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Independence losing its summer ghost

Jeremy Heiman

Interns will no longer spend summers at the ghost town of Independence because the Aspen Historical Society fears for their safety.

Historical society staff and board members decided to discontinue the program because the safety of its interns, dubbed “ghosts,” is more important than having someone there overnight, said Lisa Hancock, curator of collections for the society.

“We just thought it was a liability for us,” she said.

Last year, a homeless man ripped boards off one of the historic buildings in an attempt to gain entry. Though no one was approached or harassed, the incident left the historical society fearful of what could happen to an intern living all alone in the secluded town near Independence Pass, Hancock said.

Unlike Ashcroft, where other people are around at all times, Independence is a lonely place, and cellular telephone service is not available, Hancock said. The Ashcroft ghost town, south of Aspen in the Castle Creek Valley, will again be staffed with a live-in summer intern.

Without an intern at Independence, the historical society will have to keep tabs on the town another way.

“We’ll have to go check the site frequently to make sure it’s not getting carried away,” Hancock said. The interns used to live in a historic cabin at the ghost town. The historical society also discontinued the program because it was unable restore the cabin without approval from the U.S. Forest Service, owner of the site. Forest Service red tape has delayed the restoration indefinitely.

Visitors to the town will soon be greeted by a new informational sign that will be installed at the ghost town’s entrance, said Hancock. The historical society also plans to have an intern at the site during the day.

The Aspen Historical Society recruits from all over the country for its intern program, and this year it will have six or seven participants. They will conduct walking tours, teach children’s programs and catalog and inventory society collections.

There also will be a marketing and public relations intern, as well as the full-time intern at Ashcroft.


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