County mounts push to preserve its historic assets |

County mounts push to preserve its historic assets

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County expects to have a historic preservation program in operation later this year.

The county has a variety of historic assets, ranging from archaeological sites to buildings, within its borders. Compiling an inventory of historic sites has been under way since last spring, and the list now contains 167 properties.

The ultimate goal of the program, said architect Suzanna Reid, who is heading up the project, is making certain the assets that define Pitkin County’s history are preserved.

“If it’s an historic house, we’d like to see it be lived in and cared for,” Reid said. An archaeological site ought to be protected, she said, but also should be used as an educational asset, with interpretive materials and displays. “We’d like people to know what it’s all about,” she said.

Historic sites in the county include Redstone’s coking ovens, the ghost towns of Ruby, Independence and Ashcroft, Redstone’s castle and cemetery, the lime kilns in the Fryingpan Valley, as well as various ranching and mining relics.

In addition to completing the inventory of sites, county officials must spend some time evaluating how to deal with development applications which might affect historic assets. Existing county code is vague as to what is to be protected and how, Reid said.

Currently, the county appoints the members of a Redstone Historic Preservation Committee to review development applications in and near the Redstone Historic District. Reid said the county may decide to create a similar commission to review historic impacts countywide.

County Commissioner Dorothea Farris said an effective committee would have a knowledgeable member specializing in each of the county’s regions: the Fryingpan Valley, the Crystal Valley, the Independence Pass area, and so on.

She said ideally, an historic preservation program would have a funding source such as a real estate transfer tax, rather than having to beg for grants. That way, when an issue arises like the stabilization and restoration of the Emma store, funds would be in place.

In the meantime, Farris said, historic assets are being lost. The hydroelectric plant built by Redstone coal magnate John Osgood, located on private land, was recently destroyed in spring flooding, she noted.

However the county’s historic preservation apparatus works, it must have some teeth, Reid added. A county historic preservation commission will probably have the power to withhold a building permit from any project that doesn’t meet the code, or doesn’t have the commission’s approval.

“If you’re going to have an effective board,” Reid said, “it has to be one with some powers.

Redstone’s Historic Preservation Committee may be folded into a countywide program, said Farris. Farris said she hopes to have a proposal for a program from Reid within six months.

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