Poudre Pioneer Award

The Poudre River Forum brings together those on the Poudre who farm, deliver clean potable water, drink beer, recreate, and advocate for river health to learn from one another and to explore how we can move from conflict to collaboration. Each year, the Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group (PRTI) and the Poudre River Forum Committee seek nominations for this distinguished award. As part of the Forum, we recognize and honor those who have helped to support making the Cache la Poudre River the world’s best example of a healthy, working river.

A Healthy Working River

PRTI’s definition of a healthy, working river is one that supplies the goods and services demanded by our complex society, within the existing and evolving water rights system and honoring existing property rights, while maintaining and improving ecological integrity and resilience.

Congratulations to the 2020 Poudre Pioneer Awardees!

Jeff Burley, Ben Loeffler, and Tim O’Hara for their pioneering work on the Poudre River Whitewater Park

The 2020 awardees will be honored at the 7th Annual Poudre River Forum on February 28 at the Embassy Suites in Loveland, CO. Register today to attend and help celebrate their efforts!

The PRTI selected three individuals who have contributed substantially to the goal of making the Poudre a river that supplies the goods and services demanded by our complex society. On February 28, PRTI will acknowledge Jeff Burley, Ben Loeffler, and Tim O’Hara for their pioneering and collaborative work on the Poudre River Whitewater Park at the Seventh Annual Poudre River Forum.

As private citizens, Jeff, Ben, and Tim dedicated seven years of their own time as volunteers to help plan, advocate for, fund, and bring about the private/public partnership now known as the Poudre River Whitewater Park. They also advocated for the inclusion of the Whitewater Park in the Poudre River Downtown Master Plan and the City’s Capital Improvement Program, along with contributing tireless fundraising efforts. The Park itself not only provides recreational value but also includes flood plain reestablishment and improved fish migration.

Together with City of Fort Collins’ staff, City Council, numerous stakeholders, business owners, consultants, and members of the public, this project exemplifies how we can all work together for many benefits for the river.

Join us on February 28th to help us celebrate this year’s Poudre Pioneers!

Jeff Burley has been in Ft. Collins since 1998 when he moved to the area to attend CSU. An outdoor enthusiast passionate about his community, Jeff wanted to help provide a gateway to northern Ft. Collins and knew the river was something everyone could enjoy. Jeff has worked in IT at AMD for the past 15 years, and he believes public-private partnerships are important to thrive. The Whitewater Park is the first major community project he’s tackled and he’s excited to take on others in the future that benefit local residents!

Ben Loeffler has resided in Ft. Collins for 14 years and serves as Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch. Ben has been involved in many Northern Colorado nonprofits, including President of the Fort Collins Symphony, Bas Bleu Board, Arts Alive, UniverCity Connections Co-Chair of Arts and Culture, and finally, the Poudre River group. Ben met his wife, Katie, while kayaking on the river and has two sons, Bryce and Bodhi. Through the Whitewater Park project, he hopes people of all ages develop deeper connections with the river that provide them greater joy in their lives and connections within the community.

Tim O’Hara is a fourth generation Colorado native who has lived in Ft. Collins since 1978. He has owned a commercial photography business for 38 years. A few of his local community service stints have included CSU Athletics Board, President of The Center for Fine Art Photography, Chairman for LaPorte Area Advisory Council, and most recently, spearheading the Poudre Whitewater Park private funding campaign. He loves that the Poudre River runs through the center of Ft. Collins and, for years, has thought it needed to be cleaned and made more accessible to local residents.

2019 Poudre Pioneer Awardees

Loren Maxey and Tom Shoemaker

On behalf of PRTI, Robert Ward presented the Poudre Pioneer Award to recognize these two individuals and their achievements toward the goal of making the Poudre River a premier example of a healthy working river. View the presentation here.

Loren Maxey has lived and contributed to the Poudre River Basin for over 60 years. He has dedicated his life to agriculture, business, and service. Here are the highlights of Loren’s long career of service in the Poudre Basin.

  • Loren grew up on a farm in Illinois and graduated from high school in 1950. He enlisted in the US Navy and served in the Korean War.
  • Loren moved to Colorado in 1958 and purchased a farm east of Greeley. This began his long-term relationship with irrigated agriculture with water from the Poudre River.
  • Loren later moved to a farm north of Fort Collins and began his relationship with irrigation under the North Poudre Irrigation Company system that continues today.
  • Loren started the Maxey Trailer Company in Fort Collins in 1969. This business continues to thrive and serves the agricultural and construction sectors.
  • Loren served on the Fort Collins City Council from 1987 to 1993. The City acquired a significant number of water rights during this period which provides great security for the community today.
  • Loren served on the Larimer County Fair Board from 1990 to 2012.
  • Loren is the president of the Board of Directors for the East Larimer County Water District (ELCO) and has served on the Board since 2000.
  • Loren is the president of the Board of Directors for the North Poudre Irrigation Company.

Even at the age of 86, Loren continues to stay active in both the municipal and agricultural sectors. His leadership has helped ELCO become a thriving water district serving approximately 20,000 people. The North Poudre Irrigation Company has a shareholder base of both municipal and agricultural users. Loren’s experience in both sectors has led to a successful balance and an increase in the yields to all shareholders. Loren has dedicated his life to service and has created tangible results in both the agricultural and municipal water sectors in the Poudre Basin. It is in view of Loren’s long record of service and involvement in the Poudre Basin, that the PRTI presents him with the 2019 Poudre Pioneer Award.

Tom Shoemaker served as Natural Areas Director for the City of Fort Collins from 1992-2001. He was the visionary and the heavy lifter who got the natural areas program approved, funded, and up and running. His successor writes that “it was only in going through his vast files after he left that I began to comprehend the incredible amount of heavy lifting that was required.”

Tom was instrumental in acquiring 22 parcels consisting of 861 acres along the Poudre over a ten year period, laying the ground work and establishing relationships which lead to the acquisition of many more parcels along the Poudre, and setting the stage for restoration and stewardship of these parcels. Those who worked with Tom can recount numerous stories he told about the actual work of acquiring those parcels. It took a tremendous amount of partnership forging, and it took a real vision of what the enhancements could do for the Poudre and our enjoyment of it. He shared that vision with others such that the work he started continues today.

Most, if not all, of these acquisitions presented considerable challenges to be overcome. “it is so easy to forget the people that did so much heavy lifting and contributed so much to our success today.” Here is a list of Poudre properties that Tom Shoemaker acquired during his tenure.

  • 1994—River Edge, Udall
  • 1995—Arapaho Bend, Cottonwood Hollow, Magpie Meander
  • 1996—Butterfly Woods, Cottonwood Hollow, Kingfisher Point
  • 1997—Cattail Chorus, Cottonwood Hollow
  • 1998—Cottonwood Hollow, Kingfisher Point, McMurry
  • 1999—Kingfisher Point, Riverbend Ponds
  • 2000—Arapaho Bend, Kingfisher Point, Running Deer
  • 2001—River’s Edge

For his leadership in pursuing these acquisitions, and then overseeing the stewardship, planning, and ultimate public access to many of these lands, the PRTI presents the 2019 Poudre Pioneer Award to Tom Shoemaker.

2018 Poudre Pioneer Awardees

Peggy Reeves and Hank Brown

The first year of the award PRTI has chosen to jointly award two highly deserving individuals—one from the Fort Collins end of the river, and one from the Greeley end—signifying the unity between the two communities on the river and the history of leadership at both ends of the river.

Peggy and Hank were selected for the award for their many years of creative and effective leadership in striving to establish the Poudre River as the world’s leading example of a healthy AND working river.  It is possible for those of us in this room today, to ‘stand on their shoulders’ and see the goal – have a glimpse of the balanced future we seek for the river.  By no means is the task complete – may never be – but we have a vision, a goal of a healthy working river, which is possible because of Peggy and Hank’s collaboration and leadership.  We can all learn from their leadership efforts when it comes to the Poudre River.

On behalf of PRTI, Robert Ward presented the Poudre Pioneer Award to recognize these two individuals and their achievements toward the goal of making the Poudre River a premier example of a healthy working river. View the presentation here.


Peggy Reeves has a well-deserved reputation as an effective environmental advocate for her 20 years in the Colorado Legislature.  But closer to home, she must be given significant credit for raising community consciousness regarding the general health of the lower Poudre River. Through dedicated effort with many collaborators, Senator Reeves rallied the Fort Collins community to reimagine the river from what was literally a garbage dump to a community asset.  As the Coloradoan stated (2016), “Rusted, mangled car bodies lined portions of its banks. Rats scurried amid a decrepit maze of beer cans, cigarette butts and worn tires. Garbage stained the river’s meandering path. The river — aesthetically and spiritually — has changed dramatically since that time. Over the last 50 years, the river has earned a reverence among residents who see its waters as the heart and soul of the city of 158,000, and many are willing to fight to never return to the time when the Poudre was a ‘dump.’


Hank Brown spent many years working with a wide range of stakeholders to get a bill through the US Congress, culminating in the establishment of 75 miles of the upper Poudre River as the state’s only Wild and Scenic designation in 1986.  Mr. Brown’s untiring legwork eventually led to Congress designating the lower forty five miles of the Poudre as a National Heritage Area in 1996, recognizing its foundational role in the west’s water law.  Together, these two efforts played a huge role in recognizing, protecting, and promoting the natural beauty and historical significance of the Poudre River, thus shaping the destiny of this hard working river.

Poudre Pioneer Nominees

Each year we receive outstanding nominations for our annual Poudre Pioneer Award. Thank you to those individuals and organizations for your contributions and collaborative work on our Poudre River.

Mick Syzek, Overland Mountain Bike Association, Friends of Lory State Park

Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, A science-based outreach and engagement organization hosted by the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship and the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University

John Coppom, Chair, InSTEM Station Project at the Poudre Learning Center

Daylan Figgs, Director, Larimer County Natural Resources Department

Ben Gannon, Research Associate, Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University

North Forty News, North Forty News covers people, events, news, the outdoors, the arts, gardens & landscapes, historical topics and more in northern Colorado

Kevin Bestgen and the Ecological Response Model Work Group, Colorado State University and various other partners

Randy Gustafson, City of Greeley Water and Sewer

Michael Pruznick, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and PruzLabs

Ray Tschillard, Poudre Learning Center

Brian Werner, Public Information Officer for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District