Hi, I’m Katie Goodleaf. I’m excited to introduce myself as the new Volunteer and Partnership Coordinator here in the San Luis Valley.
Growing up on a tiny island off the coast of New York, I could not have imagined a journey that would lead me out to the state of Colorado, let alone to the San Luis Valley. A landscape with such stark contrast to the beaches and humid sea air I had known growing up. And oh, what a journey it was that brought me to where I am today.
Back in 2010, I decided to do what any carefree, nature loving, college graduate would do. I threw a mattress into the back of a minivan and began a cross country journey with one suitcase and no real destination in mind. All I knew is that I would find, what I thought to be, the most beautiful place in the country and I would call it home. Unbeknownst to me, this epic road trip would shape the future of my life for the next decade and counting. It was during this trip that I started to truly appreciate the unique and breathtaking landscapes that our country has to offer and how important it is to preserve and care for these places. I had traveled to Europe, Central America and even around the world to live in Australia while studying at the University of Sydney. How had I neglected to see all these astounding natural wonders in my own backyard? It was truly a mind boggling realization!
I made some of the best memories I have experienced in my entire life on this trip but living from camp spot to camp spot can be tiring after a while. So, six months and 23 states later, I was ready to park the van and start somewhere new, and that somewhere ended up being Denver. When it came time to find a job, I couldn’t help but reflect on my trip and my new appreciation for our public lands. Aside from the occasional Walmart parking lot I had camped out in National Parks, Forest Service campgrounds, or on BLM lands my entire trip. So, after doing a little research I signed up for an AmeriCorps program in Land Conservation and have been working in the outdoors ever since.
My decision to move down to the valley is rooted in the connection I’ve built with the area over the past decade I’ve been in Colorado. After moving here in 2011, I was immediately drawn to the San Luis Valley as I began exploring the state. It quickly became one of my favorite places to visit, even if it meant driving 8 hours just to enjoy a weekend of camping down here. In my years working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife I was lucky enough to be assigned to this region, which led to many more opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the valley. When the Volunteer and Partnership Coordinator position became available this February, I knew it was finally my opportunity to get out of Denver and make the big move. Here I am, day 5 of my new life and all I keep thinking is, I can’t believe it took me this long!
While I work directly for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, my position is hosted by the Rio Grande National Forest. I look forward to working with my new colleagues on the RGNF, at the BLM, and the many wonderful community members who have made the volunteer program so great over the years. As well as the many new volunteers to come! If you are interested in volunteering on your public lands, please reach out to me at the Forest headquarters in Monte Vista. You can also visit our dedicated volunteering page at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/riogrande/workingtogether/volunteering