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Pitkin County archaeological site protected

Bob Ward
Special to The Aspen Times

Apparently occupied for nearly 8,000 years, the so-called Sopris Archaic Archaeological Preserve will be permanently protected under an agreement approved Wednesday by the Pitkin County commissioners.

The 4- to 5-acre midvalley site sits on a 35-acre property owned by Jody Anthes and David Brown. Development now will be prohibited on the parcel under a conservation easement and management plan. In exchange, the owners will receive two transferable development rights that they may sell to another landowner seeking to develop a suitable site within the county.

Commissioners were unanimous in their excitement about the rare site, where “our consultant literally ran out of marker flags in seeking to count the number of artifacts lying on the surface,” according to county Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will.

The site won’t be open to the public for fear of possible vandalism and pilfering of artifacts. But county Open Space and Trails officials, who will administer the site in cooperation with the landowners and the New Mexico-based Archaeological Conservancy, expect that as many as 3 percent of the artifacts will be displayed off-site for educational purposes.

“This site gives us a better handle than anything else I’m aware of just how far back people were working for a living in Pitkin County.”
Dale Will
Pitkin County open space and trails director

“This site gives us a better handle than anything else I’m aware of just how far back people were working for a living in Pitkin County,” Will told commissioners.

Situated at 7,800 feet above sea level, the site may be either the remains of an ancient village or a seasonal campsite used over thousands of years. Archaeologists are eager to explore below the surface of the site to see what more they can learn about the activities there. The state historic preservation officer already has determined that the preserve is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Guided public tours are anticipated for the site as well as access for archaeologists and Native Americans, but the specifics are yet to be determined.

Commissioner Steve Child said a similar site near his home in the Capitol Creek Valley was destroyed when a road was pushed into the area, so “I think it’s awesome this site can be preserved without being disrupted.”

Other commissioners were similarly pleased, but Commissioner George Newman voted against the measure based solely on his contention that two transferable development represented an unnecessary “windfall” for the landowners.

“I still contend one (right) is sufficient,” Newman said.


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