In Historic Preservation townhall, residents highlighted challenges of preserving cowboy construction and connecting renovation efforts to funding | SteamboatToday.com

In Historic Preservation townhall, residents highlighted challenges of preserving cowboy construction and connecting renovation efforts to funding

History Colorado held a listening session in Steamboat as part of its statewide planning effort

Yampa celebrates the grand opening and dedication ceremony of Crossan's M & A Market on Friday.
Kari Dequine Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As part of a statewide plan for historic preservation in Colorado, History Colorado was in Steamboat Springs to discuss historic preservation in Routt County.

History Colorado is updating its statewide plan for historic preservation, and as part of the update, the organization is hosting events across the state to give input to the new plan. The most recent plan, the 2020 Statewide Preservation Plan, will expire in Dec. 2020.

At a meeting in Centennial Hall Monday night, History Colorado’s State Plan Coordinator Signe Snortland introduced the effort.

“We want this to be a grassroots plan,” Snortland said. “We want this to be from the bottom up, not History Colorado telling everyone in Colorado how they should be doing preservation. We want your input on what historic preservation means to you and how we should accomplish the goals that have been identified (and) what steps need to be taken.”

The plan has four goals:

  • Connection: Integrate preservation into community planning and development at the state and local levels,
  • Engagement: Increase successful engagement of people, places and communities in historic preservation and archaeology,
  • Celebration: Improve perception and awareness to celebrate the role preservation plays in our daily lives,
  • Education: promote preservation and archaeology through education.

At the meeting, representatives of History Colorado first asked to hear success stories of preservation projects in the area.

The audience highlighted the recent relocation of the Arnold Barn and the revitalization of Crossan’s Market in Yampa and the former Yampa Valley Electric Association headquarters at 910 Yampa St. in Steamboat.

Several people also spoke positively of the Routt County Building Department’s willingness to make historic preservation projects feasible.

At a glance

If you missed the meeting, feedback on the statewide plan can also be submitted online by emailing oahp@state.co.us.

Then, the discussion turned to challenges that exist in historic preservation in the county.

One of those is that many of the county’s historic structures were frontier structures, put up quickly with whatever was around. Snortland called it “cowboy construction.”

Tim Corrigan, a Routt County commissioner representing South Routt, pointed to the older buildings in Yampa. Where gold and silver mining towns built up structures made out of stone and concrete, buildings here came together much more quickly, he said.

“Yampa was much more of a frontier town, so the buildings got built very rough, with old-fashioned framing techniques, and the clock is ticking a lot quicker on some of these old buildings that are in that kind of condition,” Corrigan said. “Those stone buildings, they’ll be okay if nobody did anything to them for another 100 years. Some of these buildings in Yampa, they’re looking at the end of the line here, so some action may need to be taken more quickly on those kinds of structures.”

He added that, particularly for the recent Wassinger’s Garage project in Yampa, redevelopment “had to move so quickly to prevent the building from caving in” that developers were unable to even consider applying for grant funding it might’ve qualified for.

Attendees wrote suggested objectives for the new statewide plan on sticky notes, which they then pasted on the most relevant goals.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

Arianthe Stettner, a board member of Historic Routt County, said there was a need for more accurate surveys of the community’s oldest structures. She also said there’s a shortage of contractors who know historic preservation techniques and best practices. Many of them left the community during the recession, and many that remain are busy with more profitable projects, Stettner said.

Stettner wondered how Steamboat and other communities with mineral springs could work to preserve those springs.

“What are the best practices to protect these springs?” she asked. “I feel like this is a kind of resource question that is beyond our capacity. We’re getting into aquifers and minerals and how far can you have development without knocking out a spring? We have examples of that here,” she said, referencing Steamboat’s namesake spring. The Steamboat Spring made a chugging sound that was silenced by the construction of the railroad in the early 1900s.

Erica Hewitt, an architect who serves as the city of Steamboat’s historic preservation consultant, said there’s a challenge in getting outreach and education out about historic preservation processes and requirements. Emily Katzman, executive director of Historic Routt County, pointed to a similar issue in educating the public about tax credits available to complete renovations and other projects at historic homes and businesses.

Then, audience members were asked to brainstorm specific objectives related to the four goals of the plan, which will be used to assemble a draft plan. The draft plan is expected to be released for more public comment next year, with a final plan coming out later in 2020.

Those organizing the plan are still collecting feedback from upcoming events in other areas of the state, including Breckenridge, Alamosa and Denver, Snortland said.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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