Voice of the River

Task Force Board Chair, Rick Donaldson, Hopes to Pass on a Healthy Gallatin River to His Granddaughter

Every morning, Rick Donaldson wakes up on the banks of the Gallatin River feeling lucky.

“Our community is so fortunate to have this beautiful, free-flowing river as part of our makeup,” said Rick, chair of the Task Force board. “And I am blessed to have it in my backyard. I feel as if I’m on vacation 365-days-a-year.”

Originally a Michigan native, Rick retired from a 31-year career in the insurance business and moved to Big Sky permanently in 2012.

Luck, or fate, first guided Rick and his youngest son to Big Sky. On their return from a fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake, the pair noticed the Gallatin flowing by a tiny town on a map. Intrigued, they made an unplanned detour that would cause ripple effects for years to come.

Rick and his wife, Michelle, returned to Big Sky a few months later to buy the mountain home destined to become their year-round residence.

“I wouldn’t have thought in my wildest dreams that I would live here in Big Sky, MT,” Rick stated. “It’s one of those life events, or forks in the road I like to call them, that you can’t anticipate. You venture down one path and it takes you to places that you could never really imagine.”

After four years of full-time mountain living, Rick and Michelle returned to the banks of the river that first lead them to Big Sky by building a home in Gallatin Canyon. Rick explained, “There’s something about rivers, the serenity of moving water, that I’ve always been drawn to”.

Rick may feel that living next to the Gallatin is like a perpetual vacation, but he leads the Task Force by example, and contributes as much as a full-time employee to the organization. After serving on the board of directors for less than a year, he assumed the mantle of chair at the insistence of his peers.

“The Gallatin is a major resource that many people take for granted, and I did too, before I moved to Big Sky,” Rick noted. “I’ve seen watersheds in Michigan, that were once pristine and clean, destroyed because nobody was paying attention. I was drawn to serve because I thought the Gallatin was something worth saving.”

Although the Task Force has grown in size and scope since Rick was voted onto the board, he is inspired by the mission every day and envisions a bright future for the organization and the river.

“I get a good feeling each day that I wake up and look out at this clean and healthy river flowing by,” Rick emphasized. “My hope is that our community feels that way too. Working together we can pass this river down to our kids, and grandkids, in the condition it is in today.”


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