It’s a ghost town, but upkeep costs are real |

It’s a ghost town, but upkeep costs are real

Jeremy Heiman

It now costs money to step back in time.

The Aspen Historical Society has initiated an admission fee at the historic ghost town of Ashcroft south of Aspen. Adults must pay $3 and children, age 10 and under, are admitted free. The proceeds go to the Historical Society, and will be used exclusively for restoration and maintenance of the town.

Lisa Hancock, curator for the Aspen Historical Society, said the fee has been charged since Saturday, and will be collected through the end of the summer by college-age summer interns working at the ghost town. Admission fees will be collected on an honor basis after that.

“It’s all for Ashcroft,” Hancock said. She said only a few people have grumbled at paying the fee. “Most people understand that the ghost town will fall down if we don’t preserve it.”

The boardwalks installed through the town need to be kept in safe condition, too, Hancock said. Proceeds will also be used to provide new interpretive signs and to update the brochures distributed at Ashcroft.

Free tours of the ghost town are offered this summer, Hancock said, starting each hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. New interpretive signs have been put in place for those who miss the tours or want to view the town on their own terms.

Tours at unscheduled times are also available for $5 per person with a minimum of $25. That price includes the price of admission. Special tours must be scheduled with the Aspen Historical Society in advance.

The admission fee will be charged under a special permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the site. The Historical Society has entered into a partnership with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which will provide natural history information at the site.

The town of Ashcroft was established in 1880 in the upper Castle Creek Valley by prospectors from Leadville. A silver mining town and transportation hub with a population of 2,000, the camp had two newspapers, a school, sawmills, a smelter and 20 saloons.

But after producing 14,000 ounces of silver in a short time, the mines failed, and the residents drifted away, many taking up residence in Aspen.

About 20 buildings remain in present-day Ashcroft, nine in the core area with others scattered around the valley.

The Aspen Historical Society started its restoration work in Ashcroft in 1974, continuing the work longtime Castle Creek Valley resident Stuart Mace had started. At the request of the Historical Society, under the direction of Ramona Markalunas, Ashcroft was placed on the National Register of Historical Places.

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