Every summer, the Preserve America Youth Summit takes place in many states across the country. The Preserve America Youth Summit is a prestigious 4-day summer program creating opportunities for middle and high school students to learn about historical preservation out in the field. Students are given the opportunity to interact with community partners and present their ideas and suggestions for historical preservation in a culminating town hall with local leaders. This year, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was the host for Colorado’s Preserve America Youth Summit. As a host, much planning was needed and Whitney Masten, our Education Coordinator, along with other local leaders, did an incredible job putting the event together. Our job at the monument was to host opening day and closing day. The other two days, students took multiple trips along the Gold Belt Scenic Byway in central Colorado. I was lucky enough to have been asked to join Whitney in acting as liaisons for the National Park Service (NPS) the entire week.

On the opening day of the youth summit, Dr. Meyer (paleontologist at Florissant Fossil Beds) and I gave an introductory talk on the discovery of Florissant Fossil Beds and it’s geologic and paleontological significance. Later in the day, I gave the three rotating groups of students a virtual tour of the paleontology lab so that they could get a behind-the-scenes look into fossil preparation, research and museum collection techniques. The day ended with dinner and a concert put on by Jeff Wolin (Lead Interpreter at Florissant Fossil Beds) and I. We were shocked to see the students enjoying themselves so much, considering the songs are more elementary based. We even had a group of students personally ask us to do an encore!

Jeff Wolin (Lead Interpreter) performing while Youth Summit participants dance along.

The second day of the youth summit took place in Fremont County. As liaisons for NPS, Whitney and I were able to join in on tours of many historic buildings in the cities of Cañon City and Florence. The highlight of the second day, however, was riding on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. The sights were just incredible! Dinner that night was quite spectacular as well. The youth summit was invited to eat at Colon Farms in the city of Florence. All the ingredients used in making of dinner came from the farm itself or other nearby farms.

Youth Summit participants and I on board of the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

The towns of Cripple Creek and Victor were the main focus on the third day of the youth summit. Here we joined in on a tour of the Newmont mine, where gold is the major mineral mined. Being able to witness the immensity of the Newmont mine was an unforgettable experience. After the mine, we received tours of many of the museums and historic buildings in the towns. Despite the persistent rain we received that day, we enjoyed learning about the history of the towns and their struggle in restoring many of the historic sites to attract more visitors to the area.

Whitney Masten (Education Coordinator) and I for scale next to one tire of a mining haul truck at the Newmont mine in Cripple Creek.

Finally, on closing day, Florissant Fossil Beds was again responsible for hosting and I was put in charge of setting up the PA system. It had been years since I last worked with a PA system. Regardless, I enjoyed the set up as it took me back to my rock’n’roll days when I was playing gigs with bands just about every weekend. More importantly, the students did a great job expressing their concerns regarding historical preservation along the Gold Belt Scenic Byway. The local community leaders that served on the panel at the town hall were obviously impressed with the students’ knowledge and commitment to historical preservation of Colorado’s history. I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to participate in the entire youth summit as I became much more knowledgeable in the history of the area I am living in. I believe the group of students of this year’s youth summit will go on to become aspiring leaders in our community in the near future.