A Burro Named Prunes

By Kenneth Jessen Halfway up Fairplay’s main street stands a curious monument made of dull gray cement adorned with ore samples from many of the mines in the Fairplay-Alma area. Etched in the cement is the following expression of respect to one particular burro called Prunes. It reads, “Prunes—A burro—1867— 1930. Fairplay, Alma—All Mines In …

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Park County Mining Controversy Grinds On

By Daniel Smith

Mining was a big part of Fairplay’s past, but a recent mine expansion off Colo. Hwy. 9 has residents divided over its benefits versus concerns over environmental harm and change to the town’s character.

In addition, the fact that Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” reality TV series has been filming and aiding miners’ financing exacerbates the divisions.

A group of concerned residents, Save Park County (saveparkcountyco.org), alleges that Park County commissioners ignored citizens’ concerns, and questions whether proper procedures were followed in granting an expansion of the current mining operation by High Speed Mining, aided by the television show’s money from sponsors, including Volvo.

The group claims the county ignored the advice of its own planning commission when it approved rezoning an additional 28-acre, heavily wooded area zoned residential and dotted with homes for mining in August.

Save Park County’s co-chair, Fairplay businessman Trevor Messa, says the group filed a so-called 106 action, seeking an injunction to stop the mining and rezoning because of what they feel is an obvious incompatibility issue. The injunction was thrown out, due to procedural errors, Messa says, by a district judge who was formerly the county attorney.

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Off Trail: Finding My Way Home in the Colorado Rockies – EXCERPT

By Jane Parnell

The following is an excerpt from the new book, Off Trail: Finding My Home in the Colorado Rockies by Jane Parnell of Fairplay, Colorado, which will be released in January 2018. Jane is a freelance writer and independent scholar. She has taught journalism at Utah State University and writing at Colorado Mountain College, and her articles, editorials and essays with the byline Jane Koerner have been published in High Country News, Mountain Gazette, Colorado Central Magazine and Outdoor Adventure.

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Whither Pack-Burro Racing?

The sages tell us that everything is always changing, and in fact the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that nothing endures but change itself. Thus is the case of Colorado’s indigenous sport of pack-burro racing.

It began back in 1949 with a race over Mosquito Pass to Fairplay. Nearly seven decades later I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps organizers should have stuck with this original format, or perhaps should consider going back to it. Then again, I may be jaded because I’ve been along for the adventure for more than half of those seven decades.

In the years since this first race, the sport has grown to include separate events in both Leadville and Fairplay, as well as shorter races in other towns including Buena Vista, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Creede and Victor.

The original rules remain largely unchanged. Each burro must carry 33 pounds of gear on a regulation packsaddle (whatever “regulation” means) and the gear must include a pick, pan and shovel. The burro must be led or driven by means of a halter and lead rope no longer than 15 feet. Riding is not allowed.

Over the years some rules have been adjusted slightly to allow donkeys larger than 53 inches at the withers to compete, and also to allow mini-donkeys to be run without the weight requirement. 

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Quillen’s Corner: When Words Are Not Enough, Fair Play Might Save the Day

By Martha Quillen

What happens when catastrophe strikes and emotions are running so high that words are inadequate? People often gather at memorial services or disaster sites to express their sorrow. They light candles, leave tokens, say prayers, sing, cry and comfort one another. And for awhile, they feel as if they are one people, mourning together.
But that seldom lasts. Before long, citizens start clamoring for their government to do something. But they almost never agree on what. Investigate more people? Make arrests? Deploy the army? Detain dissidents and immigrants? Fortify the borders? Outlaw Islam? Exile foreigners? Torture someone?

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Far View Horse Rescue – Caring for Wild and Unwanted Equines

By Laura Van Dusen

From tiny Shetland ponies to a massive Thoroughbred, the horses, mules, and burros living at Far View Horse Rescue thrive when they are given what we all crave – attention, love, and a chance to feel needed.

Far View, five miles south of Fairplay near Kokanee Road at U.S. 285, began in October 2010. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit takes in unwanted and homeless equines: some whose owners can no longer care for them, some within days of slaughter, and some – like the two newest residents – who were captured by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in roundups designed to decrease the number of wild horses and burros on public land.

On April 7, a wild mustang, then tagged #0274, and a wild burro tagged #5207, started a new life when they were delivered to Far View Horse Rescue from the BLM holding pens at Cañon City Correctional Institution (CCCI). They were welcomed by a chorus of neighs and brays from their new equine family.

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The Hilltop Mine – A Relic at 12,900 Feet

Story and photos by Maisie Ramsay

High atop the wind-blasted saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan sits the time capsule that is the Hilltop Mine. This is not the kind filled with trinkets and buried for future discovery – no, the Hilltop Mine is an accidental time capsule, a relic of times long past, a monument to human ambition. Crack open the history books, and get a glimpse of the past.

The Hilltop Mine is now little more than a sun-bleached outbuilding clinging precariously to a 12,900-foot talus slope. The massive infrastructure that transported tons of ore has largely disappeared. What meager evidence remains is slowly dissolving into the earth.

“Some see (these sites) as a monument to history and our founding economy, others see them as an eyesore and something environmentally destructive,” says South Park historian Christie Wright. “I find them quite fascinating … but then you look at Leadville, a Superfund cleanup, and the EPA spill in Ouray. It was the founding economy of our state, both good and bad.”

The Hilltop Mine was not the Mosquito Range’s first high-elevation claim, nor the most well-known. Rather, it was among several high-elevation mines extracting precious metal from the Mosquito Range during silver boom of the 1800s. 

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The South Park City Museum

By Laura Van Dusen

At South Park City Museum in Fairplay, time stands still.

Visitors there can wander through buildings salvaged from the gold and silver mining craze of the 1860s-1890s. They can touch the furnishings, sit in the chairs or even lie in the beds once occupied by frontier Colorado miners and railroad tycoons. One can visit a frontier Masonic lodge, a drugstore full of pre-1900s remedies or an old-time saloon complete with a wall-sized oil painting of the lovely unclad “Rachel. ”

The painting once graced the walls of the historic Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs (since replaced by the Antlers Hilton).

Abandoned ghost buildings are tough to find these days in their original environment, which makes the collection at South Park City all the more fascinating.

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Restaurant Review – Dorothy’s Homemade Tamales

By Central Staff Dorothy’s Homemade Tamales Fairplay, CO 80440 Dorothy (Montoya) Russell has been making tamales all of her life, and that’s saying something. Dorothy is 74 years old and learned to make the traditional Mesoamerican dish from her grandmother while growing up in Denver. In 1994, after preparing and selling the traditional delicacies out …

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Protecting Pennsylvania Mountain

by Jane Koerner Pennsylvania Mountain may be too modest in contour and elevation to compete with the fourteeners of international renown, but the biologists don’t complain. While hundreds of hikers elbow their way up the highest peaks of the Mosquito Range, the scientists inspect their decades-old tundra plots relatively undisturbed. On the ridge below their …

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Former Colorado Ski Areas

Besides the ski areas mentioned in the previous articles, there are quite a few ghost ski areas around Colorado, including the area at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs which operated from 1959-91. Here is a list of others in our region whose glory days are long past.

COMO – Indian Mountain Ski Area. The area served residents of Fairplay and Colorado Springs and operated sporadically from 1972-88. The area was built by a property development company out of Denver which had hoped to develop housing in conjunction with the area. It had a vertical drop of 573 feet and included a ski school, one lift, two surface tows, a cafeteria, a lodge and a rental shop. Located south and east of the town of Como, it ultimately closed due to lack of snow.

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The Raku pottery of Mark Zamantakis

By Ann Marie Swan

A unique chapter of South Park history is that for 27 years, Fairplay was home to a fire-breathing beast that belched smoke for days, luring artists, students and the curious to be near its flames.

Master potter Mark Zamantakis fired up his massive three-chambered, wood-burning Japanese kiln in June at an elevation of 10,880 feet to imprint his pottery with the subtle, ethereal variations of the flame’s life and moods. The pottery recorded the experience of the present moment, giving each piece richness, depth and uniqueness.

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Suspicious fire destroys Park County court clerk’s office

Brief by Central Staff

Fairplay – July 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Park County got a new courthouse in Fairplay a few years ago — and now it needs to rebuild the court clerk’s office, which was nearly destroyed by a fire on May 31.

The fire, which demolished the equipment and computers in the 816-square-foot office and caused smoke damage in the courtroom, caused the postponement of some court proceedings. However, no irreplaceable records were lost.

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