City drops ‘e’ on Emerald Mountain’s Blackmer Trail to honor Steamboat history
October 23, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It's Blackmer, not Blackmere.
The city has decided to drop the “e” on the popular Blackmer Trail on Emerald Mountain.
Blackmer Drive, which became Blackmer Trail, was named after Frank J. Blackmer, who was one of the first doctors in Steamboat Springs. Somewhere along the way, the trail's name picked up an “e.” The name's proper pronunciation rhymes with her.
The road was named in Blackmer's memory in 1932, the year following his death. According to a 1932 article in the Steamboat Pilot, he had been "instrumental in having the survey made and the work started on this scenic road."
At the time, it wasn't a trail but a scenic drive to the Emerald Mountain vistas so many Routt County residents are familiar with.
In 2004, Routt County and the city vacated the street and turned it into a trail, according to the city manager's Oct. 9 report to Steamboat Springs City Council. An easement agreement granting the city trail access referred to the area "known as Blackmere and Blackmer." At the time, Parks and Recreation chose Blackmere simply because the spelling "looked more correct."
Steamboat resident and local medical historian Christine McKelvie contacted the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the city earlier this year, trying to track down where the spelling error originated with the hope of correcting it to honor Blackmer as intended in 1932.
"He just seemed to be a historical figure who should not be forgotten and who should not be — I don’t know what to call it — changed or altered in any way," she said.
The issue of the trail's name came before City Council, which referred it to the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission decided to use Blackmer.
The Parks and Recreation Department plans to replace signs at the trailhead in the coming months, and remaining signs will be replaced as they degrade, Director Angela Cosby said. The decision was fast-tracked as the trailhead signs were already slated for replacement.
Cosby said that she's glad to carry out the commission's decision to use the historically accurate spelling.
Though the signs will be changed, the new pronunciation likely will take some effort for locals who have referred to the trail as Blackmere for years.
"The more you use the incorrect ‘Blackmere’ the more you embed this mistake into our history," McKelvie wrote in an email to the city, which she shared with the Pilot & Today.
Blackmer moved to the frontier town of Steamboat Springs around 1910. According to McKelvie, Blackmer helped found Steamboat's first hospital, the Steamboat Springs Sanitarium, in 1914. There, he and two other doctors performed the first surgery in the town. He left to serve in World War I and returned to the town.
"There were just a handful of doctors in our community," McKelvie said, so his return was important, as other doctors did not return to Steamboat after the war.
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Blackmer was at different points mayor of the town, president of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, president of the commercial club (an early iteration of the Steamboat Springs Chamber) and founder and the first commander of Steamboat's Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
He was remembered in his obituary as an expert skier, an outdoorsman and a "quiet and unassuming" man of action with a "kindly feeling for everyone." Locals frequently skied in and out of his cabin near Dry Lake on Buffalo Pass, according to archived stories in the Routt County Sentinel and Steamboat Pilot.
"Dr. Blackmer drove over the bad roads in the middle of winter to care for the sick when he knew there would never be any reward in the way of fees from those patients," a Steamboat priest said in a story about his funeral, which ran on the front page of the Dec. 11, 1931, issue of the Pilot.