BRECKENRIDGE – Some men are memorialized with bronze statues. For the late Gene Baker – a longtime Breckenridge architect, community member, avid skier, outdoorsman and Colorado Mountain College instructor – a set of three ski lift towers that stand amidst an outdoor classroom that bears his name is a more fitting tribute.
Nearly 100 college employees, donors, friends and family members officially dedicated the Gene Baker Outdoor Classroom on the afternoon of Sept. 27 as the first snowfall of the season fell lightly at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge.
“If you didn’t know my dad, among his many passions and at the top of his list was skiing and the mountains of Breckenridge,” said Gene Baker’s son, John Baker. “[This outdoor classroom] is in a beautiful setting for people to learn.”
A curving walkway leads from CMC’s Breckenridge building to the outdoor classroom that sits along the Blue River, within earshot of the rippling water rolling past. Large boulders are wedged among a carved-out amphitheater facing the river, paved with bricks and furnished with wooden benches. Not only do students taking outdoor education courses utilize the site; classes from every discipline, from sustainability to history, enjoy the outdoor setting, said Dave Askeland, CMC campus vice president in Breckenridge and Dillon.
Gene Baker, who taught home design and drafting at CMC during the 1970s, and his business partner Marc Hogan and their architecture firm, bhh Partners, were among a group of designers and community leaders planning the outdoor classroom when Baker passed away more than four years ago.
Along with Gene’s son John, an engineering student at the University of Colorado at the time of his father’s sudden death in 2009 and now an assistant project manager with Shaw Construction, Hogan saw the outdoor classroom project to completion this year. Hogan anticipates the cost of the outdoor classroom at around $50,000, all donated by private funders.
Hogan said the lift towers that are such a central part of the classroom are actually a combination of form and function. Donated by nearby Arapahoe Basin ski area, the towers were originally added to the outdoor classroom concept to celebrate CMC’s outdoor education programs and Breckenridge’s ski industry history.
“They’re truly unique to this campus,” said Hogan. “Eventually, the idea is to add cables and chairs, which will add to both their overall aesthetics and function.”
“People have asked where those towers are going,” said Askeland. “I say they’re going wherever Gene is.”
Donors, organizers honored at campus
Inside the CMC building on the same day, another celebration took place as a brand new donor recognition wall was revealed. A history of Summit County contributed by Robin Theobald and a list of donors who have contributed to CMC in Breckenridge are inscribed on the wall, located in the hallway as guests enter the Eileen & Paul Finkel Auditorium.
The most recent fundraising campaign – which established 36 new named scholarships for students attending CMC in Breckenridge and exceeded the lofty $1 million goal – wrapped up this summer as Phyllis Martinez, the former regional development officer in Summit County for the CMC Foundation, retired from her position at the college. Martinez was instrumental in fundraising for scholarship support as well as connecting donors to the outdoor classroom project.