Catholic Charities Partners with Fort Collins Natural Area to Preserve God’s Beauty and is Honored with the Great Horned Owl Award

Since November 2021, Catholic Charities has adopted a natural area along the Poudre River better known as Gustav Swanson. With over 45 species of birds and dozens of other creatures flocking in the space, it has become a sanctuary for residents of Fort Collins and guests of Samaritan House Fort Collins, which is only one block away from the unique area.

Gustav Swanson Natural Area was dedicated in 1988, as a tribute to biologist, Gustav Swanson who, over many years, made the area more accessible to the community. Forty years later, the goal of making the area accessible to the entire community remains a top priority.

Historically, Gustav Swanson has not been adoptable due to challenges from the surrounding area. It is located between the shelters for men and women in Fort Collins and often has many hazards littered throughout the area.

In March 2023, Bethany Bray, Samaritan House Fort Collins’ Volunteer Coordinator, and the Catholic Charities of Larimer County team were honored with the Great Horned Owl Award (Rookie of the Year) for their efforts in maintaining the natural beauty of the area. The partnership has evolved since the beginning, with those residing at the shelter teaming up with staff and volunteers to take an active role in assisting in its clean up and maintenance. The mission of Catholic Charities is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to all life, including God’s creations in nature.

“In addition to helping maintain the natural beauty of the area, this has been an opportunity for our agency to lean into the seventh of our Catholic Social teachings, Care for Creation,” shared Joe Domko, former Regional Director. “It provides a wonderful opportunity to engage in discussions on the importance of taking care of our common home, while identifying he link between environmental degradation and human impoverishment.”

Catholic Charities Chaplain Father Bob Kelly, a Fort Collins native, offered the blessing at the kick-off clean up event back in 2021. He prayed for participants at Samaritan House and that the space may serve as a sign of God’s love for those needing it most.