New state grant sought for Cardiff coke ovens preservation

The Cardiff Coke Ovens are located in south Glenwood Springs near the airport.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent file

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society is going after a different grant to help fund restoration efforts at the historic Cardiff coke ovens and make improvements to the site in south Glenwood.

Efforts to obtain a $500,000 “Save America’s Treasures” grant through the National Park Service in 2021 were unsuccessful. 

So, the Historical Society is now going after a $250,000 History Colorado grant, which comes from state gaming tax funds, to try to make the project a reality, Executive Director Bill Kight informed the Garfield County commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners agreed to recommit their $50,000 support for the project from county Conservation Trust funds toward the effort.

The Historical Society has sent a letter of intent to apply for the grant to the state officials who oversee the program.

“They came out and looked at the coke ovens, and we feel like we have a good chance of getting these funds,” Kight said.

The proposed project would involve cleaning up some graffiti and other vandalism that occurred at the site along Airport Road last fall, and to clear some of the oak brush from the area and build a lighted parking area for visitors.

Signage would also be installed to explain the historical significance of the site.

The coke ovens were among the many scattered around the Roaring Fork and Crystal river valleys and used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to cook coal from area mines and turn it into coke. The coked coal was then used in the steel-making process. 

Cardiff at that time was a bustling rail stop, which was built in support of the mining town of Sunlight in the nearby Four Mile Creek valley.

The project has earned matching fund support from the city of Glenwood Springs, also for $50,000, and the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, which granted $140,000 last spring to build a handicapped-accessible path to the coke ovens site.

The Historical Society has also put up $10,000 in matching funds for the project.

Kight said the coke ovens could become a popular mini-attraction for Glenwood Springs once the site is preserved and access improved, especially if the South Bridge route connection to Colorado Highway 82 is built.

“Once that road gets built, it’s either an eyesore or it’s an attraction, and we’d like for it to be an attraction,” he said at the Tuesday commissioners meeting.

Kight said his organization also plans to go before Glenwood Springs City Council in October with a request for more funding in general to go toward historic preservation efforts.