Gavin Graham dumps sand into a fish tank Tuesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs that will be used for educational purposes as part of a nonprofit organization he started.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Gavin Graham dumps sand into a fish tank Tuesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs that will be used for educational purposes as part of a nonprofit organization he started.

Aquarium owner sets stage for bigger Steamboat projects

Nonprofit organization places aquarium at Boys & Girls Club, plans presentations

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— Gavin Graham has lofty goals, but he’s starting small.

Graham founded the non­­prof­­it Saving the Exotic Aq­uatic and Marine Bio­­topes One Animal at a Time, or STEAMBOAT. He hopes the organization will benefit the environment while providing education to youths who could become conservationists in the future.

“The main mission is to save animals and expose/educate children of rural and remote regions,” he said.

Graham, who owns Tropical Rockies, envisions the nonpro­fit someday leading to a large public aquarium that uses sustainable practices, similar to facilities more common in larger cities. He acknowledged that’s a ways off.

On Tuesday n the Attic, the middle-school hangout space at the Boys & Girls Club of Steam­boat Springs, Graham took a step toward that goal. He installed a 40-gallon saltwater tank, the first of what he hopes will be several locations in town.

The mini aquariums will serve as places for Graham to raise awareness about his nonprofit group and to provide education, through presentations or prepared information, about the marine life in the tanks. There also will be a place for people to make donations to support that location’s tank and the nonprofit.

Graham said he thinks the community will get on board based on the support he’s already received: The nonprofit has been given $10,000 in grants and donations since last summer’s Family Fun Fest, where he first presented it.

At least one group was behind him Tuesday. The sixth-,

seventh- and eighth-graders who occupy the Attic were so excited about the aquarium that when they found out it would take about four weeks for complete installation of the tank — including several water tests to properly incorporate all the marine life — they were a little bummed.

But they said it would be worth the wait.

“It’s going to be pretty cool,” said Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-grader Jacob Ginesta, who spends most days after school at the Boys & Girls Club. “I just think it would be pretty cool to have fish up here.”

Sixth-grader Kennedy Matt­son and seventh-grader Allison Pearl said the fish would be their pets.

Boys & Girls Club Unit Dir­ec­­tor Heather Martyn said installation of the aquarium would be the creation of another program for the club, especially for the older students.

Tasha Fareed, the club’s middle school program director, said she thought it would have an educational benefit for them.

“I’m hoping they get some responsibility out of it,” she said. “They’re at an age when a little responsibility is good for them. And it gives them a sense of ownership over this place.”

It’s that type of enthusiasm that Graham hopes will propel the nonprofit group from starting a series of small tanks to rehabbing existing tanks, converting an existing space, building a small, free-standing aquarium and eventually constructing a large community-benefiting and tourist-attracting aquarium.

And Graham realizes getting that buy-in from Steamboat’s young people is the place to start.

“Youth and education are going to be our top demographic,” he said. “Within all that comes our other avenues of support and exposure.”

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