Rick Bieterman

Rick Bieterman stands in front of a corner display area, in the back room of Watershed, filled by a variety of individuals who use the teaching space.

Rick Bieterman loves ideas and turning them into reality. Owner of Watershed, a community-focused shared space, his ideas in fact appear to be like the movement of water, a steady stream flowing in constant motion.

“Watershed supports individuals and organizations,” he says, “by connecting resources with opportunities.”

Watershed is housed in the historic brick building on East Main Street that was once home to the Forest Service and later Chaffee County Public Health.

“The three main features of Watershed are space, exposure and support,” Bieterman says. “We have the space for meeting, teaching, fundraising, performing, workshops, headquartering an event or even just working a few hours, in the spaces available in our front room, or back activity space.”

Bieterman says that Watershed is the opportunity for individuals or groups to have a lot of exposure. “Since we are located in the heart of historic Main Street, members can showcase their talents or business in such venues as pop-up shops or workshops. In addition, we provide prime exposure for our members on a vibrant social media network.”

He says that Watershed works to “tailor support to each member’s project through its stages of development.”

While Watershed is similar to a community center in theory, it goes beyond that as a shared space concept. There are five levels of memberships.

“Our aim is to build a network of many varied interests. Food, performing arts, fine art and photography, and any aspect of the local culture you want to name, can find a home here. Some members use it for co-working space. Our goal is to create an atmosphere of energy and intrigue to serve the public.”

Bieterman was born and raised in Chicago. He attended college at Indiana University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree with two teaching endorsements in science and special education.

He returned to the Chicago area where he spent the next 15 years teaching honors level science in the mornings and a drop-out prevention class in the afternoons in a high school of 2,000 students.

“Teaching to the two extreme levels, I came to realize that everyone has their challenges, regardless of age or abilities,” Bieterman says. He enjoyed the dynamic atmosphere in education and watching students grow and change in the 185-day calendar school year.

During the summer months, Bieterman worked as an instructor for National Outdoor Leadership School. “Through working for NOLS and the outdoor adventures that program provided, my wife Katy and I began to wonder if the mountains were calling our name. They were the temptation.”

He says that 8 years ago, he enrolled in a backcountry medicine class in Leadville. “That was the trigger for us and we spent the next few summers as rustic backcountry campers in the area. In fact, we had heard about this cool, artsy community called Salida, and blazed right through the stoplight from Leadville, without realizing we drove right past Buena Vista’s Main Street.

“A short time later, we realized Buena Vista did have a Main Street and returned to hang out here more, getting to know an evolving community. We felt like this town was one we could grow with and raise a family in. We loved the nature aspect and we fell in love with the community of people. It had everything we needed to keep us satisfied.”

As ideas flow like water and are ever-changing in their dynamics, Bieterman says, “We are working on a new project now. We recently purchased a 189-acre ranch and just completed our first haying season with 3,000 bales of hay.”

He says the ranch is where his teacher training and NOLS instructor days have meshed.

“Our property has outbuildings that can be used for classrooms. The idea of ‘space’ that I love, is capturing both perspectives of the history of agriculture and the evolution of East Main Street. We hope someday to grow the ranch into residency programs and workshops. But that is years down the road.”

Meanwhile, with their first child due in January, there is plenty to keep Bieterman busy. “We love it here, and couldn’t feel more supported.”

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