Karin Heine: July 27, 1945 – May 22, 2021

Longtime Wheat Ridge resident Karin Heine
LONGTIME WHEAT RIDGE RESIDENT KARIN HEINE turned a handful of local vacant lots into a wildlife sanctuary two decades ago; it will remain a refuge and undeveloped due to her work. PHOTO COURTESY PEGGY HEINE

Karin Heine, creator of a unique suburban private wildlife refuge, died peacefully at her home in Wheat Ridge, according to relatives. She was 75. A life-long champion of nature, in 1997 she purchased three vacant lots in northwest Wheat Ridge and created the Heine Wildlife Sanctuary, a private refuge now home to birds, butterflies, foxes, rabbits and other wildlife.

According to an April 23, 2003, Rocky Mountain News story, Karin planted more than 300 flowers, shrubs and trees, and added rock piles for wildlife shelter. In 2003 she successfully petitioned to rezone the properties under the city’s then-new Conservation Zone District, and shortly after entered into a conservation agreement with Colorado Open Lands, a nonprofit land trust. The original zoning allowed for 16 homes. County records show that the conserved lands now total more than 11 acres. In 2004 Westword named it Best Private Wildlife Sanctuary.

“She established a nature preserve protected by a conservation easement where birds and animals can find sanctuary,” said Larry Welshon, founder of nearby Alpine Valley School, whose students have observed and enjoyed nature at the sanctuary over the years. “That’s really what she wanted.”

Karin grew up in Roslyn, N.Y. “She attended the Waldorf school [Class of 1964, Garden City, N.Y.], which nurtured her artistic talents, love of nature and wildlife,” said sister Peggy Heine. “As a very young child, I remember her finding injured birds and bringing them home to nurture them back to health. She knew every neighborhood pet and would visit and play with them.”

Karin moved to Denver at the age of 21, then to Wheat Ridge in the 1970s. She is survived by sisters Doris Grunwald (Hans Grunwald) and Peggy Heine (Jared Klein). She was the adored aunt of six. Donations in her memory can be made to the National Wildlife Federation or the Denver Audubon Society. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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