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Taking the time to walk and listen by Lyn Lampert June 18, 2023

Pete’s Lake pulsates with life in the spring. At this time of year, this small wetland outpost on the north side of Lake City becomes the summer destination for a myriad of species of birds that flock here in a migration paralleling that of summer tourists to Hinsdale County.

Pete’s Lake shines as a favorite stop on my early morning walking route, and I am constantly amazed at the variety and number of summer residents that enliven this sanctuary of shallow water, willows, sedges, and cottonwoods. Thanks to an introduction to the Merlin app by fellow LFVC board member and avid birder Judy Boyce, I can now not only identify birds by sight, but also by song. Those that I have heard and seen lately include warbling vireos, yellow warblers, black headed grosbeaks, pine siskins, Western wood pewees, house wrens, tree swallows, American wigeons, and many, many others. In June, Pete’s Lake in the morning is a virtual concert hall.

One of the many surprising features of Pete’s Lake is simply that it still exists. It is a story that should be better known, for in the mid-1990s, this lowland area was in danger of being drained, filled, and sold for building sites for a growing Lake City. The Town of Lake City surely would have benefitted with tax dollars from such development, but Lake City’s mayor at the time, Phil Mason (also our local wildlife officer), saw something much more valuable than tax dollars in the quiet waters of Pete’s Lake. Phil pushed for the town to purchase the area and preserve it as a wetlands, for the benefit of wildlife and all people. That is exactly what was done, and hard work by Lake City Trails later made the area enjoyable by everyone. Our valley has been enriched by those who have taken an active hand in carefully stewarding what we have been given.

The Lake Fork Valley Conservancy lives by the same spirit as Phil Mason. We take our byline seriously as “stewards of the Lake Fork valley,” which means that our members care deeply that we don’t lose what cannot be easily replaced. The Conservancy’s track record of cooperatively cleaning up abandoned mines up Henson Creek, working with the Lake family for a large conservation easement on the wetlands property at Lake San Cristobal, restoring trout habitat on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison, and most recently, being a leader in preserving our incomparable night skies, is a testament to our commitment to stewardship that really matters.

This year, the LFVC officially steps into the world of becoming a membership-based organization. Although Phil Mason is no longer with us, we believe that our valley is filled with those with a similar love and vision for our natural world that Phil had. If our local stewardship mission resonates with you, we need you to join our team. Your involvement and your financial support keeps us going, and we’d be privileged to have you on board.

And if you need any further convincing of the difference that stewardship can make, take a walk around Pete’s Lake some morning and just listen. You will be richer for it, and you can thank in part Phil Mason and others who embraced local stewardship a quarter of a century ago.

—Lyn Lampert Board member, Lake Fork Valley Conservancy

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