6 Questions for Charley Money, Rocky Mountain Conservancy

We sat down with the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy and asked questions such as, "What is the biggest threat to national park?"
Charley Money of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy

Charlie Money, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy

At the helm for almost four years, Charley Money heads the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, an organization that provides additional funding to Rocky Mountain National Park. Since 1931, it has saved historic park structures, built visitor centers, provided environmental education programs for youth, restored trails, among many other things.

For two consecutive years, National Parks Trip Media has made the Rocky Mountain Conservancy the beneficiary of its May landscape photography event held at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colo. On May 6, 2016, John Fielder is the featured speaker for National Park Trips Media’s second annual event, “Celebrating 100 Years of Colorado’s National Parks & Monument: Rivers, Ruins & Monuments” at 7 p.m.

Q: Why do national parks like Rocky Mountain National Park need additional funding?

A: The National Park Service is an amazing organization filled with talented individuals, but its funding and policies are somewhat dependent on whatever administration is in office. When budgets are tight and the government cannot act fast enough, say in the instance of the Cascade Cottages [the last remaining privately held commercial property in Rocky Mountain National Park], we can step in. When the family offered the cottages for sale, the government couldn’t access funds fast enough before it was to be listed on the open market. We can provide funding for programs that might not be funded.

Q: What is the Next Generation Fund?

A: What we are trying to do with the Fund is to provide a continuum of experiences, whether it’s for elementary school-aged children with the Junior Ranger program, the Heart of the Rockies program that serves K-12 or conservation corps and intern programs serving college or college-aged youth, to expand their life experiences. Our emphasis is to include more inner city and urban youth who have not had the opportunity to experience the park.

Q: Why target youth?

A: We believe the future of our national parks lies in our young people, and that youth education is the key to ensuring that these valuable lands are permanently protected for the benefit of all.

Otherwise, it’s not just a loss for young people but also for these treasures [national parks] we have set aside. If we don’t have a populace that appreciates these things, parks can go away.

Q: Do kids today have fewer opportunities to experience the outdoors?

A: There’s a whole generation of young people growing up without the experience of enjoying the outdoors like previous generations. There is a significant portion of families and individuals who don’t leave the comfort of the urban setting and don’t have the money to do it. Often, there is a cultural barrier that going into the outdoors is an intimidating feat, especially individuals who are new to the country or have lived in an urban environment all of their lives.

Technology’s hold on entertainment is strong. Instead of mothers and fathers taking kids to go outside to play, kids are left to their own devices with their own devices.

Q: Why is spending time outdoors and in national parks important?

A: It provides a different perspective on what life means and how humans are part of a system dependent on every other part of that system. The natural world and what it teaches cannot be fully replicated in a classroom. It has to be experienced. Spending time in national parks is the perfect way to provide that experience.

I’ve worked with the National Park Service long enough that I have heard people say, “If we can’t get people to the park, we will provide a virtual experience.” But those virtual experiences often don’t convey the feeling of being part of something bigger. Being able to be in, for instance, historical national parks and feel and see the [Old North] bridge and stand on a hill [at Minute Man National Historical Park in Lexington, Mass., where the opening battle of the American Revolution took place in 1775] and imagine history occurring before your eyes. These are real experiences. You have to be there to get the full impact of national park sites and other areas saved for us as part of our past and future.

Q: What is the biggest threat to national parks like Rocky Mountain National Park?

A: We feel the biggest threat is apathy.

The biggest threat to every national park is basically a populace that doesn’t care what happens to it. We have to create a generation of people who care about these places, whether it is environmental impacts on them or their physical degradation.


Estes Park Aerial Tramway.

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Known for its lodging, small-town charm, and knowledgeable outfitters, Estes Park serves Rocky Mountain National Park and access to the national forest.