Hundreds atttend opening as Oak Creek museum dedicated to local historian |

Hundreds atttend opening as Oak Creek museum dedicated to local historian

Alexis DeLaCruz

— The little building that sits perched atop Oak Creek’s Main Street has quite the history.

It was built in 1925 to fulfill a campaign promise of a former mayor who said he would build the Town Hall if Oak Creek residents elected him to defeat the Ku Klux Klan. Since it was built, it has served as the town’s hall, jail, library and clerk’s office.

It only seemed fitting that, when the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg, which formed in 1998, decided to build a museum, it be housed in one of Oak Creek’s most historically rich buildings.

On Saturday, about 200 Oak Creek and South Routt residents, state officials, local elected and school officials, volunteers and families gathered around the new Tracks and Trails Museum as it was dedicated and opened to the public. The moment marked the completion of nearly eight years of work.

“This is a memorable and historic time for Oak Creek and the entire South Routt community,” said Renee Johnson, the Historical Society’s president. “We’re just excited that this is for everyone now. It’s everyone’s building.”

Although it took dozens of volunteers and countless hours of grant writing, gutting and rebuilding, one man was honored during the ceremony for his tireless dedication to preserving the area’s history.

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“Mike Yurich’s vision and dream of having a museum has become a reality,” Johnson said. “We are dedicating the museum to Mike Yurich.”

Johnson presented a plaque to Yurich’s son, Stephen Yurich, who accepted the honor on behalf of his father.

Mike Yurich said he became overwhelmed by the turnout and ceremony and went to “meditate” before he could return.

“I don’t have any words,” he said, sounding a little choked up. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

Yurich was presented the honor for having the hindsight to begin collecting artifacts from Oak Creek homes and businesses when he was a young man, Johnson said.

“He’s the reason we have the collection we do,” she said.

The Tracks and Trails Museum, which was named for the railroad tracks that helped build Oak Creek and the trails settlers used to enter the Yampa Valley, features an impressive collection from the town’s Methodist church, school sports program, jail and business community.

Gheda Gayou, a preservation specialist from the State Historical Fund, said it is warming to see communities rally behind their museums.

“It’s important for small Colorado towns to have museums like this because it keeps each unique town unique,” she said. “It’s great to preserve these buildings and give people a place to gather and share their history.”

Oak Creek resident Kathy “Cargo” Rodeman, who helped secure several grants to facilitate the museum project, was glad to see the museum doors finally open.

“It’s everything I dreamed of,” she said. “We saved the building and all the history that came with it. (The building) was a huge statement back then, and it’s a huge statement today.”

Grant money from the State Historical Fund, Museum Advisory Heritage Fund and Boettcher Foundation helped fund the project. The Town of Oak Creek, Dobell Construction Company and the Mountain Architecture Design Group also helped make the project possible.

Routt County Commissioner and Oak Creek resident Nancy Stahoviak said she was proud to be a part of the dedication.

“Seeing all these faces from all over Routt County just shows me how much you all appreciate our heritage and want to preserve it,” she said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Live entertainment and lunch by Linda Long followed the dedication.

– To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

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