Meet FCMoD’s New Executive Director!

Post written by Kristin Stern, Marketing & Communications Manager

Welcome Laura Valdez, FCMoD’s New Executive Director!

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is excited to announce the hire of Laura Valdez as the next Executive Director of the Nonprofit Partner! After an extensive national search, the museum selected Laura to co-lead the organization with current Executive Director, Cheryl Donaldson, who represents the City of Fort Collins Partner. Laura has more than a decade of combined leadership experience in the nonprofit, education, and public sectors, supported by a Masters of Public Administration focused on local government and nonprofit management.

“The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery staff is excited to welcome Laura into our organization. Laura’s dedication and commitment to community impact and strong organizational management will complement and support the work of the team,” says Cheryl Donaldson.

Laura will be joining the museum after eight years working at the City of Elgin, Illinois, most recently as the Assistant City Manager. There, she was successful in leading collaborative, inclusive efforts to further collective goals and achieve shared success. She has worked to consistently build and maintain excellent relationships among diverse groups to facilitate understanding, awareness, and action on community-wide concerns and initiatives, and looks forward to bringing these skills to FCMoD.

“I am thrilled to join the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. It’s energizing to see what the staff, board, donors, and volunteers have already accomplished. I look forward to working hand in hand with the team and greater community as we take the museum to the next level.” – Laura Valdez

We’re looking forward to it, too. Please join us in welcoming Laura to FCMoD!


Want to learn more about Laura? We interviewed her to learn some fun facts, secret talents, and more!

  1. Fort Collins has an amazing music scene! What was the best concert you ever attended?

The best concert I ever attended was Marc Anthony during the Libre tour. It was my first experience attending a concert in a big stadium. I went with my aunts, and it was a great collective experience for us to have together. I remember there were people all around me waving Puerto Rican flags, dancing and singing – the energy was just amazing! To this day I still know every single word to that album.

  1. We hear you have a Bison named after you. There must be a story here!

Oh my, yes there’s definitely a story here! For a period of time, I oversaw the Lords Park Municipal Zoo in Elgin, Illinois which is also modeled with a public/private partnership, similar to FCMoD. At the time the Zoo had two Bison, Becky and Drew, and we were looking to get another. It was a fairly long process of working with many different partners, and in October of that year we welcomed a baby Bison into the mix. However, we weren’t planning on doing a public naming until the spring. But in order to fill out the paperwork to get the Bison they had to pick a name, so they chose “Laura Valdez-Bison.” I found the gesture as endearing as I found it comical! The Bison was later named Takoda by the public – but in the initial paperwork it’s my name!

  1. What was your favorite museum experience?

My favorite museum experiences are ones that have tactile, hands-on exhibits. It’s something that immediately drew me to Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. The opportunity to learn with a physical element to it is so impactful for me. One experience that comes to mind is the City Museum in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, let me just say that there is a really long, super-fast slide. I’ll leave it at that.

Another favorite museum experience that comes to mind is the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, Illinois. I grew up going to that museum all the time, so I know first-hand how important and formative experiential museum experiences are.

I grew up going to [the] museum all the time, so I know first-hand how important and formative experiential museum experiences are.

  1. Who inspires you?

Two people: my parents inspire me. They have continually shown me what strength and perseverance looks like, while also encouraging me to take advantage of every opportunity in life. My dad’s family is originally from Mexico and really instilled in him the value of education, family, and hard work. His story is so inspiring; from immigrating to the United States to later contributing to the Space Shuttle program with NASA. Then there’s my mom. She’s one of the strongest women I know. She’s been such an incredible role model for me since she herself was a municipal leader, too. They have always been supportive of me and my endeavors. That’s why my parents are my inspiration.

  1. Do you have a secret talent? Can we make it not-so-secret?

This is so nerdy, but my secret talent is the ability to name all the Presidents of the United States in perfect order. (Yep. Definitely nerdy!)

  1. What’s your favorite movie?

Dirty Dancing! It’s the comfort food equivalent of a movie for me. Plus, I have totally attempted to do the “lift” that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray do!

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone – real, fictional, living, deceased – who would it be?

Lucile Ball. She was a pioneer of not only comedy, but also of TV production, and representation on the silver screen. From her interracial marriage to Dezi Arnaz, to being the first woman on TV to be pregnant on television, to being the first woman to run a major television studio, to her groundbreaking style of physical comedy – she was such a trailblazer! She has influenced so much of our pop culture – more than we may realize. It’s fascinating what you can learn from history to see how it’s informed our world today.

It’s fascinating what you can learn from history to see how it’s informed our world today.

  1. What is a surprising fun fact about you?

 As I mentioned, my dad’s an engineer. When my parents had my sisters and I, my dad had one request: he wanted to name us so our initials were all roman numerals. He didn’t necessarily care what the names were, he just wanted to initials be roman numerals! So my name, Laura Ilene Valdez, is LIV, or 54. My older sister is CMV, or 905, and my younger sister is CDV, or 405. Growing up, we had mail addressed to “1364,” which meant it was for the three of us because it’s a sum of our roman numerals together!

  1. Geek Week is coming up over Spring Break, March 17-20. With fun themes like Sci-Fi Strikes Back and Fantasy Fanatics, we have to ask – who is your favorite superhero?

 Wonder Woman! I love her! I am really looking forward to the sequel to this summer.

  1. What would you like to say about joining the museum to our visitors, members, partners, and fellow community members?

 I want to say how thrilled I am to be joining Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! The more I learn about the museum, the more excited I become. From then to now, intentional and thoughtful decision making has informed who and what FCMoD is. The community has been so supportive of this organization every step of the way. When I say “community” I mean it in every sense of the word – from the staff, to the volunteers, to the donors, to the members, to the visitors, and beyond.

For me, it’s a privilege to be part of this team. I want to help take the museum to the next level – whatever that level is. The museum is already on the cutting edge of everything, so the possibilities are endless. FCMoD is a mature organization, a growing organization, and most importantly it’s a curious organization. I know there is so much about the museum I have yet to learn, but I’m ready to get started.

FCMoD is a mature organization, a growing organization, and most importantly it’s a curious organization.

We’re ready, too. Please join us in welcoming Laura Valdez as the new Executive Director!

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Lindenmeier Lake Resort

Post written by Archive & Collections staff members at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Lindenmeier Lake Resort

Postcard advertising Lindenmeier Lake, 1900s

In 1908, lovebirds in Fort Collins might have gone to Lindenmeier Lake Resort for a day of recreation and fun. It was a place for a picnic lunch in a shady grove, or a romantic rowboat ride on a cool lake followed by an evening of dancing to live music beneath the stars.   

Caledonia Club picnic at Lindenmeier Lake, 1910

William Lindenmeier, Jr., who lived with his family in their home on the lake, started Lindenmeier Lake Resort in 1908. Lindenmeier Lake, a natural lake over a mile long and half a mile wide, is located about 1.8 miles northeast of downtown Fort Collins. The pleasure resort was free to the public and opened formally on June 28, 1908 after the streetcar system in Fort Collins was extended to the site. The trolley made hourly round trip runs to the resort, and passengers could ride the streetcar from any part of the city for a fare of 5 cents. It proved to be a popular destination not only among locals, but also among excursionists who came from Denver to share in the fun.

Picnickers at the Lake, circa 1908

Trolley parks such as Lindenmeier Lake Resort were fashionable in the United States during the early 1900s, and by that time many major American cities had one. In an attempt to drum up more business during weekends, trolley companies built picnic groves at the end of trolley lines where people could go for rest, relaxation, and beautiful outdoor scenery. Whereas people previously traveled by trolley mainly during the workweek, trolley parks enticed riders to drop a coin on transportation during weekends as well.

Fort Collins streetcar on its way to Lindenmeier Lake, circa 1911

Trolley companies took further inspiration from the popularity of Coney Island amusements. In addition to boats and live music, many parks in the country added lavish entertainments such as Ferris wheels or penny arcades. While Mr. Lindenmeier’s resort did not boast a roller coaster, it did possess a nickelodeon and a zoo that included a bear and monkeys!

Clipping from the Fort Collins Morning Express, July 16, 1914

Among the resort’s main attractions were its relaxing outdoor water activities. Mr. Lindenmeier provided a steam launch and rowboats for the park’s visitors, as well as a bathhouse and swimming suits for swimmers. The lake, bursting with fish, was an angler’s paradise.

Canoeing on Lindenmeier Lake, 1910s

People of all ages enjoyed the resort and flocked to it in droves. Couples, families, groups of young people, and folks who wanted to unwind after a long work week came in search of good times and ice cream from the ice cream parlor. In the cold winter months it was ice skating, not ice cream, that brought visitors to the resort.

Dorothy Emerson relaxes in the shade at Lindenmeier Lake, circa 1915

During its glory days, as many as 5000 people could be counted at Lindenmeier Lake Resort on holidays. After a decade of good times, however, Lindenmeier Lake Resort was closed in the late 1910s. The age of the automobile had come, and the trolley park became a fond Fort Collins memory.

Local history lives here. Visit the Archive & Collections at FCMoD – open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm – and like us on Facebook to see more historical images and artifacts. Archival images are available for research, purchase, and more through the online Fort Collins History Connection website.

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World Wildlife Day 2020: “Sustaining All Life On Earth”

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator

Happy World Wildlife Day!


Wildlife, while traditionally meaning all non-domesticated animals in an area, has expanded to mean all the fauna, flora, and other kinds of life. All species have evolved to be dependent on each other. Sustaining all kinds of life on our planet can only help the human race survive and prosper.

Some individual species are so vitally important to an individual ecosystem that they are considered to be a keystone species. So many other kinds of life depend on the keystone species that it would have a disproportionate effect if it should be removed from the ecosystem.

Colorado has amazing diversity in its wildlife. With the massive changes in altitude from the Rocky Mountains down to the Great Plains, the wildlife that live here have adapted to a wide range of micro-climates. With the variety of ecologies in the area, there are many keystone species that keep the whole system healthy. Some local examples include:

In the Mountains: Aspen trees

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) are, for many, a symbol of the Rocky Mountains. They cover 20% of Colorado’s forested land, or 5 million acres.

Aspen are a keystone species, supporting many birds, insects and mammals throughout the year and creating a highly biodiverse ecosystem. Because aspen love sunlight, groves are more open and bright than an evergreen forest. More variety of plant species can grow in the understory below an aspen grove. Additionally, as aspen are short-lived (70-150 years), they quickly add nutrients back into the soil around where they fall. Aspen propagate both with seeds and via cloning. A grove of clones can send up tens of thousands shoots per acre – which many grazing animals love to eat. Aspen shoots are actually higher in fat than many plant species, making it an especially important winter food source for deer and elk. The white bark of the aspen tree can also be used by many species as a food source in winter (elk, deer, beaver, rabbits, voles, mice, etc.), and year-round by a wide variety of insects. Several kinds of woodpecker, chickadees, nuthatches, kestrels, owls, and wood ducks will nest in the aspen.

Aspen trees are unfortunately in decline throughout the Rockies, up to a loss of 60-90% depending on the local climate. The primary cause is believed to be human behavior. Human efforts at fire suppression have allowed conifers to spread into aspen groves, shading the aspen and preventing them from thriving in the sunlight they love. Fire is also a natural part of the aspen’s life cycle: as the older above-ground aspen declines in health it should be cleared out by fire, prompting new sprouts. Without the fire, the sprouts are fewer and grazing animals have more impact on the grove. As the Aspen trees decline, hundreds of species will suffer.

In the Prairie: Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are a group of intelligent, burrowing rodents – actually a kind of ground squirrel – native to North American Grasslands. In Fort Collins area, you will see the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus). Prairie dog colonies will dig a complex maze of burrows as their colony’s home for breeding, raising their young, and hiding from predators, maintaining the town over several generations.

Prairie dog activities change the grassland ecosystem that they live in; they are often labeled “ecological engineers” for the way they shape the world around themselves. Burrowing will actually alter soil chemistry, as well as aerating the soil. Their grazing (both above and below ground) affects the plant life they live in, encouraging more diversity of plant species and plant productivity. The soil becomes richer in nitrogen and more fertile, supporting both more plants and a wider variety of insect life. Because of the positive effect prairie dogs have on the soil and the plant life above, grazing animals (including domestic cattle) often prefer to eat in the middle of prairie dog towns as the forage is better. Prairie dog burrows provide shelter and nesting habitat for many animals, including black-footed ferrets and burrowing owls. Prairie dogs are also a vital food source for a wide variety of predators: hawks, owls, ferrets, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, and rattlesnakes.

Prairie dogs numbers are vastly reduced from their historic populations. Many people believe that prairie dogs are pests, damaging crops or putting domestic animals at risk, and have actively persecuted the animals (e.g. target shooting, poisoning). Humans have also taken up most of what was originally prairie dog territory for agriculture and suburban sprawl. Between 1900 and 1960, 98.5% of prairie dog habitat was lost. Additionally, humans accidentally introduced the bacteria that caused the plague to spread, which can quickly wipe out entire colonies of prairie dogs. Even if you agree that they are pests, the loss of prairie dogs to our grassland ecosystems would have an enormous negative effect on hundreds of other species.

Celebrate World Wildlife Day

Celebrate World Wildlife Day this year by learning more about your local wildlife! Explore one of our many beautiful natural areas and observe the way that the wildlife interacts with each other. Or, visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery this weekend and see our Natural Areas Exhibit. Watch the Ferret Feeding Frenzy at 2:30 on Saturday or Sunday! This is not for the faint or squeamish of heart…

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National Inventors’ Day

Post written by Morgan Wilson, Collections Assistant.

National Inventors’ Day

In the wake of National Inventors’ Day, it is natural that we should honor a local invention that began right here, in Fort Collins.

One invention that has spanned well beyond Fort Collins is the oral irrigator, known to most people as the “waterpik” or “water flosser”. The water flosser is a dental tool which uses a stream of pressurized water to clean between the teeth, like liquid floss! It has a motor and a water reservoir which it draws water from. It was invented by Aqua-Tec, a local company founded in 1962. Aqua-Tec, now known as Water Pik, Inc., has since put forth many more products, such as the Touch-Tronic electric toothbrush and luxury shower heads.

What many people may not know is that at the time of Aqua-Tec’s founding, there was a competing invention, similar to the “water flosser”. In 1958, Dr. C.D. Matteson obtained the patent for his “dental syringe”, which performed a similar function to the water flosser except that it had a metal base which attached directly to a faucet to supply water to the irrigator. In the end, Aqua-Tec’s water flosser became the better-known dental irrigator that we still use and love today.

Water Pik, Inc. is still present in Fort Collins, located on Prospect and Riverside Avenue and will hopefully continue to be an innovative presence in Fort Collins for many years to come.

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