Roger and Oral Calvert donated their Boulder County foothills ranch in the late 1970’s, along with an endowment to The Pilot Trust, with a vision that their land be used as a place for people to learn about the environment. Shortly thereafter The Pilot Trust established their special 1,040-acre mountain property as a private, non-profit education center called Cal-Wood Education Center. (The Calvert Family also donated 500 acres of land to Denver Public School District for what is now Balarat Outdoor Education Center.) The name Cal-Wood honors the names of the Calvert Family and Larry Wood, a close friend who was instrumental in the establishment of the organization. Since 1981, Cal-Wood Education Center has conducted programs that honor the Calverts’ love for sharing nature with others, particularly children.
Cal-Wood’s land was initially used as a summer field station for geology students from the Albion College in the late 1970’s. In 1981 the Calvert Lodge and adjacent eight cabins were built and programming began. Throughout the 1980’s Cal-Wood partnered with the Boulder Valley School District to provide every sixth grade student a 3-day program taught mostly by high school interns. A high ropes course, which is no longer operable, was often a highlight of the experience. Unfortunately the partnership with BVSD was discontinued in 1989 due to district budget cutbacks.
The early 1990’s saw Cal-Wood shift its programmatic emphasis towards innovative professional development and adult programs, typically incorporating conservation themes. In 1996 the trustees made a difficult, but necessary decision to cease operations for a few years and let the land rest. Rafael Salgado, Cal-Wood’s current Executive Director, was hired in 1999 to resume operations. Under his leadership, Cal-Wood re-established school programs as the organization’s focus, specifically outreaching to low-income, multicultural groups. Additionally, we continue to support our mission by offering trainings, retreats and summer camps to a variety of organizations throughout the state.
In October of 2003 Cal-Wood made a significant and permanent commitment as stewards of this valuable foothills ecosystem. In cooperation with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, a conservation easement was placed on the Cal-Wood property. This easement ensures that Cal-Wood will never be significantly developed and will always be a pristine environmental and educational resource. Likewise, it will empower Cal-Wood to practice the best possible conservation approach that honors the integrity and future of this magnificent land.
In 2006 Cal-Wood established its own nonprofit (501(c)3) status. While The Pilot Trust is now a separate entity, it is still a consistent source of funding for general expenses and capital improvements. In addition, The Pilot Trust generously leases the land and buildings to Cal-Wood. In 2007, The Pilot Trust purchased another 160 acres to bring the total acreage to 1,200.
In September 2013, the Colorado flood closed down Cal-Wood Education Center for seven months. As 5th grade students and their teacher were airlifted from Cal-Wood by the National Guard, the staff and board did not know if Cal-Wood could survive this natural disaster and its financial ramifications.
As of 2017, Cal-Wood not only survived, but the organization has thrived. To meet the community’s growing desires for Cal-Wood’s residential environmental education programs, Cal-Wood launched a capital campaign and completed construction of our new bunkhouse and classrom, the Richard C. Meckley Lodging & Learning Center.