Dahl, Linda

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .



Linda Dahl

(1951 - ) 

Although Linda Dahl was originally from Boston, her father's job took the family to a number of major cities including Kansas City, Denver, the Bay Area, and Chicago.  She graduated high school in the North Shore of Chicago in 1969.  "It was a wonderful time to be a girl," she remembers fondly.  "Suddenly there were so many choices."

I was expected to work and to volunteer at something meaningful,” she says, explaining how she grew to love what she did. While still in high school she volunteered with a summer camp in the inner city and was tutoring at Cabrini-Green [Chicago public housing] when riots broke out there in the spring of 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated. “My father saw me on the evening news!” which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

“I threw myself into social justice,” she says, but explains that she found it "too complex and hard on my heart to make it my career." Her affinity for the outdoors pointed her toward courses in geology, which brought her to the West. She worked as a river guide in the Grand Canyon, considering law school because of her passion about environmental issues, but eventually pursued a career in city and regional planning.

Getting married was reason enough to relocate to the Denver area. “I worked with John Zabawa 35 years ago starting up Mountain Services, part of the Seniors’ Resource Center,” she recalls. “It was the big year when they bought the Yellow House. John had faith the community would rally behind it, and he was right.”

Linda took a job as a land planner with Jefferson County in 1985 and found herself in the midst of the “roaring ‘80s” with a lot of speculative development throughout the county, especially in Evergreen.

Being assigned to work with the community on developing the first Evergreen Community Plan, she worked closely with activists Linda Rockwell, Tandy Jones and Sheila Clarke, who were known for being the watchdogs when it came to new development in the area. The County pulled people together for a community advisory committee – business people, bankers, environmentalists – and, among other concerns, talked about how to compensate people for their property if they wanted to keep it from being developed.

“I give a lot of credit to the long-time landowners and conservationists who showed up at every meeting – Dan Lincoln and Hank Alderfer. They knew the people who located here came here for a reason – they loved it too.” Formulating a community plan was a new concept; Jeffco had just begun working on long-term planning. “Evergreen was the first one the county did, and it really paid off. It paved the way for MALT,” she says, referring to the Mountain Area Land Trust.

She’d become acquainted with Bud Simon, a land planner working on the development of The Ridge. He shared her passion for wise land use and conservation and also suggested Linda apply for a job with the National Park Service, which she did. She worked with the Denver Service Center in Lakewood for six years, responsible for management plans, conflict resolution and carrying capacity for national parks and their gateway communities throughout the country.

Linda became a co-founder of MALT in 1992, and she enlisted Bud Simon’s participation. They served together as board members for many years, both playing important roles during the saving of Noble Meadow (408 strategic acres adjacent to Elk Meadow) in 1994 and the protection of many additional thousands of acres of land.

“Forming MALT taught me if you have a good idea, a lot of other people are thinking the same thing,” she says, explaining that Linda Rockwell called the first meeting. “Some landowners were reluctant to work with the government, “ she continues, referring to the creation of Jefferson County Open Space in 1972. The creation of MALT was “a brilliant idea.” They pulled in Dan Pike because of his experience with The Nature Conservancy; banker Dave Scruby; Linda’s husband, Jerry Dahl, a public law attorney; and many others.

“This community was really ripe for that idea.” Landowners were interested but a bit skeptical. Our first deal was with a developer, which paved the way.” John Thompson, developer of The Ridge, had initially resisted conversations about conservation but decided to listen because of his work with Tandy Jones and Linda on The Ridge. Finding a way to be fairly compensated made the difference.

Community support was overwhelming. “Even the Realtors endorsed the Noble Meadow deal,” she points out, quoting Gary Jarrett of the Evergreen Board of Realtors who said, “Those meadows are the goose that’s laying the golden egg for this community and an important part of the community character.”

Linda served on the Jefferson County Open Space Advisory Committee from 1994-2000.  She also served on the board for Evergreen Parks and Recreation from 2002-05. “We got a lot done because of the shared values, working with people in the community to come to conclusions about what we wanted this place to be."

Her job with the National Park Service eventually took her away from Evergreen in 2005 when she served as Chief of Planning for Yosemite National Park. Her past experience with MALT influenced her interaction with gateway communities there, she says. “Call that first meeting. Put the brains together in the community. Invite the people who might be against the project or the issue at hand. Sit down with them first. They always have some important points to address. Then there’s nobody to fight. It’s really powerful. If everyone feels their needs are acknowledged and addressed, positive changes can occur."

She’d later become director and general manager for Marin County Parks and Open Space in California. But in retirement she returned to Evergreen. “I’ve lived in 11 states and visited 49 states – mostly with the National Park Service – so I had a good perspective.” Colorado proved to be her favorite.

Source: Interview with Linda Dahl