Grand County / Conversations with … Diana Lynn Rau
February 4, 2008
If you ever finding yourself saying you’re just one person who can’t influence change in your community, think again. One local volunteer has been making a difference in Grand County for decades through her hard work, dedication and creativity.
Diana Lynn Rau has been pitching in since she moved to the county in 1983, helping to get several grassroots organizations and campaigns started to improve local business, recreation and youth opportunities. In recognition of her efforts, she was awarded the “Citizen of the Year” award by the Fraser-Winter Park Chamber of Commerce back in the 1980s.
When not working on her volunteer activities, she operates her own travel agency, The Travel Society, out of her home off U.S. Highway 40 on Red Dirt Hill, located between Tabernash and Granby. In addition to handling local residents’ travel plans, she is also the official travel agent for the American Cross Country Ski Association and several college ski teams, as well as the “feeder” teams for the U.S. Cross Country Ski and Jumping Teams.
Q. Why did you want to get involved in volunteer work locally?
A. As I always say, if you don’t like how things are, then get involved. And if you want to be heard, you have got to speak up. I don’t have any room in my life for people who just want to complain and won’t do anything to solve a problem.
Q. What kind of programs were you involved in to help local businesses?
A. Back in the 1980s, we had sleepy, little communities in the Fraser Valley and people were wondering how we could make people stop in the towns rather then driving straight through them. I suggested we paint crosswalks across Highway 40 in Winter Park and Fraser to get traffic to slow down and maybe get drivers to stop to check out local businesses. And someone else suggested the little white lights that outline and illuminate the buildings.
Then I came up with the idea of the Friendliness Campaign because so many people were complaining about how visitors were being treated by local businesses. We’d find someone who had gone out of their way to do something nice and give them $5 and $10 prizes and get their names in the newspaper. I did it for over 10 years every week which was pretty time consuming. The Fraser-Winter Park Chamber of
Commerce started a similar thing a few years ago because it was such a good idea.
To further promote local tourism, I started the booths at the local area’s summer music festivals at Winter Park Resort which are attended by thousands of people. The idea of the booths was to get the entire county involved in them with each town sending at least a couple of representatives from each town to hand out brochures. At some of these festivals, we handed out as many as 10,000 brochures and visitor guides.
To get local businesses and organizations to work together to help one another and promote this area, I started the Networking Sessions. Before that, one end of the county did know who or what the businesses were on the other end. To get it going, I went to Grand Mecca, the redecessor to the Grand County Tourism Board, and urged them to sponsor the first luncheon. That was 20 years ago and I’m now holding the Networking Sessions twice a year. The YMCA hosts the spring session, and I solicit other places where we can hold the fall sessions.
I’m also the one who publishes the Grand County Networking Directory which is 14 pages of lists of organizations and contact information. It’s a lot of work, but there’s nothing else like it in the county.
Q. What is your involvement in the development of trails in Grand County?
A. About 15 years ago, we held a general meeting for those interested in trails with representatives of all disciplines such as mountain biking, running, hiking, skiing, horseback riding and motorized vehicles. Out of it, we formed the Fraser Valley Partnership for Trails which has a board which meets once a month. The organization’s goal is to educate people, intercede with developers and fight for trails and trail connections.
One of biggest projects was the Fraser to Granby Trail. I wrote most of the grants for it, including what turned out to be the second largest grant ever in Colorado at the time. Combined with the Grand Lake Partners for Trails and the Board of County Commissioners, we also revived the Headwaters Trails Alliance which has become the watchdog for trails in the county, and the Fraser-to-Granby Trail became its flagship project. It is the first trail of what the Grand County Commissioners envisioned years ago as a countywide network of trails.
Along with the Fraser-to-Granby Trail, Headwaters has gotten involved with National Public Lands Day. When it first started 12 years ago, our Grand County project was one of only three in the nation and National Public Lands Day has now its grown to more than a hundred nationwide each year. I was on the original committee for it as its food chairman and I still hold that position. Here in the county, we annually get 250 volunteers who get more work done in one day than the Forest Service can in two years.
Q. What’s you’re involvement with promoting cross-country skiing and other
recreation in the county?
A. Years ago, we had several different groups involved in Nordic skiing for kids, schools, seniors, etc. Connie Fention, Karen Waeschle and I got together and tried to combine everybody into the Grand Nordic Club. We highlighted the youth skiing programs at Devil’s Thumb, Snow Mountain Ranch and the Grand Lake Touring Center on Fridays as well as the after-school programs. We also provide free ski lessons for adults and kids every winter, organize the annual Grand Nordic Ski Swap and host the free moonlight ski tours such as the one we’re holding Saturday, Feb. 16 at Snow Mountain Ranch.
These programs have inspired a lot of kids to get into skiing. My involvement with Nordic skiing and kids began when I coached cross-country skiing as well as baseball, soccer, mountain biking and gymnastics programs for the Fraser Valley Recreation District back in the ’80s and ’90s.
Q. What other volunteer work are you involved in?
A. Over the years, I’ve helped set up a lot of action committees on things such as countywide transportation and protection of the James Peak Wilderness Area. Along with East Grand Middle School and Principal Nancy Karas, I’ve helped organize the East Grand Children’s Fund, which helps people with special-needs children get the equipment they need.
Q. How do you see your role with all of these organizations and campaigns?
A. I’m an organizer and delegater. I’m not the president of anything, except the Networking Sessions. My goal is to get people involved in helping this make this a better place to live.
When there is a need, we’ve got to find a way to make it work. And I know lots of people here in Grand County. It’s often easier for me to call people up and get them involved. That’s the delegator side of what I do.
And for all this to be possible, I have to credit my husband Charlie and my son, Tim, who is a 10th grader at Middle Park High School, for their patience in allowing me to do the things I do.