In a grassy valley in central Colorado, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument holds a rich collection of 34 million year old fossils. When a series of stratovolcanoes erupted during the Eocene Epoch, the volcanoes dispersed ash and “lahar” mudflows to the surrounding area. These events fossilized slow-moving species and preserved them in near-perfect form.
According to Patty Glatfelter, President of Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds, “If you’re a fossil nerd, you know about this monument.” Glatfelter explained that some of the fossils are so well preserved, one can see the lines in a wing of an ancient dragonfly, or view a fully preserved tsi-tsi fly.
“People come from all over the world to see the monument’s rich collection of insects, plants and ancient redwood stumps,” she said. The mission of the friends group is to help those visitors better understand the value of what they are seeing.
View of Florissant valley through a shelter that covers a petrified redwood. Some redwood tree stumps at the monument are 14 feet wide. Photo Credit - NPS
Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds has been around since 1987 and helps fund the monument and educate visitors. From funding shelters that protect the tree stumps, to bringing school groups to tour the area, to producing their own line of publications that tell the story of the area’s natural history, the group has accomplished several projects to aid the park.
This year, they are also hosting their second annual Arts Festival and they invite the public to meet their artists and purchase artwork to benefit the monument. The festival will take place August 11 – 13, and artwork will be inspired by views of the Pikes Peak region as seen from the monument. The night of Friday, August 11 will be a special Patron Pre-Show and will allow those with tickets to get a sneak peak of the art and access early sales. On August 12th and 13th, the friends group invites the public to meet the artists, and they will have family activities throughout the day.
Artists at work during the 2016 festival as visitors enjoy the monument. Photo Credit – Wayne Johnston
As a result of this event and other fundraising efforts, the friends group hopes to raise funds to repair a forty year-old building within the monument area.
“The Fowler Educational Seminar Building has been used for storage for the past 10 – 12 years, and the plumbing and septic lines both need repaired,” Glatfelter said. The friends group hopes that they can raise $8,500 to repair the building and use it for seminars, ranger walks, and potentially as a satellite office for field crews, fire crews and researchers when needed.
According to the monument's Superintendent, the support of the friends group is vital:
"Without the Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds, many critical projects such as making needed repairs to the Fowler Educational Seminar Building would not be completed in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Throughout the year, they work tirelessly to raise funds and awareness to support the park’s education and paleontological programs. I’m grateful for their dedication and partnership," said Michelle Wheatley.
National Parks alone face a backlog of $12 billion in deferred maintenance and friends groups like the Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds are stepping up to help with funding needs, so that other resources are not cut short.
About the Friends Group
The Friends of the Florissant Fossil Beds are passionate about the Monument and its role in advancing scientific research as well as educating young people and future generations. Enhancing the trails system and providing unique visitor experiences inspire our efforts to draw others to this unique corner of the Pikes Peak region. For more information check out the Friends' website at www.fossilbeds.org.