What’s next for former Toklat cabin? | AspenTimes.com

What’s next for former Toklat cabin?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails
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ASPEN – Pitkin County must find a new home for a cabin built by an Aspen icon.

The Sunnegga cabin sits on what is now U.S. Forest Service land near Ashcroft, south of Aspen, but it was originally a gift shop at nearby Toklat, the one-time dog-sledding operation and lodge run by Stuart and Isabel Mace. Stuart Mace, an accomplished woodworker, built the cabin in 1957.

It is one of three cabins that had been moved from elsewhere to what was known as the Ryan parcel, a private inholding that the county and Aspen Valley Land Trust purchased in 2000 in order to prevent development there. It was eventually traded to the Forest Service in a complex exchange deal that took nearly a decade to complete.

The Forest Service had wanted all three cabins, which have served as housing off and on, removed before the agency acquired the property. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies dismantled one of them, intending to use it elsewhere, but the other two remain.

The county had pitched the Sunnegga to the Forest Service as a warming hut for Ashcroft Ski Touring, a privately run Nordic skiing system that operates in the upper Castle Creek Valley. Skiers cross the Ryan parcel and pass within a short distance of the cabin.

The Forest Service spent a year considering the offer, but told county open space officials in December that it wants the Sunnegga and the other remaining cabin removed by Dec. 22, 2011.

The Fitzpatrick cabin, apparently moved to the site from an unpatented mining claim elsewhere in the area, will probably be demolished this summer, according to Dale Will, director of Open Space and Trails for the county. A prospective buyer for the structure backed out of the deal last summer, daunted by the cost of having it picked up and moved.

Mace’s Sunnegga cabin, however, is worthy of preserving, county open space officials agree.

“The woodwork in it is all Stuart Mace. It’s beautiful,” Will said.

A back portion to the cabin, including a kitchen and bathroom, was added on later and could be removed, but the original cabin, boasting plenty of windows, could serve as a visitor center somewhere, he mused.

“The big bug-a-boo now is who’s going to pay to move it somewhere,” Will told the Open Space and Trails board of trustees recently. “Unless we want to shoulder that cost, the only other viable option for us is to auction it.”

Tim McFlynn, board chairman, suggested Open Space and Trails look for a place to use it on one of the county’s own open space holdings.

“Could it be an amenity at one of our parks?” he said. “Is it something that could be saved as a historic building on an open space asset? It seems to me that it’s an opportunity.”

As a gift shop at Toklat, the Sunnegga was a place where visitors could purchase Navajo rugs, Stuart’s dinosaur bone jewelry, Alaskan sourdough starter, homemade jellies and jams, and the like. Years later, Mace sold his photography and woodworking out of the shop, as well, according to Ashcroft historian Trevor Washko. The cabin was moved to its present location in 1977, he wrote in an e-mail to open space officials.

Toklat, located near the ghost town of Ashcroft, initially served as a guest lodge run by the Maces, who offered dogsled rides and ski tours in the scenic valley. It was also the family’s home. The Toklat huskies were made famous in the mid-1950s by the TV show “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” Toklat also operated as a restaurant for a time and eventually became a gallery that featured fine, handmade crafts, including many made by Stuart.

The historic lodge is now owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Stuart Mace died in 1993 and Isabel died in 2006.

janet@aspentimes.com


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