The affair will feature food, music, hatchery tours, kids activities, a Victorian costume contest, a walk through a labyrinth and a fly-fishing demonstration. Former Leadville Mayor Bud Elliot will be the event’s master of ceremonies.
Constructed in 1889, the hatchery was designed to propagate game fish and replenish the dwindling number of fish used as a food source after mining and agricultural deforestation caused ecological degradation, habitat loss and a serious decline of native fish populations.
Federal officials chose a site at the base of 14,428-foot Mount Massive for the hatchery because of the cold, clean water supply from Rock Creek and nearby sources of native cutthroat trout. Today, the hatchery gets water from both Rock Creek and the Fryingpan-Arkansas water diversion project, said Mark Cole, vice president of the nonprofit.
Trout and eggs farmed at the hatchery have been sent all over the U.S. and the world and continue to supply Rocky Mountain waters.
The hatchery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, lies within the Mount Massive Wilderness. It’s one of about 70 around the country managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The event Saturday also aims to raise awareness about the threat of closure facing the hatchery, which Cole said is because the Fish and Wildlife Service is using outdated information about the hatchery’s operations.
“We have lobbied everybody in sight,” he said, and enlisted the aid of Colorado legislators Mark Udall, Michael Bennett and Scott Tipton.
The hatchery is important to the Lake County economy, he said, because its fish stocking brings in about $3.5 million. Cole’s wife, Judy, who is president of the nonprofit, said locals also appreciate aspects of the hatchery beyond money.
“Lake County residents love the hatchery. It’s kinda their go-to place when they need somewhere to escape that is close and free and beautiful and calming,” she said, adding that the site has become a draw for tourists. “We want everybody to love it.”
She said although the facility is manmade, it fits well with its surrounding environment.
In the summer when the irrigation ditches are running through the hatchery, “it’s just magical,” she said. “You can just swear that elves or fairies are going to jump out.”
For more information about the event or the Friends of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, call the organization’s president Judy Cole at 719-486-0176. For more about the hatchery, call 719-486-0189.