How to help

The Gilbert F. White Memorial Fund is seeking $7,000 in donations to complete work on a planned 18-foot-tall flood-level marker and memorial in Boulder's Central Park. To make a tax-deductible donation, visit

More than three years after the death of Gilbert F. White, known to many as the "father of floodplain management," plans for an 18-foot-tall memorial and flood-level marker along Boulder Creek are almost finished.

Clancy Philipsborn, a retired disaster recovery consultant and former student of White's, said a memorial committee dedicated to his longtime friend has come up with nearly all of the $100,000 needed to construct a stone and glass monument just past the Broadway bridge alongside Boulder Creek.

"We're almost ready to do it," he said. "We're still $7,000 short."

Philipsborn said the group has achieved final city approval and is reaching out to the community to fill the funding gap, so that the marker can begin being installed this winter with completion and a dedication ceremony in July.

White, who died in late 2006 at age 94, was a professor of geography at the University Colorado for most of the 1970s and a Gustavson Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography for nearly three decades. A pioneer in floodplain management and natural disaster research, White founded CU's Natural Hazards Center in 1974.

Colleagues, friends and family members proposed the memorial to commemorate White and his work, as well as provide the city's first permanent flood-level marker. The marker will be made out of stacks of recycled glass and a granite base. It was designed by White's daughter, longtime eco-artist Mary White, and Christian Muller, the designer of Boulder's Sister City Plaza.

The memorial will be lighted internally at night, and have three flood-level markers showing the water levels for a 100-year flood, a 500-year flood and the level of water in a flood comparable to the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 -- which caused $30 million of property damage and killed at least 140 people after a rainstorm dropped eight inches of water into Big Thompson Canyon in one hour.

Philipsborn said he hopes the markers will educate the public, in addition to honoring the work of Gilbert White.

"Coming from the flood education standpoint, I think if someone stands next to it they would think, 'wow, that's a lot of water,'" he said.

He said Boulder is rated as being the city most at risk for flash floods in Colorado.

In his 1942 doctoral dissertation, Gilbert White wrote: "Floods are 'acts of God,' but flood losses are largely acts of man."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or