Garna Greater Arkansas River Nature Association - Education, stewardship, river ecosystem volunteering - garna logo

Staff & Board Members

Photo Credit: Gail Hunter

Meet Our Dedicated Team

GARNA is guided by a passionate and experienced Board of Directors and dedicated staff members. Our board brings a wealth of knowledge in areas like nonprofit management, park administration, environmental science, and law. Their diverse backgrounds and expertise ensure we approach our mission from a well-rounded perspective. Our staff is equally impressive, with experience in education, finance, communications, and outdoor recreation. Their dedication and hard work are essential to achieving GARNA’s goals.

Staff Members​

Jason Marsden

Executive Director

Jessica Downing

Community Engagement Director

Jake Vasquez

Gear Library Director

Cat Anderson

Public Programs Director

Join Us

Board Members​

Beth Helmke
Board Chair

Beth brings varied leadership experience from her professional background in the nonprofit sector, education, nature-based youth programming, and communications. She has a Bachelors in Molecular Biology and Masters in Nonprofit Management and currently works as Chaffee County Government’s Deputy Director of Administration. Her love for trail running, summit seeking, and all manner of backcountry adventuring also ties in well with her involvement with Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North.

Rob White Garna
Rob White
Board Vice-Chair

Rob received a BS in Park & Recreation Administration/Biology with a Secondary Teaching Certificate from Central Michigan University in 1980, and a MS in Park Administration/Fisheries & Wildlife Management from Michigan State University in 1983. Since the year 2000, Rob was the Park Manager at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, one of 42 state parks within Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Rob retired from that position in July of 2020.

Layne Kottmeier
Board Treasurer

Layne Kottmeier, Certified Public Accountant of Kottmeier Valuation & Forensics based out of Salida, joined the GARNA Board as Treasurer in 2018. When she’s not whipping GARNA’s financials into shape, Layne enjoys hiking the beautiful public lands of the Upper Arkansas Valley.

Bonnie Davis

Bonnie grew up in the Caribbean islands and has lived in various countries around the world. In addition to being bilingual, she is a Master Gardner with Colorado State, a rescue Scuba diver, and a wild mushroom identifier. Bonnie has lived in Chaffee County since 2016. Professionally, she has worked in sales, marketing, business development, and is currently a senior strategic analyst supporting Fortune 100 and 500 companies.

JW Wilder

JW Wilder is a retired Senior Ranger at Colorado State Parks, represents GARNA on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Citizen Task Force, and participates with GARNA’s Friends of AHRA volunteer group. JW started the Monarch Snowcat Tours, and was the first ranger at AHRA State Park. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, racing Town Challenge at Monarch, rafting and traveling.

Truman P. Young

Born and raised in Colorado, and climbing in the Sawatch range since he was ten, Truman (Ty) got his BA from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, both in biology. He has taught, mentored, and carried out ecological research for over forty years in Kenya, Panama, and the western United States. He brings years of experience in environmental education and the ecology, restoration, conservation, and management of human-dominated landscapes, especially rangelands.

David Jennings

Dave is an ecologist and attorney, with a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of South Florida, and a J.D. from Vermont Law School. He has served on the GARNA Board since 2023, and his hobbies include traveling, reading, and exploring nature through hiking, camping, snorkeling, and wildlife photography.

Devin Castendyk

Devin Castendyk holds a PhD in Environmental Science and a Masters Degree in Geology, and is a Licensed Professional Geologist in the State of Wyoming. His passion for water education has taken him from Guatemala to Antarctica and locally teaching geology at CMC Salida and Colorado School of Mines. He is currently Assistant VP of a global engineering firm, where he advises the mining industry on strategies to minimize impacts on water. His favorite pass times include skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and international travel.

Mahting Putelis

Mahting is a seasoned commercial photographer with over twenty years of experience in the outdoor industry. He brings extensive knowledge of adventure education and hunting related activities to GARNA. You can find him teaching skiing at Monarch in the winters while trail running occupies his summer months. "Mahting" is the phonetic spelling of his Latvian name, pronounced "MAH-TING." He's a second-generation Latvian-American, with Latvian as his native language.

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