As part of our 50th Anniversary "Protecting the Future'' capital campaign, ACES will be restoring our historic wilderness retreat center, the Catto Center at Toklat. The site, a three-acre property surrounded by National Forest, is often compared to Thoreau’s Walden Pond, Leopold’s Shack, or Murie’s Ranch. Renovating the Catto Center at Toklat will allow us to continue in our tradition of stewardship of the Castle Creek valley long into the future.
The Catto Center offers a direct connection with nature through education, presentations, demonstrations, hikes, research, social gatherings, picnics, and celebrations.
At the Catto Center, your spirit is nourished. Toklat is a place for face-to-face communication, inspiration, and reflection, where we gain the deep experience of rootedness by spending contemplative time in the wild.
The Catto Center at Toklat circa the 1960s.
History and Stewardship
What is Toklat? Toklat is an Inuit word that means “headwaters of a glacial valley.” The site was named by Stuart Mace, a founding board member of ACES. Stuart and his wife Isabel built Toklat in 1948 as a wilderness lodge and family home. They began a natural foods restaurant, gathering place, and art gallery — all with an emphasis on the natural values and beauty of the place.
Stuart’s teachings and mentoring drew youth, locals, and visitors from all over the world. As we begin this 50th Anniversary renovation, ACES will follow the vision put forth by Stuart Mace — his call for a caring, ethical relationship between people and nature.
Toklat has always been a place to gather. A renovated Toklat will function as a state-of-the-art ecology center, a space for community programs, an artist-in-residence space, and a wilderness retreat center for teachers, youth, community leaders, and policy-makers.
We have planned spaces for our residency program which will feature artists, scientists, and writers. The remodel will remove an old greenhouse and restore the original entrance. The library, which includes traditional and historical ecology books, will also be opened to visitors.
As part of this project, we have developed a sustainability team to help us with our goal of having a net-zero building. This team of energy experts includes CORE, Holy Cross, ACES staff, Michael Fuller Architects, and REG engineers. Our team is looking into a photovoltaic solar system, new micro-hydro, air-to-air ground source heat pump, and other energy systems that will make this a sustainable world-class wilderness retreat.
Renderings for the Catto Center renovations.
Riverdance is a property located near the Catto Center that was recently donated to ACES. We aim to manage the Riverdance landscape as a hub for inspirational and educational programming on the surrounding national forest. At Riverdance, we will host school-based environmental education classes as well as community programs where all ages can experience the outdoors. We will also be able to lead outdoor experiences for small groups holding retreats, workshops, and meetings at the Catto Center.
The Catto Center, a place of inspiration and appreciation for wild places, has a special meaning for everyone who visits. Whether it’s a place to learn, gather, or reconnect with the natural world, the Catto Center plays a crucial role in both the Castle Creek Valley and the larger conservation movement. With the upcoming renovations, we’re ensuring that the Catto Center will serve this purpose for generations to come.