This Summer Solstice, the Valley Housing Fund will celebrate and honor our Founders, Butch Clark and his beloved wife Judy, at the historic Clark Cabin in the Lost Canyon. For decades, Butch and Judy invited friends and colleagues up to this 1930s cabin to celebrate the midsummer’s eve with music and stories around a roaring campfire. This year, you are invited to join this tradition on June 21st!
Butch and Judy loved the cabin because of its location in a secluded aspen grove where a host of birds and wildlife have made their home. As Butch explains, “We did not want to see this area developed, and we wanted it to keep its character. Birds and eagles come down from higher elevations, elk and deer walk through the aspens. That’s why it’s a teaching area. It’s different than some of the other, higher [mountain] areas.”
The Clark Cabin (previously known as the Jorgenson Cabin and Governor’s Cabin) was built in the 1930s and originally located on a 960-acre private parcel owned by Butch and Judy. They loved to share the area with community members, as well as share their vision for conservation, sustainability, and housing. As the Clarks saw a decline in affordable housing in the Gunnison Valley and an increase in development pressure on remaining open space, they decided to combine their passion for conservation and recreation with their interest in providing sustainable community housing.
In 2010, the Valley Housing Fund was created and the Clarks began planning how to generate its initial funding. This plan was fully realized over several years as funds were generated through two separate and complex land swaps. The swaps created funding to monetize the Clark’s land donation and turn the 960 acres into US Forest Service (USFS)-managed public lands open to all users, and Butch and Judy stipulated that the proceeds from the land swaps be donated to the Valley Housing Fund for local affordable housing efforts. The larger of the two swaps involved fundraising efforts by the CB Land Trust, who was able to acquire Long Lake from the USFS through the swap. (Read more about the Long Lake Land Exchange by clicking here and viewing the CBLT StoryMap here.) This initial donation from the Clarks, paired with ongoing fundraising by VHF, has allowed the organization to invest over $3 million to assist in creating new affordable homes and improving existing homes to keep costs low.
Looking ahead, as Butch moves into an Emeritus role at the Valley Housing Fund he is proud of his contribution to affordable community housing and what the organization has become. He says, “A lot of our success as a community will be based on being exemplary as a valley. An example to others of what can be achieved.”
Because of Butch and Judy’s legacy, VHF’s work directly improves the lives of those living and working here. We hope you will join us for this year’s Summer Solstice celebration at the cabin, and perhaps consider making a contribution to continue the Clark’s vision if you feel inspired by their story.