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Alpe at Lake Grandby spillway.

Women in Water: Alyssa Alpe

By Events, Stories, Uncategorized

Alyssa Alpe has been a student of history her whole life. It started in her early years where she grew up driving by Windy Gap reservoir, listening to her mother, a former Colorado State University Extension Agent on the North Platte Basin Round table in Jackson County, say that water was THE issue in Colorado.

When she started college, everyone questioned Alpe’s decision to pursue a history degree, unsure of the careers available for historians. But Alpe knew she, “loved researching in the archives to piece together a narrative that interpreted the story of the past,” and that passion would lend itself to her career somehow.

After graduate school, Alpe landed a job at a law firm where she discovered the world of records management, a profession focused on understanding records and making them accessible to others to tell a story or research an issue.

“It’s about being a ‘knowledge keeper’ and finding a way to communicate that knowledge to others,” Alpe said.

In 2015, Alpe was hired as a Records Data Analyst for Northern Water. Alpe has been with Northern Water for eight and a half years now and she has advanced in her career to the Records & Administrative Services Manager.

In the day-to-day, Alpe balances the managerial and Board of Director support roles along with the records and information management program. She can be found figuring out the best way to collect and store records, researching any number of topics like the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or making plans for archival projects like digitizing collections to make them accessible. In the future, she hopes to add another job to her plate to work with the communications team to develop the public history components of their website.

“You have to have a bit of background on many issues,” Alpe said. “You don’t have to know everything, but you have to know a little bit about a lot.”

Q&A with Alyssa Alpe

Alpe at Lake Grandby spillway.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working with/studying water?

“The fact that it’s a constant state of learning. I don’t feel that you ever get to a point where you know everything about water because there is so much to learn. You’re constantly learning and that’s my favorite part.”

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

“It’s a challenge to keep up with the complexities of managing water in the United States and in our region. There’s been a real transition in terms of the institutional knowledge of folks that have retired during COVID-19 and moved onto different spaces of life. Transmitting that knowledge down the line to the next generation is a constant evolution. My hope is that through records and information management, that knowledge is accessible to our future selves 25 years down the line.”

Q: What has your experience so far been like being a woman in this line of work?

“Northern Water has modernized a lot since I started in terms of more diversity and women into this space. That’s been really encouraging to see. And I think further down the road we will have more and more of that. We have women in leadership roles across the organization which has been a shift from when I started 8 years ago. So, there is a legacy being built by women in these spaces that have historically been male dominated, and their voices will be preserved in our records for the future.”

Q: What’s a project you have worked on in this field that you are most proud of?

“When I first started with Northern Water, our former public information officer was working with a historian over at UNC, Michael Welsh, and he was writing a book along with the recently passed, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice, Greg Hobbs, who wrote prolifically about water in the west. They were working on the book Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water. We were able to dig into our records and give Michael these old newspaper clippings. He really appreciated that because we were able to give him pieces of information that contributed to this big project about the story of water in Greeley. I really loved that project because I got to work with Justice Hobbs before he passed and Michael Welsh as a historian.” 

Q: What or who has been an inspiration to you throughout your work experience?

“My number one mentor in all my life has been a former professor of mine, Heather Thiessen-Reily. She is a professor of history at Western Colorado University in Gunnison. She has done a lot of work with the National Park Service, working on public history projects. She has always been my inspiration because she is so driven. I am still connected with her, and she’s been a valuable person that I still go to if I have questions about something.”

Q: What is something you have learned about the water industry that you didn’t know before you started your role?

“It’s been hard for me to fully comprehend the prior appropriation system and how water is allocated because it is very complex. But it is also fundamental because it’s how we get water to our taps. I did not come into my role with Northern Water with a background in water. It’s been an evolution of learning and that’s the system that has been the most complex for me to learn, especially in terms of keeping the records and indexing with the appropriate terminology to be able to track back the history.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women that may want to get into this type of work?

“Be open to anything. You don’t know how that job will evolve. I didn’t think I would get into water when I left grad school and landed at a law firm working in records. I was just trying to navigate life after college. Be open to opportunities because it may not happen overnight, but eventually you do end up navigating your career towards what you want to do. It can get a little discouraging when you are trying to wedge your career into one path, and it’s not working out. But I believe all those experiences come together to make a package that will land you where you need to be, especially if you’re knowledgeable and passionate about things. Ask questions. And always be open to learning.”

“The other part of it is to be engaged with the public agencies, community organizations, your town, and other communities in the region that you may not know anything about. Learn about the region and its many histories, particularly if you are looking to work in the water industry in Northern Colorado.”

Just Add Water: Benjamin Eaton’s Life Experiences before Settling in the Poudre River Valley

By Stories, Uncategorized

Benjamin Eaton grew up in Ohio in the 1830s and 1840s.  Upon reaching adulthood, he undertook a series of tasks and adventures that prepared him well for the future role he would play in settling the Poudre River Valley.  While still in Ohio, he was a surveyor assistant on the new railroads passing near his family’s farm.  He moved to Oakland Township in Louisa County, Iowa, in 1854 where he taught school and initially farmed on shares.  He joined the Columbus City, Iowa, Pikes Peak Expedition in spring 1859 that departed for the Colorado gold fields.  The group followed the South Platte River into Colorado, camping one night at the mouth of the Poudre River. 

That summer, the Iowans searched for gold, encountering the rules and technology being used in the mining districts which permitted everyone to join the search for gold.  The Miner’s Codes allocated land and water in a first-in-time, first-in-right manner, making sure that each took only the amount of land and water that he/she could actively utilize.  Ditches were dug to move the water out of the streams to the sluiceways.  The mining camps had a great need for hay (fuel) for the horsepower needed to keep the mining operations active.  Observing this scene and noting its function and needs would serve Eaton well later in life.

After six months, all members of the Columbus City Expedition, except Eaton, returned to Iowa.  He decided to check out other mining camps and met another Iowan, Jim Hill, from Wappelo, Iowa – a community less than 20 miles from Eaton’s Iowa farm.  In December 1860, Eaton and Hill joined the Second Baker Expedition to search for gold in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado.  The effort was unsuccessful with miners dispersing.  Eaton and Hill passed through Fort Garland on their way south where they observed the Hispanic irrigation developments.  They begin farming on shares at the Maxwell Land Grant, in Cimarron, New Mexico, working within the acequia system for constructing, maintaining and operating an irrigation ditch. 

In late summer 1863, Eaton and Hill departed Cimarron, heading toward Denver, with the intent of visiting Iowa (and, for Eaton, Ohio) before returning to Colorado to homestead.  Where to homestead?  Before heading east, employed as drivers of freight wagons, they returned to the mouth of the Poudre and camped, again.   About 12 miles up the Poudre, where the valley widened and natural hay meadows existed, they staked their claims with a hastily constructed claim ‘shack’. 

In March, 1864, Eaton marries Rachel Hill, Jim Hill’s sister.  Early summer they depart Iowa for Colorado via covered wagon, to take up the homestead claims made the previous fall.  As they travel up the Poudre River in July 1864, Eaton notes the extremely lush native hay meadows at their homestead.  Their arrival occurred a little more than one month after the flood that forced the military to move their camp from Laporte to a new site – Fort Collins.  Eaton realized, that July, that he could make a large sum of money transporting the large supply of hay from his farm to mining camps – camps he knew well. 

Over the next six years, Eaton constructs the B.H. Eaton ditch to water his hay meadows at times other than nature’s one natural irrigation each spring.  He establishes a prosperous farm and helps the growing community build its first schoolhouse along the banks of the Whitney Ditch, just north of the Poudre River, southwest of today’s downtown Windsor. 

In late 1869 Eaton learns of Nathan Meeker’s and Horace Greeley’s plans to create the Union Colony in the general area of the Poudre River.  Eaton suggests the broad area around where the Box Elder Creek enters the Poudre River (near the Council Tree).  However, Meeker decides to locate the Colony where the new train tracks cross the Poudre River, and about five miles from where it empties into the South Platte River. 

Thus, Eaton had experience with surveying, moving water away from rivers via canals/ditches, and procedures Hispanics and miners use to allocate water among competing users.   This, along with his strong initiative, puts him in an excellent position make major contributions to Colorado’s water infrastructure and, in turn, creation of Colorado water law. 


Photo Credit:

Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery c. 1911

References:

Norris, Jane E. and Lee G. 1990. Written in water: the life of Benjamin Harrison Eaton.  Ohio University Press, Athens.  

Hobbs, Greg. 1997. Colorado Water Law: An Historical Overview. Vol 1(1): Water Law Review, University of Denver, Denver Colorado [http://duwaterlawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/1UDenvWaterLRev1.pdf]

May is Historic Preservation Month!

By News, Uncategorized

Celebrate Historic Preservation Month! See the list below of things you can do this month to connect with history in the NoCo area.

Traces of the Past History Tours

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Website: Traces of the Past History Tours – Home

Explore the history of Fort Collins and the surrounding region with Traces of the Past History Tours. We offer guided tours and formal programs that are fun and educational for all ages. Choose from two tour options of Fort Collins and special tours of sites around the CO/WY/NE region. Our Saturday evening talks give you an opportunity to learn about interesting historical topics in great detail. To add to the enjoyment, our tour guide and program presenter is dressed in historic period clothing and displays original and reproduction period objects to enhance the experience. We look forward to seeing you!

Majestic Mountains Scenic Rides

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Website: Sightseeing tour, Ft Collins Tours, Majestic Mtns Scenic Rides (majesticmountainsscenicrides.com)

Scenic sightseeing and history tours to the Northern Colorado Mountains leaving from Fort Collins.  The driver will guide you along the way with points of interest and interesting facts. Each tour is filled with beautiful scenery and your guide gives the history of the settlers and pioneers of the areas we visit.  There are multiple stops to allow for photographs along the way.

 

Greeley History Museum

Location: Greeley,CO

Website: Greeley History Museum | Greeley Museums

The Greeley History Museum provides 34,000 square feet to explore and learn about the history of Greeley and notable community members such as Nathan Meeker, Rattlesnake Kate, Dr. Ella Mead, and P.T. Barnum, as well as bison hunters, cowboys, stoop laborers and prisoners of war from World War II. They maintain the permanent display “Utopia: Adaptation on the Great American Desert,” which teaches about the earliest human inhabitants of the Union Colony, the contributions of water buffaloes, mavericks, and mentors. The museum schedules traveling and temporary exhibits which feature artifacts from the museum’s archives.

Centennial Village Museum

Location: Greeley, CO

Website: Centennial Village Museum | Greeley Museums

This living history museum, situated on eight acres, features over 30 original homes and structures, lush gardens and paved walking paths providing a look at local life from the 1870s through early 1930s. Costumed interpreters guide visitors through the early history of our region in these buildings and period landscaped grounds. Throughout the summer, families can take part in interactive experiences from one-room school to military demonstrations on horseback. During a visit to Centennial Village, you will learn about how our early pioneers lived on the high-plains region of Colorado, especially focused on our agricultural heritage.

Windsor Art & Heritage Center

Stop by the Art and Heritage Center in Windor to celebrate History Preservation Month!

Location: 116 5th St, Windsor, CO

Website: Historic Preservation | Windsor, CO – Official Website (windsorgov.com)

Friday, May 13th, 2022: 5:30-7:30

Saturday, May 14th, 2022: 10am- noon

Enjoy a fun history activity and light refreshments while you learn about Windsor’s historic buildings!

Nature Conservancy’s Phantom Canyon Preserve Highlights Poudre River’s Heritage

By News, Uncategorized

(Excerpt from article)

“A KEY ROLE IN HISTORY

While most visitors to the Phantom Canyon preserve come for the beauty of the landscape, few realize the historical significance around them: It was in this watershed where Western water law was born.

In the 1870s a drought led to overdrawing of the water in the Cache la Poudre River. Irrigation canals dried up, causing a dispute between two of the water users – upstream farmers near Fort Collins and downstream farmers in the Union Colony commune founded by Horace Greeley, famous for having declared, “Go West, young man!”

The issue was settled in court in favor of the first water users – the Union Colony commune – a decision that formed the bedrock principle of Western water law: “First in time, first in right.” In recognition of this, Congress declared the Cache la Poudre River a National Heritage Area*** in 1996.”

***The exact boundaries of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area lie to the south and east of Phantom Canyon Preserve. The Heritage Area designation begins along the eastern edge of the Roosevelt National Forest near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon and extends through 45 miles of the river until its confluence with the South Platte River east of Greeley, Colorado. It was designated as National River Corridor in 1996, and then as an official National Heritage Area in 2009.

For the full article, check out the Nature Conservancy’s website here.

Poudre Heritage Alliance and the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area Announce Three Large Grant Recipients for 2017 Totaling $29,212

By News, Uncategorized

May 30, 2017

The Poudre Heritage Alliance (PHA) and the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area (CALA) have given out their large grant awards for 2017 to the following local projects: the Historic Windmill installation and interpretation at Centennial Village in Greeley; the restoration of the James Ross Proving-up House at the Farm at Lee Martinez Park in Fort Collins; and the Nature Rides Program through the Growing Project and the Boys and Girls Club in Northwest Fort Collins. The total award to all three recipients will equal $29,212 out of PHA’s budget, which largely originates from federal funding sources. See below for more information about these projects:

Historic Windmill Installation: Centennial Village Museum, established as a Centennial-Bicentennial community project in 1976 adjacent to Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, CO, was designed as a living history site to interpret the architectural and cultural heritage of Greeley, Weld County and northeastern Colorado, The Historic Windmill project would repair and re-install a Steel Eclipse Type WG (worm gear) Fairbanks-Morse and Company windmill that includes a stock tank with a recirculating water system in the High Plains section of the Village. The windmill interprets the delivery of water for domestic use, stock raising, and irrigating crops in the rural irrigated and dryland districts of Weld County. An interpretive panel adjacent to the windmill plus curriculum materials for presentations at the annual spring and fall History festivals at the Village will be developed as a part of this project.

Proving-up House Restoration: Saved from demolition in 2005, the City of Fort Collins moved the historic 1890 James Ross “proving-up” house to storage until an appropriate permanent placement for educational purposes could be found. The only documented proving-up house known to exist in Larimer County, the Ross House has survived for 127 years. The Homestead Act of 1862 was adopted to get vast government lands west of the Mississippi into private hands for settlement and development. The Act mandated homesteaders had to build a small dwelling, live in it, improve the land, and after five years, for an $18 filing fee, they owned that quarter section of land. These houses, sometimes called “claim or filing shanties” often had no foundation and were portable, to be able to “prove-up” other holdings. Last fall, the Ross House was relocated to The Farm at Lee Martinez Park along the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, where it will be restored and interpreted for the enjoyment and education of all citizens.

Nature Rides Program: The Growing Project (TGP) is developing a new, educational program that connects youth from The Boys and Girls Club to natural areas in Northwest Fort Collins for activities related to the watershed and local ecology with Growing Project educators and experts. TGP will work with Bike Fort Collins and the Bike Co-op to secure bikes and bicycle education for youth participants to ride from their facilities to the natural areas with TGP staff. Part of programming will include occasional service days that will partner with The City of Fort Collins to do clean up in the natural areas and learn about river health from City experts. Youth will also have the opportunity to invite family members on these rides.

More about CALA and PHA: The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area is one of 49 National Heritage Areas (NHA) in the United States. NHAs are places where natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. CALA stretches 45 miles along the curves and bends of the hard-working Poudre River from the eastern border of the rugged Roosevelt National Forest, down through the blossoming cities of Fort Collins, Windsor, and Greeley, until the vital water resource conjoins with the South Platte River in the Colorado eastern plains. As the managing organization behind CALA, the Poudre Heritage Alliance serves the local communities of Larimer and Weld County by building a deeper understanding of the Poudre River’s national significance as it relates to water law and water management. PHA and CALA bring together residents, private organizations, and government entities behind this common goal, while also enticing tourists with the recreational, environmental, and historical points of interest throughout the Heritage Area. PHA programs and initiatives that support these efforts include volunteer trainings, grant-funded projects, and outreach events that help educate people about water history and the importance of the Poudre River corridor today.

 

For more information about PHA or CALA, please contact the Poudre Heritage Alliance Office
at admin@poudreheritage.org or 970-295-4851.