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Leave the Ute Cemetery alone

The city has just started a major tourist-like project at the Ute Cemetery – gravel trails and parking, stone gates, memorials, every inappropriate thing you can imagine. No popcorn stands, but I am sure they will follow.

I feel this is almost worse than what the Forest Service did at the Maroon Bells. The good news is that this project can be stopped now in its early stage: at 11 a.m. on the 25th there will be a work session on the site.

If you love the Ute Cemetery, as we do, please show up and get a little crazy.

In the ’90s, while I was a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, we did an extensive study of the Ute Cemetery. The study took six months and covered its history, past use and current use, and included many interviews with past and present users.

Our conclusions were very interesting. We concluded that the cemetery had gone from its early burial site usage to something akin to a local Stonehenge – a mystical site, evolving from the ghosts of the past to a contemporary place where one could find solitude and meditate in a non-ecclesiastical atmosphere.

All of this change had, of course, been dictated by the evolving patterns of the Aspen community. This community’s respect of place and change of use dictated our decision.

We decided that this magic place should be preserved as closely to its present state as possible. Existing trails, as marginal as they were, should be left alone and no new ones built. They had been redefined over the last 100 years by natural erosion (run-off), growth areas and change in use.

The existing head stones should very carefully not be restored, but rediscovered at their obvious sites. The entire area should be contained with a very low historical fence, and there should be no overt effort to exploit this area for anything other than what it had historically evolved into – a place that would be sought out by those willing, or able to, treat it with respect as a special mystical site. No signs, paths, etc.

We communicated with the National Historic Trust offices in Washington, D.C., and they agreed that there was no need to comply with “cemetery guidelines,” but respect the local community’s redefining of this space.

Leslie Holst

Aspen


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