Pitkin County archaeological site protected
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,” 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.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center has contributed to the state’s avalanche center for several years to help with forecasting for backcountry visitors. It cannot hold in-person fundraisers this year so its asking supporters to sign up for an annual membership.