A History of the Yampa River Botanic Park and Its Beginnings

A Place of Serenity

By Sally Hertzog, Executive Board Vice President

“Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine, Kind words, and Kind deeds.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Bob and Audrey Enever love gardens.   Growing up in the United Kingdom they were surrounded by gardens, but when they moved to Steamboat Springs in 1971, they were somewhat dismayed at the lack of vegetable and flower gardens in their new community.  Fascinated by the variety of wildflowers in the mountains around Steamboat, the couple got to work to create a beautiful botanic park in their new home….what is now the Yampa River Botanic Park.

“The concept began as a thought that Audrey and I had.  I had always built gardens for Audrey’s flowers in every house we had, so the idea of building gardens in a park-like setting for the people of Steamboat Springs did not seem extraordinary to me,” said Enever.    But they needed land!!

The opportunity arose in 1992.  At that time the Enevers owned the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park and the City needed a right of way through the Park to build the Core Trail.   Long story short, an agreement was reached between the City and the Enevers.   The City got access for its trail and the Enevers got six acres to build the Botanic Park – A Park that was given back to the City, but funded and maintained by an endowment from the Enevers.    As Bob worked on the Botanic Park’s design, Audrey concentrated on structuring their finances to fund it.  The planning for the Enever’s dream was underway.

The horse pasture that started it all; the land that would become the Yampa River Botanic Park! (Photo by Jeff Morehead)

Despite challenges, the Enevers persevered with the project.    By obtaining grants, successful negotiations with the City, contractors, landscapers, and public input, a plan was devised.  In 1992/93 the Yampa River Botanic Park Association was formed, a Board was elected and Bylaws were written.   However, the actual Park did not exist yet.   Now the physical work would begin!!!

Bob and Audrey spent the winter of 1994/95 working with landscape architect Michael Campbell designing a plan for the Park.  The essential elements of berms, gardens, trails, and ponds were drawn.  Gravity-fed water from Fish Creek would fill ponds and a road would be built to encircle the Park.

The Enevers could hire a contractor to do the dirty work, but with the tragic death of their younger son, Peter, from a heart attack in the spring of 1995, Audrey and Bob decided to build the Park themselves as their “grief project.”   Even in his sorrow, Bob stated, “I was living every schoolboy’s dream; to have a bunch of trucks and bulldozers to move dirt around.”    While Bob was digging, Audrey was designing the garden spaces.

The Enevers had the vision and contractor and friend CD Johnson helped move the dirt, dig the ponds and place the rocks.   One morning when much of the bulldozing was completed, CD and Bob were gazing at their accomplishments, and CD was astounded at what they had created; actual berms and three-dimensional gardens; gardens that were sticking up.  This amused Bob, as he had always envisioned the Park, but this was something CD could not initially fathom.   Now CD could actually see it in reality:  a flat horse pasture transformed into a park with no straight lines.

However, Bob had a specific apprehension; “will anybody care?”   It’s one thing to build a botanic park, but another thing to have the community come and enjoy it.”     Bob need not have feared.   The community expressed its interest; folks became members and gave donations to the Park.   Bob and Audrey continued with their endeavor and became some of the first garden builders in our Yampa Valley community.

In 1996 the Members’ Rock Garden and Kerry Kaster’s Garden were the first to be planted.   The inaugural public celebration was held on July 12, 1997, with the dedication of the Park by Kevin Bennett, President of the City Council.   A plaque was given to the Enevers in recognition of their gift to the people of the Yampa Valley.

Yogis gather three times a week to practice Yoga on the Green during the spring and summer months. (Photo by Bob Enever)

Twenty-five years have passed since the Park first opened. In that time the Enevers have witnessed not only the physical changes of the Park, what with new gardens, and the Trillium House,   but also the socially organic transformation. Bob and Audrey had dreamed of the land’s physical evolution into a botanic park but had no idea this wonderful socially organic transformation would take place. 


The community is treated to Music on the Green, free concerts in partnership with Strings. (Photo by Bob Enever)

New ideas flow from the Board and members.    Individuals sponsor gardens, while volunteers maintain many newly planted spaces.    Weddings and memorial services occur on the Green.  Artists come to paint while children enjoy storytime with the Bud Werner Library.   Even a pair of osprey has built a nest and decided to call the Park home.  Piknik Theatre actors perform and people of all ages practice yoga in this tranquil setting.    Wednesday Strings concerts are enjoyed by many and guests learn the history of the Park during a docent-led tour.  Vibrant and hard-working staff and greeters welcome visitors who delight in the beauty of the Park.  

Mr. Enever need not have feared “will anybody care?’   It is obvious to all who enter the Park that indeed the Yampa River Botanic Park is “a place of serenity, celebrating the trees, shrubs, plants, and birds of the Yampa Valley,”   and a space of tremendous organic transformation, both physically and socially.   A stunning and enduring gift to the Yampa Valley and a job well done, Bob and Audrey!!

1997 – The Beginning

If you would like to learn more about the Yampa River Botanic Park, Bob Enever’s book: “Steamboat’s Botanic Park, Flower Gardens at 6,800 feet in the Rocky Mountains” is available to purchase at the Trillium House during business hours, at select stores in downtown Steamboat Springs or on Amazon.