The Staff Speaks on Staff Retreat

The Staff of Save Our Canyons talk about their latest Staff Retreat.

Havilah Speaks:
The word “retreat” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary can mean:

1: a place of privacy or safety
2: a period of group withdrawal for study or instruction under a director

Our Staff Retreat was a bit of both, combined with planning (: the act or process of making or carrying out plans; specifically : the establishment of goals, policies, and procedures), strategizing (: to devise a strategy), and snacking (: to eat a snack) – okay, a lot of snacking.

Each year, the staff of Save Our Canyons takes one to two days (usually in the month of October) to reflect on the previous twelve months and to look ahead to the next year. We take time to review our work in areas such as communication, outreach, fundraising, campaigns and issues work, and development. It’s not all note taking and brain cramps though. We allowed ourselves an afternoon in the Wasatch to kick off our retreat (this is the 1: a place of privacy or safety part of the definition of “retreat”). We do, after all, work to protect the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch canyons, mountains, and foothills, so it only made sense that we spend some time out of the office to reconnect with the beautiful, unique, and extraordinary Wasatch.

Day One – A hike to Silver Fork: Reconnecting with the Wasatch

The first day of Staff Retreat this year was a “Walk and Talk” session (more accurately, a “Hike and Talk”) in the Silver Fork area of the Wasatch. We couldn’t help but stop in awe every now and again and snap some photos of the amazing fall colors. I’ve posted some photos below. Take a look!

Day Two – Getting Down to Business

The second day of our Staff Retreat focused on the “2: a period of group withdrawal for study or instruction under a director” definition. We spent the second day of our retreat talking about what worked well the previous year and what didn’t work quite as well, we reviewed the goals we had set the previous year and we plotted out the work we’d done to accomplish those goals, we reviewed our current campaigns and projects work, and we brainstorm ways to become more efficient. We discussed events, volunteer work, communication strategies, finances and fundraising, membership, and so much more. Every now and again, we would take a step back, take a deep breath, grab a snack (and yet another refill on coffee), and we would tilt our heads curiously at the gigantic white paperboard with all of our multi-colored notes on it. Then, we jumped right back in again.

Overall, we focused on discovering our strengths and weaknesses and putting a plan of action in place to capitalize on those strengths and improve on those weaknesses. Then, we tied it all back to our mission of “protecting the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch canyons, mountains, and foothills”. We feel good about the work we did over those two days and we’ve already implemented a few of the tools and ideas we discussed (this Blog, for instance – what do you think?).

We will spend this next year referring back to the notes we took and we will continue to reevaluate our methods and continue to improve upon them. You’d think after almost 39 years that Save Our Canyons would have one solid system in place, but the truth is, just as the threats and issues and campaigns are constantly changing, so are we and so are our methods. While we have an established history in place, we are a proactive organization and we are committed to remaining current and vigilant in our efforts. Here’s to one more great year as the only organization dedicated exclusively to the protection of the Wasatch!  

Closing Note: At the end of it all, we had the chance to reconnect with the Wasatch, reconnect with each other as staff and as friends, and reconnect to our mission and what it really means. 
Silver Fork Aspens. Photo by Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save Our Canyons  
Silver Fork Aspens. Photo by Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save Our Canyons      
Fallen Aspen Leaf. Photo by Carl Fisher, Executive Director of Save Our Canyons  
Fall Colors. Photo by Havilah, Director of Operations for Save Our Canyons
Holding On. Photo by Havilah, Director of Operations for Save Our Canyons    
My Co-Workers, My Friends. Photo by Havilah, Director of Operations for Save Our Canyons

Jen Speaks
Last week on Tuesday, the Save Our Canyons staff ventured into Big Cottonwood Canyon to wander up the Silver Fork drainage.  We decided a fall hike would be an amazing idea, a chance to soak in the last of this beautiful weather, an opportunity to “staff retreat”.  

We hiked and talked with our cameras in hand.  All pausing to capture fall in its splendid color.  As we continued to walk up the drainage we occasionally stopped to rest and to hydrate.  After lunch we literally scrambled up Davenport Hill followed by a brief traverse on Emma’s Ridge. Up on Emma’s Ridge we surveyed the surrounding peaks and ridges, noticing the ski resorts below.    After that we came down a slope that required you to hang onto certain tree limbs for dear life.  What followed was a steep decent down a deer trail.  Yup, that’s right, a deer trail.  Let’s just say there was some bush-wacking involved.  Thankfully, we made it down safely.  There were moments when I had my doubts.  However, our day was not just an adventure in Silver Fork.

The purpose of a our staff retreat is to reflect on our work, so during our hike we took some time to ponder the previous years work and discuss the year ahead.   We spent the day connecting with the place we work to protect and preserve, the Wasatch. Definitely an appropriate way to conduct staff retreat in my opinion.  Save Our Canyons is a great organization, fortunate enough to have such a dedicated staff.  I feel very grateful to work with Carl and Havilah, who feel more like friends than co-workers.  I couldn’t think of any other team of individuals I would rather work with on a day to day basis.  We work hard for the Wasatch, and occasionally we play hard in the Wasatch. 
Carl Speaks
If actions speak louder than words, then we here at Save Our Canyons are yodelling from the high peaks of the Wasatch. Before the snow flew, the Save Our Canyons staff took advantage of the Indian Summer we were having to look at the splendor of the Wasatch. As people who are committed to “protecting the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch canyons, mountains and foothills,” it is on rare occasion that we find ourselves immersed in its grandeur. Rather, we find ourselves composing newsletters, updating our website, typing responses to Forest Service scoping notices, meeting with elected officials, attending planning meetings, collaborating with our governmental agencies and other interest groups, working with interns and volunteers, etc, etc.

This break from our dreary offices, surrounded by the incessant CRASH, BOOM, BANG of the downtown City Creek Project — which we called “Staff Retreat” — was long-overdue. It was time for us collectively, to reconnect with the Wasatch, but also, evaluate our progress as an organization. We couldn’t have picked a better place to do this. Silver Fork Canyon, recently protected from developments proposed by Solitude Mountain Resort, the easternmost boundary of the Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act’s Twin Peaks Addition, adjacent to the Flagstaff Mountain expansion proposed by Alta Ski Resort, an area where SOC has recently acquired property, not to mention it has some of the most stunning views in the Wasatch. As we wandered up the trail, it really struck a chord deep inside of me, how someplace so heavily used, so close to so many homes and cabins, within spitting distance of Solitude Resort, is still accessible to the public. I think I can speak for the other two on staff, every time I venture out into the Wasatch, I am grateful to Save Our Canyons and couldn’t be more proud to be part of this family, this organization of friends and stewards, which has fought so hard for nearly 40 years to keep this area as it has been for generations.

I won’t bore you with the details of the events of these two days but to sum it up, we had great fun, extraordinary company, and worked until we our voices were hoarse and could barely keep our eyes open. The take home message: we need to do a better job of incorporating everyone into this family and our organization. We hope you’ll come join in the fun, the frustration, to protect the Wasatch so it can be here for others to enjoy as we all have been so lucky to. We hope you’ll take us up on the offer. 

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