Fairweather Foundation launches endowment campaign for River Fork Ranch | RecordCourier.com

Fairweather Foundation launches endowment campaign for River Fork Ranch

by Amy Roby
Amy Roby

In 2000, The Nature Conservancy purchased the River Fork Ranch, a two-mile stretch of land along the Carson River near Genoa. The preserve includes wetland and meadow habitats that exist in harmony alongside Ranch One, a working cattle operation that sustainably raises all-natural, grass-fed beef.

River Fork Ranch Preserve is a sanctuary for wildlife; inhabitants include sandhill cranes, monarch butterflies, mule deer, and western pond turtles. The preserve’s more than 800 acres of protected floodplain add to the rugged beauty of the valley while simultaneously serving as a critical resource that helps safeguard downstream areas against flooding during times of high water flow. Through the reserves’s public trail system, accessible by bike or on foot, visitors are offered an up-close-and-personal experience of the preserve and have an opportunity to see the conservancy’s ongoing restoration efforts.

Kris Kirkpatrick said a key aim of those efforts is the planting of 1,000 trees and 900 native bushes to help stem erosion along the riverbank and clean up silt levels in the water.

“Our goal is to make great living spaces not only for the wildlife, but also for cattle and humans … everyone who lives in the Carson Valley,” Kirkpatrick said.

The River Fork’s major hub is the Whit Hall Interpretive Center, which opened in 2010. Through their private Fairweather Foundation, Art and Joanne Hall funded the conversion of a former ranch house into a public educational and meeting space named for their son, Whit, who passed away in 2006. The building’s innovative and eco-friendly design earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Because of the interpretive center’s location on Genoa Lane, many community events come our way,” said Kirkpatrick. “One person who visited the center referred to it as, ‘The gem of the Carson Valley.’”

Preserve Manager Lori Leonard said the interpretive center averages approximately 2,000 recorded visitors per year, with many more people utilizing the preserve’s flat, walkable trails and open spaces. Events hosted at the center include conservation workshops, art classes, corporate retreats, and school visits. It is also one of the stops along the annual Carson Valley Eagles and Ag tour.

The Fairweather Foundation recently launched an endowment fundraising campaign to ensure the ranch, Whit Hall Interpretive Center, and Bently-Kirman Tract Trail near Johnson Lane are maintained in perpetuity, and has pledged $1 million in matching funds for contributions of $10,000 and above. With $60,000 in funds already generated, the campaign aims to establish a $2 million endowment dedicated to the ongoing care and upkeep of these public spaces.

All three are managed through the conservancy, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization; endowment terms stipulate that all funds will remain with the preserve, center, and trail regardless of any potential transfer of operations in the future.

Donations of any amount less than $10,000 are greatly appreciated and used to fund current operations.

The Fairweather Foundation endowment campaign runs through June 30, 2020. For information, contact Kris Kirkpatrick at 775-322-4990 or kris.kirkpatrick@tnc.org.

Questions about events at the Whit Hall Interpretive Center, including an upcoming guided bird walk, family Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics night, dark sky conservation presentation, and four-week bird identification series can be directed to Lori Leonard at lori.leonard@tnc.org.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.