Hunter Creek foundation to preserve and restore valley’s history, structures |

Hunter Creek foundation to preserve and restore valley’s history, structures

A group of locals led by a former Pitkin County commissioner have formed a nonprofit organization to save historic cabins and other structures in the Hunter Creek Valley.

Members of the Hunter Creek Historical Foundation want to raise $250,000 to achieve their goals, and they have hired another nonprofit to oversee the preservation, which is expected to get to tackle the first building this fall, former Commissioner George Newman said Tuesday.

“Our mission is to preserve and stabilize the historical resources in the Hunter Creek Valley for the public’s awareness and stewardship of the historic valley,” Newman told the current members of the county commission Tuesday during their regular weekly work session.

Newman asked commissioners to waive about $8,000 in permit fees and endorse the project, which already has the support of the county’s Open Space and Trails Program.

“I’m impressed with this effort, George,” Commissioner Steve Child said. “I’ll be really glad to have Pitkin County endorse this project.”

Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper and Commissioners Francie Jacober and Kelly McNicholas Kury also supported the fee waiver and endorsement.

Newman said the Hunter Creek foundation was formed about a year ago by himself, Howie Mallory, Graeme Means, Tim McFlynn and Dale Will. Mallory and Means are longtime members of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board, while Will is acquisition director for the Open Space Program and McFlynn is a local mediator and former attorney.

The Hunter Creek Valley homestead history was “instrumental in the early development of Aspen” and is as important to that development as the historic town sites of Independence and Ashcroft, Newman said.

William C. Koch first homesteaded Hunter Creek in 1881 or 1882 and called it the Adelaide Ranch. He built a dairy and supplied both food — sheep grazed in the valley — and lumber to residents. Hunter Creek also was the site of probably the first hydroelectric project west of the Mississippi River at the time, Newman said.

“The importance of this homestead, which has stood for 150 years, cannot be overstated,” he said. “And our goal is to ensure that the remaining buildings stand for another 150 years.”

The buildings to be preserved are the two-story “roadhouse” cabin prominent in the Hunter Creek Valley, another nearby building that has completely fallen down and a third that is barely standing, Newman said. Another cabin about a half-mile up the valley from those buildings — known as the “damkeeper’s cabin” and located where the hydroelectric project used to be — will also be included in the restoration efforts.

The Hunter Creek foundation has hired HistoriCorps, which is a national nonprofit with a history of working with the U.S. Forest Service on similar projects, to oversee the preservation, Newman said. HistoriCorps volunteers come from across the country and camp while undertaking the restoration, which is done using hand tools and “old methods” for minimal impact, he said.

Officials from HistoriCorps visited the site this summer and came back with a phased proposal for the buildings. The first to be restored will an old “shop” next to the two-story cabin, which will occur in the fall, Newman said.

Members of the Hunter Creek Historical Foundation are in the process of building a website for the project, which they plan to use to raise $250,000 to fund it, he said.