Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content AROUND TOWN: Heather Campbell Chaney's environmental legacy

By Linda Navarro Published: June 10, 2014

Heather Campbell Chaney is opening up the natural world to children once again this summer, teaching them the environmental ethics of a sustainable future.

It's what she instilled in youngsters during the "Heather's Morning" programs in Garden of the Gods, why she had a degree in environmental studies from Evergreen State College in Washington and why she had plans to work in hands-on environmental education at Catamount Institute near Woodland Park.

Her work continues, even after her death because of an epileptic seizure in 2001 when she was 30. She had married Kent Chaney in September 2000 and died the following February.

The Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Fellowships, established by her family, go to college students who follow her passion. One Fellow works with science-based education programs and camps at Catamount Institute for 10 to 12 weeks. Another is a Fellow at Palmer Land Trust, which preserves open space land.

Her grieving father, Charlie Campbell, says, "These fellowships are keeping her spirit alive."

In celebration of the newest Fellows, the family and supporters held a fundraiser and silent auction May 21 at Gold Hill Mesa Community Center. More than $40,000 was raised.

Heather's sister, Colie Campbell Talbert, wanted to share her sister with guests but discovered that evening's hailstorm had wiped out her script. Looking at her blank screen, she said emphatically, "It was Heather. Climate change is a real thing."

Heather, said her sister, knew who she was. "I always looked up to her. Heather wanted to share outdoors with everyone. This fellowship has created those opportunities for more people."

The understanding of nature has been passed to Talbert's own children, Heather's nephews Roy and Heath. When Roy, now 4, asked about his aunt, Talbert explained that Heather was dead. "She's probably a bug now," he told his mother.

Former Fellows Julia Van Raalte and Dirk Rasmussen shared stories of their Catamount experiences. Shortly after the benefit and her Colorado College graduation, Van Raalte left to study in Nepal. Rasmussen, a geology paraprofessional at CC, is on staff at Catamount Institute.

The newest Fellows are Celia McLean, a senior at Colorado College who is at Catamount Institute this summer. Eva Grant, the first Fellow at Palmer Land Trust, will be focusing on land stewardship and film for the land trust.

The Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Fellowship is a special fund through Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

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