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Friends, family plant forest for Peter Carver

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

John Ott, left, of James Ranch, and Eric Tomczak work around one of five large pines planted Monday atop Chapman Hill in memory of Peter Carver, who was killed in an avalanche Feb. 2. Eventually, 200 hundred trees will be planted downslope from Rim Drive.

By Ann Butler Herald staff writer

Through laughter and tears, sharing stories and catching up, hard work and kicking back, friends and family of Peter Carver got their hands dirty to help his memory live on. Shortly after Carver was killed one week before his 23rd birthday in an avalanche in February, the momentum for the Peter Carver Memorial Forest at the top of Chapman Hill began.

Almost 50 people came Monday afternoon to plant five large pines – Scotch, Austrian and ponderosa, all from James Ranch – and remember a young man who never stopped exploring the great outdoors.

It was the beginning of a multi-year project that was the brainchild of landscape architect Paul Wilbert, who has helped shepherd it through city of Durango and Fort Lewis College planning processes. Eventually, the rim above one of the town’s principal recreation areas will boast about 200 trees, a geology overlook created in conjunction with the FLC Geology Department – Carver was a geology major – and peak finders.

“I was working on this before Peter died,” Wilbert said as he looked over the afternoon’s results. “He saw a drawing, and he loved it. So when someone said, let’s plant a tree for Peter, I said: ‘Give me a break. We’re planting a whole damn forest for him.’”

Long-range planning for irrigation for the forest is underway, with agreements by FLC to pull water from the pond on its northern edge through a pipe under Rim Drive to an irrigation line to run to Overlook Point, which the college wants to landscape eventually. This year, to keep the new trees thriving, friends have volunteered to drive a truck with a water tank up once a week to water them by hand.

“Next summer, once we have water, we’re going to plant 30 or 40 trees,” Wilbert said. “We’re on a fast track with the city because this fits with what they’e planning with their Chapman Hill Bike Park.”

After the work, everyone gathered for a time of commemoration organized by Carver’s sister, Claire Carver, who shared prayers and poems about him. His brother, Colin, read a story Peter had written about their grandfather, Red Carver, who died about a year earlier, called “The Original Cool Guy.”

“Your bike is an indication of your personality,” Peter Carver had written. “I am paying very close attention.”

That got the bicycle stories going.

“I lent him a bike to ride the Iron Horse one year,” his friend Robert Hayes said. “The derailleur fell off before he ever made it to the climbs. A lot of people would have quit, but Peter rode the whole thing with one speed, and he had a big grin on his face after he finished.”

The grieving continues for the Carver family.

“I feel most connected to Peter when I’m sad,” his father, Bill, said. “We all have close connections that get severed without any foresight, grief passes so fast, and I’m making it last as long as I can. My connection to Peter is interwoven with sadness, but I welcome it.”


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