The story behind Snowmass’ Ziegler Reservoir

Madeleine OsbergerSnowmass Village correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart Aspen Times Weekly

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – “If we hadn’t sold it, they wouldn’t have found those wonderful bones.”That’s Peter Ziegler, one of the six children who bear the now famous name that will forever be associated with the Snowmass Village Ice Age finds.The sale of the family’s 12-acre lake to Snowmass Water and Sanitation District in April 2007 came following six years of negotiations and compromises. It wasn’t about the money – the sale price of $3.5 million was certainly far less than could have been commanded on the open market – and all about maintaining stream flow levels and halting a potentially more detrimental project (the district had the right to build the larger, more impactful Sam’s Knob reservoir).”When the deal got done, all parties looked at this as a win-win situation,” Ziegler said.The action also fulfilled the family goal that’s remained the same for the past 52 years. “We have preserved the natural beauty of that property,” said Ziegler, whose 83-year-old father, R. Douglas Ziegler, first came to Aspen/Snowmass after being thwarted by a sold-out Broadmoor Hotel.In 1958, on a trip out West, Peter Ziegler’s parents had “heard of a place called Aspen and drove over the dirt road Independence Pass to get here.”Nearly a decade before the first chairlift ran up the Snowmass slopes, the Wisconsin family spotted the expansive property owned by sheepherder Art Roberts and before the year was out made a deal for purchase.Ziegler declined to say how much they originally paid for the property in the shadow of Mt. Daly, other than to comment, “It wasn’t very much.”Ten years later, the Zieglers purchased Ed Pierce’s land, which contained a small lodge and now were in possession of 325 acres teetering between what would become Snowmass Village and the Snowmass Creek Valley.”Dad originally saw this pretty meadow and saw a vision for a beautiful lake. He built a small dam to create Ziegler Lake,” Peter Ziegler said. He went on to clarify that it was actually Johnny Hyrup who “went up with his bulldozer and created that dam.”As the Ziegler children grew older, they were able to enjoy the getaway spot and never lost their appreciation for the property. The family’s patriarch passed along the title of the land to the six children in 1976 along with instilling the value of keeping it free from development.The 2007 sale to Water & San included the reservoir only and an easement to cross the property, but no land, according to Kit Hamby, Water and Sanitation, Instead, the family put 125 acres of the property into a conservation easement with Aspen Valley Land Trust.The reservoir was needed, the district believed, to handle future water needs anticipated with the Base Village development, among others. While Hyrup’s original dam has been removed, the infrastructure is in place to replace it with a new dam, when the reservoir is finally complete.In the family’s eyes, it’s not a matter of “if” the reservoir is complete (some observers have opined that the significance of the Ice Age finds trumps the need for more water storage) but “when.”Ziegler said as part of the sale agreement, “the water district has an obligation to build the dam and fill the lake,” and “to return it to peaceful tranquility.”When complete, the reservoir will encompasses 15.5 acres of surface property. The fill agreement spans the summer season of May 15 to Oct. 15.Just a few weeks before the first bones were discovered, R. Douglas Ziegler made the trip to his beloved property, his son said. In addition to a splendid fall, his dad was also able to observe the work on the reservoir to which he had given his tacit blessing.Flash forward two months and now R. Douglas’ son, Peter, is anxious to head West for a different reason – to view the remains that have caught the attention of the state, if not the country.Just this week, on the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, Peter watched a news piece about the latest discoveries in Ziegler Reservoir.Is it odd to hear your name associated with such a treasure trove?”We’re a pretty private family,” Ziegler said. But in fact, their family name is well known in the Midwest for business ventures that include the West Bend Co. (maker of pots and pans, coffeemakers and the like).What could have more staying power, and interest in the eyes of the family, is that the first Columbian mammoth bones will likely bear the name of “Ziggy.””That’s the best recognition we could get,” said Peter