We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Loff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, what do you want people to remember about you?
I want to put programs in place that protect river health, habitat and special places far into the future. I want people to value the river and those protections so that our streams remain clean and healthy long after I am gone. On a more personal level, I want people to feel like I was kind, and that I left things better than I found them. I want to be remembered as someone who is even-keeled, up for adventures, always open to new perspectives and willing to take chances – albeit sometimes calculated ones – if they would lead to a better world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career is that it’s not always a straight path to have and make a career. After college, I spent time waiting tables, working in a mailroom, building trails in the backcountry, teaching K-7th grades, developing adult environmental education programs and writing grants all before becoming an executive director of a river nonprofit. For me, it didn’t always feel like the path to my career was making sense at the time, but looking back, I can see that each experience I encountered provided me with skills and knowledge to build from. It’s all helped me to be where I am now. Even though it can be frustrating, it’s okay to not have a clear and intentional end goal or direction. I knew that I wanted to work in the resource conservation sphere, but I wasn’t quite sure of the specifics. So, I tried a lot of different areas and took diversions along the way. The advice I’d offer to others would be to try to think about the big picture and to consider the things that make well-rounded employees, coworkers, and leaders. Soft and hard skills are equally important in my opinion. I’ve learned so much about myself by considering how I can overcome the things that are especially challenging to me, and it’s really paid off. For example, financials have never really been my strong suit, but as a leader in our organization, it is an important part of my job. I’ve had to find ways to grow those skills. When I started thinking of budgets as big puzzles, and tackling them as things to solve, it became a lot easier.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love living in the Eagle River Valley because the community is overflowing with amazing people and world-class caliber outdoor activities – I’d want to include a little bit of everything that makes this area great. We’d definitely load up the raft and head out to the Upper Colorado for a day trip. I’d probably take my friend through Little Gore Canyon – it’s iconic and one of my favorite stretches of all of our local waterways. We’d wave at the slackliners spanning the canyon above us, stop for a dip at Radium Hot Springs, and enjoy some Bonfire Brewery’s Mexican Lagers. I’d see if I can convince my friend to join our trail running club for a 5:30 am run on the trails around Gypsum and Eagle. It’s early, but the sunrise is always worth it. Last summer, with COVID restrictions starting to lift, running those trails with that crew was essential to maintaining my mental health. I’m more grateful than ever for the trails, good conversation and opportunity to sweat out our frustrations in this beautiful place. The Eagle River winds through Minturn, Avon, Edwards, Wolcott, Eagle, and Gypsum, and one of my favorite pastimes is tubing with friends and family through the lower reaches. The cool water feels great, and if it’s a weekend, we’ll probably see neighbors and folks we know. We’d probably head back to Gypsum afterward to sit on the patio at Tu Casa and sip margaritas. I would try to fit in a visit to Sweetwater Lake. We might throw in our stand-up paddleboards to explore the lake, and we’d definitely hike up to the Ute Caves to see the pictographs. We might stop to enjoy the raspberries and thimbleberries along the trail too. If we could, we’d go to Vail on a Sunday morning, to make our way through the Vail Farmers Market. There are stands with artists of all kinds, bakers, farmers, and tons of other booths, and we’d spend the morning meandering through town.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It’s been a hard year for so many, and throughout the COVID experience, I’ve reflected on the people that made it more tolerable. At the top of the list is my family. My husband and two kids, although the stay-at-home order put everyone on edge, I was happy to have their company to ride it out with- and even without COVID, my husband helps me think through challenges I am facing at work. I haven’t been able to see my parents and my sister in the past year, but we communicated a lot virtually and even just our regular group texts helped to make the distance more bearable. During the stay-at-home order, the Watershed Council staff met daily for just 30 minutes via Zoom, we talked about how to roll out virtual programs and do our work, but we also just connected and laughed- they kept me sane. In general, our staff makes my job easier and helps me to be the best I can be. Finally, my friends, who I missed so much, but that were always there to talk and support each other. In a more professional sense, I want to give a shout out to my high school art teacher, who was the leader of our middle school and high school environmental club, STOP – Stop Trashing Our Planet. With the club, we toured a tailings pond that was being restored, set up recycling bins, educated our classmates on recycling and organized advocacy initiatives. These early experiences played a big role in my interests in conservation, river health and water quality. I already had a love of nature, she just inspired me to work to conserve it.
Todd Winslow Pierce