Aspenites make move to place cemetery on the National Register | AspenTimes.com

Aspenites make move to place cemetery on the National Register

Aaron HedgeThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Rustin Gudim/The Aspen TimesRon Sladek, a contractor with Tatanka Historical Associates, conducted a city-commissioned study that resulted in the recommendation for the National Register of the Aspen Grove site. Spoke Thursday at the site.

ASPEN – For a small group of longtime Aspenites, the Aspen Grove Cemetery is one of the last places in the area surrounding town someone can go to escape.And they want to keep it that way.”Everything’s cyclical,” said Jim Markalunas. But “there’s something about the cemetery that’s always tranquil.”The former city councilman and longtime volunteer with the Aspen Grove Cemetery Association, which takes care of the burial ground, spoke at a press conference Thursday announcing a proposed effort to put the site on the National Register of Historic Places. Ron Sladek, a contractor with Tatanka Historical Associates, conducted a city-commissioned study that resulted in the recommendation for the National Register. He said the site provides a record of how dangerous Aspen’s mining days were, as well as a reminder of the way the community evolved.Filled with gravestones from the last decade of the 19th century, many of which say the occupant died between 25 and 35 years of age, the cemetery bears witness to the much shorter life expectancy among the contemporary mining community. People had a much higher chance of becoming ill and much slimmer odds of being cured.Aspen elders paid $700 for the 15-acre plot of land just east of town in 1889, said Sladek, who spent the summers of 2008 and 2009 studying the burial site’s history. Aspen’s Ute Cemetery on Ute Avenue precedes Aspen Grove. But that burial ground fell into disrepair, and the city appointed a task force to ensure proper burials. “No one was looking after” the Ute Cemetery, Sladek said.The cemetery association deserves applause for the work it has done to maintain the Aspen Grove site on a thin budget of about $10,000 every year, said city historic preservation planner Sara Adams.”We’re indebted to the board for their stewardship of this resource. They’ve just done an amazing job,” she said.Sladek agreed, saying the board of directors has taken incredible care of the site.Adams said the resource is a key landmark in finding information about Aspen’s past.”Cemeteries are very profound, and they directly remind us of the people that shaped and contributed to our history,” she said.The site should be designated with the National Register because it would be an honorary recognition that would make it easier for the cemetery association to obtain grants for funding, Sladek’s study says.He assured several association members who attended the press conference that a designation is purely honorary and that the register agency would not have any say in the way the cemetery is maintained. The Ute Cemetery has already been placed on the register.Sladek’s report expresses concern that aging association members herald a need for new volunteers, but members assured him they have interested citizens, including members’ children, lined up to help out.The city commissioned the Aspen Grove study in 2007 after association members expressed concern about its condition. It was jointly funded by the city and a grant from the Colorado Historical Society.Numerous renowned Aspen residents, including Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, feminist poet pioneer Mina Loy and Fritz Benedict, founder of the 10th Mountain Hut and Trail system and chairman of the first Aspen Planning & Zoning Commission.ahedge@aspentimes.com

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