Edwin A. “Ed” Zink
Nov. 13, 1947 - Oct. 11, 2019
A man known for his heart of service, Edwin A. “Ed” Zink died Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 at Mercy Regional Medical Center of complications from cardiac arrest. He was a month shy of his 72nd birthday.
A celebration and memorial will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
“Most people know him from a few things, but many don’t know everything he did because there was so much,” said his oldest son, Brian Zink. “He was molded from being born in the Animas Valley at a time when neighboring community problems probably meant more than now. While the valley has been his early neighborhood, it extended to the world beyond. And a big part of his service was being a visionary and a problem solver.”
Many people would be recognized for founding one lasting organization. Ed founded or co-founded four, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Trails 2000, the San Juan Mountains Association and 4Core.
He may be best known for his work in the bicycling community, which not only meant founding and volunteering for the second oldest, continuously running cycling event in the U.S., the IHBC, in 1972, but putting Durango on the map with the national and international biking community. The Iron Horse, which pits bicyclists against the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in its signature event, now brings in more than 4,000 people for the three-day event.
“The Iron Horse came about not because he loved cycling, but because he owned a business downtown (Mountain Bike Specialists) and wondered what Durango could do to have an event in Rio Grande Land to get more people into town at the beginning of the summer,” Brian said.
Once the IHBC was up and running, Ed and the organization became involved in holding more events, including the first World Mountain Bike Championships in 1990. Because the sanctioning sponsor, the Union Cycliste Internationale, had decades of experience overseeing road bicycling events, but virtually none with mountain biking, Ed and his extensive group of sponsors and volunteers found themselves inventing the championships, not just holding them.
The experience led to hosting the National Mountain Bike Championships, World Cup and Collegiate National Championships through the almost 50 years since its inception.
The IHBC has consistently supported cycling organizations in town, including Fort Lewis College Cycling, Durango Wheel Club and Durango Devo.
Because of his experience with the IHBC, Ed served on the board of the National Off Road Bicycle Association for eight years, including as vice president. He was a member of USA Cycling for 28 years and served on its board for eight years. An honorary official at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics for mountain biking Ed was awarded the Korbel Cup by USA Cycling in 1997 for Lifetime Achievement in Cycling. He was also a member of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Mountain Bike Task Force.
Shortly before the World Mountain Bike Championships, Ed was a founder of Trails 2000 Now in its 30th year, Trails 2000 builds and maintains numerous trails in La Plata County and the high country, serves as an advocate for trail users with governmental agencies and educates trail users.
Water is a precious commodity in arid Southwest Colorado, and Ed worked to preserve the quality and efficiently manage it throughout his life. He was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Animas Consolidated Ditch Company for about 25 years and served on the board of the Animas Water Company for about 20 years. He was a task force member of the State of Colorado Department of Resource’s State Wide Water Supply Initiative. With water comes mosquitos, and Ed worked on that problem as a board member and former president of Animas Mosquito Control.
A lover of nature, Ed ran Waterfall Ranch Outfitters, an elk-hunting operation, for decades.
“I never saw him happier than when he was at hunting camp,” Ed’s son Tim Zink said. “He took a month for it every year. We worked awfully hard, but we also saw his lighter side there, telling jokes and singing songs. His favorite time was being out with a storm coming in and watching us running around preparing for it. He taught us we were more capable than we gave ourselves credit for being.”
The outfitting experience gave him a deep knowledge of the mountains above his beloved Waterfall Ranch, a 150-acre horse and hay ranch that celebrated being in the Zink family for 100 years in 2017. Ed worked for years representing stakeholder interests on the public task force to create the Hermosa Creek Wilderness and the Hermosa Creek Special Management areas. President Obama signed them into being in 2014.
That knowledge also made him an invaluable volunteer for La Plata County Search & Rescue, which named him Volunteer of the Year in 2004.
“He never resented it or hesitated when he got a call at 2 a.m.,” Brian said. “It didn’t matter what he was doing, he would ask whether he needed horses, a snowmobile or motorcycles. He would be there with whatever resources he could bring.”
Love of the outdoors also led to service opportunities including as a member of the City of Durango Natural Land Advisory Board; stting on State of Colorado’s Trails and Wildlife and Elk in the Animas Valley task forces; the BLM’s Southwest Resource Advisory; and on the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Supervisor’s Advisory Council with six different supervisors of the San Juan National Forest. Ed was also a founder and two-time president of the San Juan Mountains Association.
Ed wasn’t just interested in cycling and trails, he was committed to improving the quality of life in Durango and La Plata County. He served on the board and is past president of La Plata Electric Association; on Durango School District 9-R’s Bond Issue Steering Committee to build the new high school in its present location; on the failed effort to draft a new La Plata County Charter for home rule; and as an advocate for building the new Mercy Regional Medical Center.
Professionally, he sat on the boards of the Durango Chamber of Commerce; Heritage for Tomorrow, a long-range planning effort for Durango; and as a founding business and board member of the Durango Industrial Foundation. The Association of Independent Bicycle Dealers named Mountain Bike Specialists one of the Top Mountain Bicycle Shops from 2013 to 2018, and it garnered top honors in 2016. The Durango Chamber of Commerce named it Business of the Year in 2007.
In recent years, Ed had been passionate about restoring the wetlands on Waterfall Ranch and creating Animas River Wetlands, a bank to offset wetlands being destroyed in construction.
Ed’s contributions did not go unnoticed. The Durango Chamber of Commerce named him Volunteer of the Year in 1990 and Citizen of the Year in 2004. The La Plata County Fair Board named him Business Supporter of the Year in 1998, and the Colorado Tourism Board gave him the Volunteer Tourism Award in 1990.
A longtime 4-H member and leader, Ed also, with his wife, Patti, hosted foster children through La Plata County Social Services.
It may have been in the informal ways he reached out to friends and neighbors that made the most personal impact. At the time of his final cardiac arrest Sunday morning, Ed was helping a neighbor load hay.
While he had numerous commitments to his community, Ed was a devoted family man.
“He set high standards,” Tim said. “I remember being an 18-year-old and having him tell me to set up a satellite bike shop at Purgatory (Ski Area) for the World Mountain Bike Championships. He didn’t tell me how to do it, he just expected me to do it. And I did.”
For his daughter, Kristi Zink, Ed was a guide and role model.
“He was always the person I turned to,” she said. “One night I woke up and heard someone talking in my house. I grabbed my cellphone and ran outside, calling my dad. Forty-five seconds later, he was there. It turned out to be the clock radio, which was embarrassing, and I was worried about the stress, because he’d already had multiple heart attacks by then, but I knew it would be OK with my dad there.”
Ed was born to John and Ruby Zink on Nov. 13, 1947 in Durango. He graduated from Durango High School in 1965 and Fort Lewis College in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in business. FLC honored him as one of the 50-year graduates at the Rim Trail Reception on Oct. 4.
He married Sandy Hinsley in Durango in 1967. The marriage later ended in divorce.
On Dec. 13, 1994, he married Patti McCarthy at Wit’s End Ranch at Vallecito Lake.
“I am so happy to have found my soulmate,” Patti said, “and so grateful to have had 25 years with him.”
Ed is survived by his wife of 25 years, Patti Zink; son Brian Zink, his wife Shana, and their children Emma, Molly and JT Zink; son Tim Zink, his wife Kimberly, and their children Jonathon Thompson,Kristi Zink, James Zink, Timber Zink, and Lacey and her husband, Cody Johnston, and their children and Ed’s great-grandchildren Syler, Creede and Oakley Johnston; his sister Anne Zink Putnam; brother Nelson Zink and his wife, Chelona; brother Jerry Zink and his wife, Karen; former wife, Sandy Zink; and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family members.
Memorial contributions may be made to Trails 2000 and Mercy Health Foundation.