B1 Energy: a sustainable recycling plan

DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT where your recycling goes after you place it in the bin?  Do you ever contemplate the ever-increasing mounds of trash in the landfills and wonder how it is affecting climate change? Well, John Armstrong, of Salida, thinks about these things all the time. He has been re-imagining a state-of-the-art recycling …

Read more

The 1874 Lake County War

PERCHED UP ON A HILLSIDE, barely visible from Highway 285, rests the historic Centerville Cemetery off a dead-end county road. Known as Chaffee County’s oldest burial ground, it holds 350 overlooking the beautiful Sawatch Range’s southern tip. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that peaceful site contains the remains of many who participated in the deadly …

Read more

Little Pond Big Issues

A FEW YEARS BACK we visited relatives on their small farm in Vermont. I had never been that far northeast. It was lush and green with healthy woodlands bordering the roads. One night we gathered around a large fire. As folks began heading to bed, I looked back at the fire and asked our cousin, …

Read more

The Last Word: Time for a New Direction in Wildfire Mitigation?

MY CAREER HAS BEEN FOR THE TREES. I earned a university degree in forestry and worked for five years as a wildland firefighter. My education and my work as a firefighter instilled in me “The Prescription” for both how to manage forests and how to stop wildfires.  Nineteen years ago, with entrepreneurial enthusiasm and a …

Read more

Housing Series: Fading West

THE STRESSES OF TODAY’S HOUSING MARKET are present nationwide, though their seeming stranglehold has become even more apparent in the Upper Ark Valley through the obvious labor crisis numerous industries are experiencing. While many still contemplate how to handle real estate’s skyrocketing prices concurrent with wage battles and rising inflation, Fading West Development is paving …

Read more

The Art and Business of Recycling

I’M A PRETTY GOOD RECYCLER. I don’t mind separating the materials and making periodic treks to the public recycle center, where I put recyclables in separate containers for collection. It makes me feel good. And it’s free. Or was free. Effective April 2021, Chaffee County no longer has public drop-off sites for recycling. Our only …

Read more

Pickleball Passion

IT WAS A BLUEBIRD-SKY SUNDAY MORNING in Buena Vista as I squinted against the intense sun, following the outstretched arm of Stephanie McDonald, the USA Pickleball district ambassador for southern Colorado. Her gesture encompassed the center of the newly poured pickleball courts, as she described where eventually there will be bleachers for fans to observe …

Read more

All You Need is … Inclusion

WALKING UP TO THE FRONT DOOR of the Starpoint-staffed home in Salida, I immediately reflect on my own life with the disabled population. My dad has managed a group home for disabled adults since I was 7 years old. Living in Salida I’ve savored my small, always positive, interactions with Starpoint consumers. So, I jumped …

Read more

The Problem with Nestlé

By Jennifer Swacina When I first heard about Nestlé mining water— right here in Chaffee County—I wished I had been here in 2009 to have joined those who rallied against it. Be careful what you wish for! In late 2019, I happened to read an article covering a routine county commissioner’s meeting with discussion that …

Read more

Cottonwood Pass: Yesterday and Today

By Duane Vandenbusche Dave Wood was tired. In 1877, the great freighter of Western Colorado and his 50-man crew had built the first rough road into Taylor Park and Gunnison County, one year after Colorado became a state. Trails existed from the Arkansas River on the Eastern Slope to Taylor Park on the Western Slope, but this was the first …

Read more

Centerville Ranch

By Daniel Smith Large-scale growth has arrived in Chaffee County; from Poncha Springs to Buena Vista to Salida; construction, houses and development all reflect that growth. The growth trend recently was focused on a proposed large development north of Salida at the historic Centerville ranch; a sprawling 950-acre parcel just off U.S. Hwy. 285, across …

Read more

Places: The Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center

Chaffee County’s past comes alive at a unique historic spot between Salida and Poncha Springs, just off U.S. Hwy. 50. The Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center is a place where it’s easy to imagine what life was like in the early settlement days in the Upper Arkansas Valley. The Hutchinson family settled in the region …

Read more

More About the 1962 National Christmas Tree from the San Juan National Forest

By Mike Rosso Last month’s issue contained an article about the National Christmas Tree, which was felled near Silver Creek in Chaffee County in 1962, and shipped to Washington D.C. to be displayed before thousands at a lighting ceremony outside the White House. Since publishing that article, more was learned about the tree and the …

Read more

Chaffee County Quilts of Valor

Whether a patchwork of heirloom fabrics or a collage of scrap pieces stitched together in an act of caring, a quilt carries associations and speaks of love and comfort. For members of Chaffee County Quilts of Valor (CCQofV), a quilt is a handmade offering of gratitude presented to veterans in acknowledgement of their service. “We …

Read more

Places: Browns Canyon National Monument

By Linda Gibas Browns Canyon National Monument is a unique and rugged area which is also Colorado’s newest monument. Its journey to become a monument began when it was determined by Congress that certain Bureau of Land Managment (BLM) lands had wilderness characteristics. After studying and performing inventories, the BLM concluded in 1980 that 6,614 …

Read more

From the Editor: The High Rockies

By Mike Rosso

I recently returned home from celebrating my Mom’s 91st birthday (Dad is 96). Most of my family, me being the exception, have settled in Sonoma County, California. It’s a truly stunning countryside there. Rolling hills of grass and stately oaks. Miles and miles of vineyards stretching above and beyond the horizon.

Read more

How to Age Well in Central Colorado

By Jan Wondra

Residents of Central Colorado who love where they live likely share a common goal; to grow old in a place they love. Central to that goal are support services to retain quality of life. Agencies such as Upper Arkansas Area Agency on Aging (UAAAA), senior programs created by Chaffee County Public Health and other non-profit organizations such as A Little Help and Sage Generation, are in place to support efforts to remain active and living where we want, as long as possible.

The influx of active seniors into the central Rocky Mountain counties, called a “silver tsunami,” has become a major economic driver. After a 2016 Community Health Assessment, Chaffee County created a five year (2017-2021) health plan with an entire segment focused on seniors.

“One in five Chaffee County residents is 65 or older, and by 2020 it will be one in four residents,” said Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom. “We’re trying to position the county – the lead county in a four-county health coalition – for the future. We have Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center here, but we have an expanding need for senior support.”

In 2017, Chaffee County Public Health created Sassy Seniors, a free service led by public health nurse Sandra Morgan. Appointments can be made by calling 719-530-2563.

“It’s a free assessment program; we assess their home’s safety features, assess their health, offer immunizations, recommend home helpers for things they can no longer do, give them a tool kit for thriving at home,” said Carlstrom.

Carlstrom says plugging seniors into a senior network is important. 

Read more

A House, Some Hounds, and Property Rights

By Mike Rosso

By Jan Wondra

The fallout from Chaffee County inserting itself into a neighbor conflict isn’t just a property owner who found herself homeless for Christmas, although that is exactly what happened. At its worst, this may be an example of a government over-reaching its authority. At the least, it is a county Grinch, which first stole Christmas, and continues its attempt to remove most of Alison Brown’s American foxhounds from her 80-acre rural property located at 11600 Antelope Road.

Read more

A Roof Overhead: Workforce Housing Falls Short of Central Colorado’s Growing Need

By Jan Wondra

Talk with Central Colorado towns, cities or counties these days and you hear the same concern: housing stock – the lynch pin of a community’s social structure – is not keeping up with demand. While the situation is true across the entire state, rural areas are less able to deal with the effects of state inbound migration, rising housing costs and non-existent supply.

Read more

The Eurasian Thistlehead Weevil

By Maisie Ramsay Consider the goldfinch. Spinus tristis flits about the countryside, its vibrant plumage imbued with arnica-blossom yellow. This wind-borne drop of gold can be found here in Chaffee County, fluttering from rural fence posts with the whimsy of a mountain breeze. The finch makes lavish use of thistle, a plant whose prickly reputation …

Read more

The Gas Creek Wars

By Virginia McConnell Simmons

With Mount Princeton and Mount Antero providing a serene backdrop, Gas Creek and Chalk Creek thread a valley lying north of Centerville, where U.S. Hwy. 285 drops down, passing under a water diversion pipe. This valley extends north to Cache Creek, which flows beneath the highway south of Nathrop. Here began local discord that, encompassing the nearby area, became known as the Lake County War.

When the following events took place, Gas Creek was part of Lake County, extending from the Continental Divide on the north and west, the Mosquito Range on the east, and Poncha Pass on the south. Leadville’s silver mines were not yet booming. But soon after the Pikes Peak gold rush and the Civil War, ranchers and farmers had started to take up land at Gas Creek, and irrigation ditches were being dug, some with affirmed legal rights and some without. Although a few of these early settlers had arrived as prospectors, they now were settling down with plows and cattle, returning to activities they had known “back home” in the Midwest and East.

It was a small world of early comers which the Gibbs family and others joined before long. Elijah Gibbs’ cabin was at Gas Creek, and his father had a place nearby. Elijah’s wife was the daughter of a Methodist preacher called Gilliland down at Brown’s Creek, a short distance south of Centerville, and another of Gilliland’s daughters was married to Justice of the Peace A.B. Cowan. Gilliland was an acquaintance of the well-known Methodist circuit rider, Rev. John L. Dyer, whose son Dyer taught school at Brown’s Creek. After a while, though, Elijah had moved, but only as far north as Granite, where he served as Probate Judge while also prospecting at Iowa Gulch near today’s Leadville. 

Read more

Private Property: Mt. Shavano Summit Riddled with Mining Claims

By Maisie Ramsay

The entire summit of Mount Shavano, in the Sawatch Range, is located on private property, but not of the “trespassers will be shot” variety.

There are no fences. There are no signs. Save for a cairn and a couple of weather-beaten survey posts, there’s nothing to indicate that the entire summit block is composed of private mining claims – except, perhaps, the poor condition of the trail.

Private, high-elevation mining claims have precluded the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from restoring the path to Shavano’s summit, leaving the route to degrade steadily with each passing year.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) has come up with a novel solution to this problem: buy the mining claims and give them to the Forest Service.

“Shavano was a high priority for the agency, but was stuck behind the private land inholdings,” said Lloyd Athearn, executive director for the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. “I put together a proposal on Shavano to investigate who owns the lands and acquire them, whatever was necessary to build the trail.”

Read more

A Brief History of Forest Fires in Central Colorado

A U.S.F.S. ranger inspects the Rainbow Trail after the Duckett Fire near Hillside in June 2011. Courtesy of www.inciweb.nwcg.gov
A U.S.F.S. ranger inspects the Rainbow Trail after the Duckett Fire near Hillside in June 2011. Courtesy of www.inciweb.nwcg.gov

By Ron Sering

The journal Science reports that fossil records in northern New Mexico show evidence of wildfires as far back as 200 million years. It’s part of the deal with living in the mountains, and an important part of its history.

Read more

You say Chaffee, I say Chaffee

Jerome Bunty Chaffee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.
Jerome Bunty Chaffee. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.

By Nancy Walters

In September 2006, my husband Ken and I signed papers to purchase a lot in the Buffalo Hills subdivision of Chaffee County, Colorado. At the time, I was chafing at the local pronunciation of the county name, with a long ?. My family always pronounced the surname of my maternal grandfather, Arthur Chaffee, with a short vowel æ. That’s the phonics rule, right? A vowel before two consonants is pronounced as a soft vowel. I asked Gordon Sloat, our realtor, about this, and he assured me that locals always pronounce “Chaffee” with a long ?. Over time I adapted to local custom, not wanting to be heard as an outsider.

Read more

Bad Times for the Boreal Toad

By Daniel Smith

It’s the amphibian of your youth.

Brown, squat, lumpy with “warts” – the kind your mother warned you about. The Boreal Toad (Anaxyrus Boreas) is the quintessential toad in appearance.

The little four-inch toad is the focus of an important preservation campaign in Chaffee County, which has one of the few isolated areas in the world where it may have a chance to hold its own. But now the extinction threat is real, even here.

The chytrid fungus, a disease thought to have originated in Africa, is an extinction threat. Globally, amphibian numbers have declined alarmingly, accelerating since the end of the last century.

The Boreal Toad was very common in high, wet areas of the Colorado mountains, but by 1989, surveys found an 83 percent population loss from breeding areas.

Beginning in 1994, population surveys were done in some of the habitat where they were quickly disappearing, and a multi-agency rescue effort started not long after. The Boreal Toad is now listed as endangered in Colorado and New Mexico and as a protected species in Wyoming. A decision on its listing as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pending in 2017.

Read more

The Maysville Schoolhouse

By Ericka Kastner

Seven miles west of Poncha Springs, nestled in a valley along the banks of the South Arkansas River, sits one of the cutest little schoolhouses you’ll ever see. With its brightly painted cherry red exterior, the Maysville School is impossible to miss and definitely worth a stop on the way up into the high country for those traveling west on U.S. Hwy. 50, or for Gunnison folks heading east toward the Upper Arkansas Valley.

Read more

Beef – It’s What Eats the Rancher’s Lunch

by John Mattingly After my last month’s column that took a somewhat sanguine look at the cow-calf end of the beef business, suggesting that cow-calf ranchers are basically keeping large pets, I trust readers will have sold the 100 virtual cows I gifted them for exactly what they paid for them. Not because they didn’t …

Read more

Driving Nature Into the Ground? Motorized Recreation on Public Lands

by Bill Hatcher “In Colorado, the outdoors is what’s for dinner!” That’s Sherry Ellms, Professor of Environmental Studies at Naropa University in Boulder. I had asked her what motorized recreation says about American Culture. And while playful, her dining metaphor belies our tendency to “consume” nature. In 1991, 11,700 OHVs (off-highway vehicles, such as dirt …

Read more

The CCFA-An Eye to the Future

At a time when multinational corporations fund fake grassroots organizations to promote dubious causes, Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance (CCFA) offers a refreshing example of a true grassroots effort to improve the local food economy in central Colorado. David Ward, president and founding board member of CCFA, said he and wife Suzanne, also a founding board …

Read more

The Buena Vista Rodeo Grounds

By Fay Golson

Rodeos are a window into the past and an indelible part of our American culture. Evidance of this can still be found at the Buena Vista Rodeo Grounds, located on 27.2 acres, 1.8 miles southwest of town.
As is well known, the rodeo was not developed as a sporting event, but arose from the performance of utilitarian tasks. These tasks were an integral part of cattle-ranching in areas of Spanish influence in the west, where skills learned from the vaqueros set the stage for an enduring sport.

Read more

The St. Julien Livery and Feed Stable

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

The St. Julien Livery in downtown Buena Vista is the eighth property featured from the Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey. The 0.39-acre property is located at the southwest corner of Chestnut Street and Railroad Avenue. The building not only served as a livery but also, a few years after opening, as an ice and coal store. During their time, livery stables were vital to towns throughout America.

Read more

Granite Stage Stop and Livery Stable

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

This Granite stage stop and Livery Stable is the fifth property featured from the Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey completed this summer. Granite was spawned by the stampede of prospectors struck by gold fever. The initial gold discovery in 1860 by G.A. Kelley along the Arkansas River – about four miles south of the present day town of Granite – was on a gravel bar later to take the name Kelley’s Bar. Just to the north, Cache Creek became an even more profitable site. Virginia McConnell Simmons in The Upper Arkansas, A Mountain River Valley states it precisely: “Granite’s role in the life of this area went back to 1860, when the entire section along the Arkansas from Kelley’s Bar on the south to Cache Creek on the north was lined with prospectors’ tents. But Granite was simply a suburb of the placer camps, particularly of Cache Creek.”

Read more

LIGHTS OUT? The Clock is Ticking for Small Rural Movie Theaters

By Mike Rosso

Movie theaters have been around in the U.S. since the late 1800s with the invention of the Vitascope projector by Thomas Edison. During the Great Depression, millions of Americans took refuge from economic woes in local theaters. Movie houses were big business for much of the 20th century.

Then came television, allowing families to be visually entertained in their own homes; this put a small dent in theater attendance, but the cinemas were still bringing in big bucks. The video home system (VHS) presented the next challenge to the movie houses, but a delay in the release of the VHS tapes still allowed the theaters to sustain attendance numbers.

Next was the DVD and shorter release dates for new films. The advent of DVD dispensers, such as Redbox, and high-speed internet, which led to Netflix, along with the introduction of large, high-resolution flat-screen televisions made it even easier for folks to enjoy a cinematic experience in their own homes. All of these technologies took their toll on movie houses, especially in small rural areas, where profits are based on the number of seats sold.

Read more

The Love Ranch, Part 2

Chaffee County Historic Resources Survey Series

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

To conclude the account of the Love Ranch, the third property in the Chaffee County Historic Resource Survey and featured in last month’s Colorado Central, Jo Love’s importance to the ranch will be disclosed. Although their marriage was brief, her dedication to her husband, Mark Love, was a significant influence on her life.

Being registered as a Colorado State Guide, Mark guided hunters and fishermen through the mountains. Theodore Roosevelt and Zane Grey were reportedly just a few of his notable clients. In a photograph supplied by Antony Mayo, Mark is shown seated with Buffalo Bill Cody and an unidentified man. The 1910 census reveals Mark’s place of residency as Glenwood Springs and his occupation as a tourist guide. A year after their marriage the Loves acquired the ranch and converted it into a cabin camp for summer vacationers. The camp consisted of three guest cabins and the main house.

Read more

Surveying Chaffee County’s Historic Resources

By Fay Golson for The Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board

Driving along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway (Salida to Poncha Springs and Buena Vista to Granite), buildings and structures come into view that have many stories to tell. Some of these buildings and structures are not visible from the Byway but instead are nestled within the towns.

In 2010, on behalf of the Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board (CCHAAB), the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) received a Colorado State Historic Fund Grant (SHF) to have 65 properties in Chaffee County included in a Historic Resources Survey. GARNA selected Tom and Laurie Simmons of Front Range Research Associates (FRRA) to perform this work. After two years of work by volunteers, Colorado Mountain College students, the CCHAAB and the FRRA, the project is now complete. Documents will soon be available to the public at the Salida Regional Library and the Buena Vista Public Library.

Read more

TAPS – Beer Brewing throughout the Region

Colorado has a long history of commercial beer breweries. The Coors Brewing Company, first established in 1873 by German immigrants Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler in Golden, is still in operation and is the largest single beer-brewing facility in the world. Other large Colorado breweries, such as the Walter’s Brewing Company and the P.H. Zang Brewing Company, have long since disappeared, leaving only historic mementos to indicate their existence. Back in the boom days of mining and railroads, it wasn’t unusual for even the smallest town to have at least one commercial brewery. At one time, Leadville boasted at least eleven breweries. Villa Grove, Bonanza, Silver Cliff, Westcliffe, Rosita, even Granite, all had small breweries back in the day, but the mining busts, plus the onset of statewide prohibition in 1915, spelled doom for these small brewing operations.

Read more

Colorado’s Transportation Pioneer, Thomas Jefferson Ehrhart

By Don Love

The first miners and ranchers in Colorado’s mountain country depended on the rough roads that connected them to each other and to the world beyond. Popular interpretations of western history hold that railroads, which came to the mountain country in the 1880s, gave the region an economic boost that wagon roads had failed to completely exploit.

But the mountain West never could be confined to the routes and schedules that made the rails such a progressive force in much of Gilded Age America. The mountain west traveled a more independent road, and even before the advent of the automobile, a Chaffee County rancher and politician paved the way to a modern highway system. This month, we recognize the accomplishments of Thomas Jefferson Ehrhart, who, 100 years ago, helped establish the agency we know today as the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Read more

Dry Times in the High Desert: The Hill Ranch

By Ron Sering

Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

Read more