North Star changes a big improvement for county |

North Star changes a big improvement for county

North Star changes a big improvement for county

Congratulations to the Pitkin County Commissioners for approving updates to the North Star Management plan and to Dale Will and Janet Urquhart and the Open Spaces staff for their ongoing support for North Star.

In August,1949 my father, Jimmy Smith bought this ranch from Theresa Barrailler for $80 an acre. During a trip to the West we New Yorkers stopped in Aspen and he went to Jim Moore’s for a haircut. Moore was Aspen’s only realtor then and Jimmy was a captive audience when Mrs. Barrailler appeared to tell Moore she wanted to sell the ranchl.

She and her husband had survived by running cattle, growing vegetables, cutting hay with a team of horses. According to “Aspen, The Quiet Years,” she was also an accomplished bootlegger.

Jimmy worked to improve the ranch’s productivity, attempting to drain a swamp and produce more hay, leasing grazing rights to Clyde and Wayne Vagneur, and clearing willows with a used bulldozer purchased from Jim Hayes. We’re descendants of J Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day so planting trees was also a priority.

Our first haystack caught on fire, the roof of our barn collapsed in the first snowstorm, and the water level in the swamp was too low to allow it to be drained but luckily Jimmy received several federal appointments so that we weren’t reliant on the ranch for a living. Later we worked out the sale/donation to the Nature Conservancy.

North Star and the many Aspenites we knew and worked with in the ’50s and early ’60s have given me both extraordinary memories and invaluable life experiences. So thanks again for maintaining the beauty of this property.

Morgan Smith

Santa Fe

Editor’s note: Morgan Smith served in the Colorado House of Representatives and as Commissioner of Agriculture. He can be reached at