Downtown Steamboat flower donor sparks community support

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— A prospective Steamboat Springs resident challenged the community to raise the funds needed to save the downtown flower baskets. A handful of community members and businesses delivered.

Those donors gave $9,070 in the day or so after Richard Thompson said he would provide a $3,333 challenge grant to save the flower baskets that hang from light posts along Lincoln Avenue during the summer. The money raised to date should be enough to cover the costs of the flower baskets and summertime watering in 2012.

“I knew the money was out there,” said Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett, who worked with Thompson and helped secure the other donations. “I just didn’t know that they would donate it. Obviously, we struck a chord. And I really thank the people who stepped up.”

Barnett, who runs the nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote downtown Steamboat, said 15 individuals and businesses donated varying sums of money to the cause. She said the largest amount came from Don Valentine and Joe Brennan, who pledged $5,000 in the name of the late Rita Valentine. Valentine was a City Council member in the early 1980s when the flower baskets and other amenities to beautify downtown were added.

The flowers, which had been funded by the city, were cut from the 2012 budget. The largest cost of the flower program is the daily watering. And because the city’s contractor watered the flower barrels sold to businesses by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs, that program also needed the funding to continue this summer.

Barnett said the money raised last week will pay to water the Rotary flower barrels, as well as the hanging flower baskets. She said Rotary sells about 130 barrels annually as a fundraiser, and about half of those barrels are purchased and displayed by downtown businesses.

Barnett said the estimated cost to buy the flower baskets and to water them and the barrels could reach $13,000.

Thompson, of SoHo, N.Y., owns Freshpet, an all-natural pet food producer. He said he had been looking to buy a home and move his business to Steamboat when he read an article in the Steamboat Today about the downtown flowers being in jeopardy because of funding cuts. Thompson said he didn’t like the idea of something that contributed to the ambiance of the community potentially going away.

So he issued his challenge, which was good for one week. Thompson said he wasn’t surprised it didn’t take that long.

“It’s like an avalanche,” he said. “It just takes someone to start. People like to be helpful. They just need to know when and how.”

Thompson said he hopes to buy a home here by the end of ski season.

Barnett said Mainstreet Steamboat, the Rotary Club and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association had been scheduled to meet Wednesday to figure out how to save the downtown flowers by early March, which is when the flowers must be ordered. And while that urgency now is gone, Barnett said the groups soon would meet to discuss a permanent funding source for the flowers.

List of flower donors

Name, affiliation, amount

Don Valentine and Joe Brennan, personal, $5,000

Richard Thompson, Freshpet, $3,333

Mark Scully, Green Courte Partners LLC, $1,000

Bill and Kathy Moser, personal, $1,000

Rob Douglas, personal, $500

Patrick Phillips and Debra Stencel, part-time residents from Washington, D.C., $300

Steve and Denise Hitchcock, Zirkel Trading, $200

Scott Marr, Holiday Inn, $200

Rex Brice and Bettina Neset, Steamboat Restaurant Group, $200

Tom and Rosie Kern, personal, $200

Mary Jo Weidel, personal, $100

Suzie and Tom Spiro, personal, $100

Sally TeStrake, personal, $100

Karl Bunker, Ski Town Cleaners, $100

Tracy Barnett, personal, $50

Brady Worster, B Fitness, $20

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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