to build the Black Diamond coal mine. Times were tough so the mine brought much needed jobs to the area.
Today, the Yellico family is well known throughout the valley, from Wetmore to Cañon City.
Across the states in Ohio, Silvio sent for his childhood sweetheart, Maria Yellico. They were married in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, and had four children. With the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, work in Ohio became scarce. Since New York City was clammering for miners to build a subway system, Silvio, highly skilled at setting timbers, moved his family to New York. The work wasn’t enough to support the family, so the eldest son, 15-year-old Charles, quit school to help. Working together as a family in hard times, soon they were able to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn and rent out two of the apartments. They found opportunity
Around 1938, Silvio took his family on vacation to visit Maria’s relatives in Wetmore. Dances were social gatherings and the dance at the Wetmore schoolhouse was no exception. Charles, now a debonair ‘city’ gentleman of 22, saw a beautiful country girl and asked her to dance. So smitten was he that he began to sing “your eyes are like diamonds…” as they were dancing. Before the vacation ended he asked Edna Morlan to marry him.
The Morlan family had come to Colorado seeking opportunity for a new life, and they lived just north of the Yellico farm along the creek. Ed and Beulah Morlan married in 1917 and had moved to Wetmore from the coal fields of Trinidad. They had six children, and to support them Ed worked in the surrounding coal mines. He continued to increase his farm size by buying up land owned by New York speculators who, sight unseen, had bought “a piece of Colorado.” Ed saw an opportunity and took it.
In October of 1938, their daughter, Edna, married Charles Dalpiaz, the young man who had serenaded her at the Wetmore dance. In 1939, at the beginning of WWII, it was hard for a young married couple to make ends meet. Charles worked and lived at the Black Diamond coal mine until the early 1950’s. They made a home and raised their family in the Arkansas Valley where four of their five children were born in Cañon City. A daughter, Silvia Dalpiaz Hagan, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, still live in the valley.Louis Yellico stayed in Wetmore, but the other opportunity seekers - Guido Yellico and Silvio Dalpiaz - eventually ended up in New York City.
“These families came from different places - even countries - to find opportunity in this area,” said Silvia. “They achieved their portion of the American dream. They had to make due in hard times, but they prospered because of their hope and their willingness to take advantage of opportunity when it arose.”
Salida, CO - Alegria Living Magazine met up with Mike Harvey, husband, father, sponsored kayak rodeo athlete and executive director of the Arkansas River Trust. Mike has been one of the main driving forces behind many Arkansas River project improvements. He has volunteered most of his time to provide communities with a local gathering place and sense of pride. Because of his love for the Colorado outdoors, Mike is leaving a legacy for his children to enjoy.
1. When did the Arkansas River Trust form?
In 1999 I had sold a rafting company that I owned with three friends during college and my wife and I had been living in Salida full time, for a year, since graduating from Prescott College in northern Arizona. I was working as a carpenter for a local contractor, but what I really wanted to do was build a whitewater park in Salida. I solicited the help of a few other like-minded boaters/community types, like PT Wood, Ray Kitson and Jerry Mallett and we started the Arkansas River Trust (founded over pitchers of Coors at the Victoria Tavern) as a tool to raise money for river improvements in downtown Salida. Since I was the youngest and only guy at the table without a real job, I was hired immediately as executive director at a starting salary of $0. Today I am president of the board and my salary has stayed flat at $0 annually.
The idea, at that time, was to improve whitewater characteristics in Salida, but as soon as we started floating the idea it became clear that what we were really talking about was improving river access for everyone in downtown Salida. Industry and the community have heavily impacted the Arkansas River in Salida over the years. Salida was a railroad town and the north side of the river was a huge depot, hotel, switching yard and roundhouse. It is hard to believe now but historically the north side of the river was the center of Downtown Salida and the reason that everything else was built in Salida. All of the structures have disappeared over the years but the railroad made dramatic changes to the river itself over the years. The Arkansas was basically "channelized," meaning that banks were filled and raised and the channel was narrowed. Citizens who lived on the opposite bank responded in kind by dumping trash and filling the south bank as well as a means to protect properties from flood. The end result by 1999 was a river that was basically an artificial canal through downtown with steep, concrete-lined banks. There were several efforts over the years by boaters to add rock to the stream, largely to improve the slalom course for FIBArk.
From 1999-2000 I applied for Army Corps of Engineers permits, sought donations and tried to convince the community it was a good idea to build a modern whitewater park in Salida, modeled after what Golden had done in 1996. Thanks to the generosity of Fred Lowry of Lowry Contracting, who agreed to donate all the material and labor, we were ready to build a kayak play spot in the spring of 2000. Once the rock had been hauled and the excavator was parked on the boat ramp, I completely panicked. I realized I did not really know what I was doing and started to seek out some help. I found Gary Lacy's contact info and called him up. Gary is the premier whitewater park designer in North America and lives in Boulder. Gary has deep ties to the Arkansas River and Salida, having won the FIBArk downriver race 6 times. His father Joe Lacy was a competitor in the second race ever.
Gary asked me the standard questions that he uses to filter any of the hundreds of local paddler types that have called him up over the years. It went something like this:
Gary: "Do you have a permit?"
Gary: "Do you have some rock?"
Mike: "I am standing next to a mountain of boulders we got for free."
Gary: "Do you have an excavator?"
Mike: "It’s big and yellow and parked on the boat ramp."
Gary: "I'll be there tomorrow."
Gary came down and even though he was not going to be in town the week we were going to build the project, he patiently explained to me what we should do and a week later we got after it and built the original Salida hole.
After we were done, Gary called me up and asked me if I wanted to do more of these projects and I went to work for him in 2000 managing his construction sites. Over the last decade, Gary has paid for me to go back to school and get more specialized skills to be able to work in Engineering. No person outside of my parents has had a greater influence on my life. Gary is a true innovator who over ten years of employment has taught me a tremendous amount about planning, designing and executing projects successfully.
2. What’s going on now and who have been key contributors?
We are currently finishing the fourth phase of the project that includes two new play spots, a climbing wall, additional sidewalks and river access in Riverside Park. Since 2000 the project has been paid for by a 1/3 split of Great Outdoors Colorado Grants (GOCO) - one for $108,000 in 2003 and one last year for $165,000; 1/3 private donations and grants raised by the Arkansas River Trust from the Gates Family Foundation High Country Bank, the Upper Arkansas Conservancy District, and a myriad of local businesses and individuals who have given to the project over the years. The other one-third comes from the City of Salida.
3. What inspired you?
I think when I started I was a pretty simple-minded, 26-year-old, whitewater paddler. . .I wanted to surf my kayak in town on my lunch break with a shuttle. No more complicated than putting on flip flops and walking to the river. What I learned over the first few years was that was a very narrow source of inspiration and while I still love paddling, what really gets me excited is seeing how the river has transformed into our community's gathering place and source of local pride.
I just feel enormously lucky to be able to live and raise my kids in paradise and feel lucky to be able to contribute in some small way to my home. I had a college professor who, in my last year of school, told me that his ultimate advice would be to "find a place I loved and live well in that place." I took that not to mean living large in a big house, but to embrace community in the place I call home. So I think that my home, Salida, inspires me.
4. Did it start out as a volunteer position? If so, why did you volunteer your time for this project?
All of my work for the Arkansas River Trust is volunteered. However, I also work for the engineer who designs and builds these projects. On this most recent phase, my boss donated all of my time to plan, design and permit the project. When I am fundraising or grant writing for the Arkansas River Trust, I am a volunteer. I also serve on the City's recreation board, so I wear a lot of hats in Salida.
I build projects (over 20 in the last 10 years) on rivers all over North America. I love my work and get to know communities and people who live in them well. I learn so much in every project and all I think about when I am away is "that would be great in Salida!"
5. Tell me more about your love for kayaking, skiing, outdoors, etc. How old were you when you fell in love with outdoor sports?
When my kids come home from school and I ask them what they did at school they spend the whole time talking about recess. I know exactly where they got that from. I love to play in the outdoors. Pure and simple, I just got out of the water a few hours ago, board surfing (my new passion) the new wave in Salida. I am never happier than when I am skiing, paddling, fly fishing, riding bikes, rock climbing – really, my garage is ridiculous. The best part of these activities is that they are lifelong pursuits and "grow" with you.
When I was in my early 20s the focus was more on long adventures and exposure to risk. Now that I have two kids, it is all about passing on my wife's and my passion for the outdoors to my kids. The best river trips I have ever done have been mellow overnight desert float trips with my kids. The best powder I have ever skied are the days I have at Monarch, where my kids realize how much fun skiing powder is.
I still have personal goals and I trained hard last year and qualified for the US National Canoe and Kayak Team in downriver (wildwater) racing. However, mostly these days I like playing outside with my kids.
I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I loved skiing and fly-fishing as a kid; my grandmother taught me to fly cast in the yard when I was 8 years old. All of my cousins and aunts and uncles lived in Colorado and I began skiing and hiking in Colorado when I was 7 or 8 years old. My Mom remembers me crying when I returned from one summer trip about that age because I was so sad that I had to leave Colorado. I knew I would live in Colorado as soon as I could. I came to the Arkansas River Valley to be a raft guide when I was 18, six days after I graduated high school. When I drove over Trout Creek Pass for the first time it was like that corny line from Rocky Mountain High: I came home to a place I had never been before.
I have never left the Upper Arkansas River Valley since except for the time in College. Luckily, I met a Colorado girl from Carbondale in college and Salida was an easy sell. I feel so lucky to be raising my kids in this community.
6. What is your main "heart" goal by focusing on youth participants? Why is this such an important factor in your inspirations?
I have a degree in Outdoor Environmental Education and my first passion is teaching - really communicating concepts. I love to be a part of someone else discovering a love for the river or discovering a feeling like surfing a kayak for the first time. I ran a paddling club in Salida for local kids from 2000-2004 and it was some of the most fun I have ever had. Having my own kids and a full-time job has cut down on the amount of time I have been able to spend teaching kids (other than my own), but it remains a real goal for me to help establish a lasting program that introduces local kids to the Arkansas River. I was a kid that had a lot of the typical frustrations seeking an identity and paddling/outdoor sports has opened up so many opportunities for me. I just get stoked seeing kids have that same chance.
7. How does it feel watching a project that you helped implement being enjoyed by so many people? Do you get time to enjoy them?
I feel happy seeing people enjoy the river in Salida, but I am also maybe the least satisfied user of the project. I am always thinking about what we could do next or another project that would be cool to get done. The carpenter that notices the little gaps in his own trim, syndrome, haunts me a little as well. There are so many stoked people finding ways to express their passion in Salida. I have a hard time sitting still for too long, there is constant inspiration in Salida. That said. . .as anyone who has spent any time in the whitewater park will tell you, I have logged my share of time paddling between my office (located at the top of the Park) and Riverside Park. Maybe I am selfishly motivated, but playing in the river on my lunch break was kind of the whole point.
When I work in other towns I love finding out what is cool or unique about a place. I have paddled in some very random spots around the US because of work. Paddling a whitewater run on the Cuyahoga River (the burning river of my childhood) while I was in the area working was really cool highlight for me of the last few years and definitely had a "full circle" feeling to it.
8. Are you involved in the Buena Vista play area as well? If so, tell us more. What's going on with that project?
I have worked with BV since 2001. We just completed a new phase this last winter. Most of the work has been the result of Jed and Katie Selby's vision with the South Main development and Earl Richmond and the whole crew at Colorado Kayak Supply (CKS). BV is my other "home" project and even though I kid them that they live 26 miles north of paradise, I feel like a part of that community as well.
9. Tell me more about the projects you are working on.
Right now I am in clean-up mode on projects in Springfield, Ohio where we have modified two low head dams into whitewater parks. I am really excited about dam modification projects, converting old, dangerous low-head dams to community assets in the Midwest. Maybe the 2010 version of me in some town in my home state will get to discover kayaking years before I had the opportunity. Springfield is a town that I think is similar to many in the Midwest that have historically industrial-based economies and now are experiencing a transition to something else. I think these types of recreational improvements can contribute positively to that transition.
10. I know the 3P, (Pole, Pedal, Paddle Race—racers ski, bike, then kayak to the boat ramp in downtown Salida) has been a Salida event since 1999, when did you utilize the event for raising funds for the Arkansas River Trust? How much money did you raise this year?
My partner in the 3P race, Hank Bevington, started the race in ’99 and I was a huge fan. Hank had to drop it for a few years and we had always talked about bringing it back. In 2008 we brought it back as a fundraiser for the Arkansas River Trust. We are intentionally growing it slowly, but the energy and enthusiasm for the race really seems to be increasing. This was the first year we actually raised any money and while the sum was not huge ($2,000) the real motivation for us is to be able to build the event into a longstanding tradition. If it raises some money for the Trust along the way, then that is great. There is almost nowhere else that you can score a hat trick of skiing, mountain biking and paddling in one day. I just think it is really cool to be able to start at the top of Monarch Pass on your skis and be finish in downtown Salida three hours later, plus it might be hard to get permission from my wife to spend all day skiing, riding and paddling without a really good excuse like a race.
11. What are other fundraisers that help the project?
One of our most successful fundraisers has been selling engraved bricks for the sidewalks in Riverside Park. I think people really want to contribute and the bricks sell for less than $100 and have added up over the years to more than $20,000 that have gone straight into improvements. We just closed sales for this year, but stay tuned.
A Note from Mike: Just don't forget if you come up to paddle in Salida to knock on my office door. I worry about people being out there unsupervised.