Independence Pass Foundation History

The Independence Pass Foundation celebrates our Twenty-Fifth Anniversary in 2014. Bob Lewis long-time Aspen educator, environmental activist, and visionary founded IPF 25 years ago. Since 1976, Bob had been carrying out revegetation projects on the Pass through his Environmental Research Group, but it was clear that a broad-based nonprofit organization was a more fitting mechanism for funding and managing the larger projects on the Pass that Bob envisioned.

Bob assembled the first IPF Board of Directors in 1989, and the organization’s first major project was reconstructing the “Weller Curve” around Mile Marker 49.  This complex, multi-year project involved relocation of Highway 82, reconstruction and revegetation of the roadside slope, and the development of a new parking area and trailhead for the popular Weller Lake Trail. The project required close cooperation among IPF, Colorado Department of Transportation, Pitkin County, U.S. Forest Service, and various private contractors. The success of this project provided momentum for IPF to pursue additional projects in the years ahead, and became the model for ongoing cooperation between IPF and other land management agencies.

From the start, our work has been a community endeavor. Hundreds of residents have spent countless hours helping IPF remove snow fence debris from the summit of the Pass and install thousands of plants at many sites throughout the corridor. A range of groups have participated: Roaring Fork Valley school children, other nonprofit groups, service organizations, Buena Vista Correctional Facility inmates, etc. Once barren places on Independence Pass have been transformed. All along the roadway, wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees are thriving. Wildlife, recreational value, water quality, and air quality all benefit from these efforts.

Ron Cattany, Colorado Department of Natural Resources (left), was instrumental in establishing and guiding IPF over the years. In 1998, Ramona Markalunas, then IPF Board President, awarded Ron and IPF Founder Robert Lewis Certificates of Appreciation for their many years of service to the organization and contributions to the Pass.

In 2014, IPF’s focus is changing as we complete the major stabilization and revegetation projects that we began at our founding. But with this evolution come new opportunities, and we look forward to maximizing these opportunities.

To fulfill our mission and vision, IPF relies on the generosity of our donors. As we celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we thank all those who have made our work possible. You can take satisfaction in having helped us restore the ecological integrity of the Pass, improve the recreational experience of residents and visitors, and preserve the legacy of the Pass for future generations.

Bob's vision, when he founded IPF in 1989, was an ambitious one. While IPF's first project was the reconstruction of the dangerous "Weller Curve," his primary objective was the restoration of the "Top Cut." For decades, all along the Top Cut, erosion has been damaging four cosystems—alpine tundra, wind timber, spruce-fir forest, and sub-alpine meadows—and threatening the aquatic ecosystem of the Roaring Fork River. Bob's commitment to the Top Cut was passionate and enduring.