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Saying goodbye to history in Yampa

Forest Service will tear down cabin built in 1937

Autumn Phillips

— In 1937, the U.S. Forest Service built a small cabin at the entrance of the Routt National Forest in Yampa in order to inventory the resources of the forest. The operation was small, housing one ranger.

Yampa was about the size it is now, with 400 residents. According to Forest Service records, there were four general stores, two hotels, two banks, a barbershop, two blacksmiths, three real estate offices, nine saloons, a church and the first Masonic Lodge in Northwest Colorado.

The area had been a large producer of lettuce, but at the time when the Forest Service built its office, the depression was taking its effect on the town.

Eighty-five years later, Yampa has the same population numbers but the town itself is much smaller. The forest has become a popular tourist destination and the cabin is a busy visitors center and base for several employees who monitor usage.

The Yampa Forest Service district sells more than 12 million board feet of timber a year and allows nearly 4,000 cattle and 18,000 sheep to graze in its boundaries and supports one of the largest elk herd in the nation.

The office is located at the beginning of the Scenic Byway from Yampa to Meeker, a popular drive with views across the Flat Tops.

“As Steamboat gets more and more popular, people are coming this way for remote experiences,” Forest Service recreation planner Robin Inhelder said.

This year, all of the fires in the area kept them busy.

“We have a big hunting program,” Inhelder said. “We will be bombarded in October when rifle season begins.”

With all the use, the old 1930s cabin is falling apart and there was Radon in the basement, Inhelder said.

It’s time to tear it down, the Forest Service decided recently.

“Everything was breaking,” Inhelder said. “Even though the building we just moved into is a modular, it’s nicer than anything we’ve had for the last few years.”

This week the employees of the Yampa Ranger Station packed up their files, furniture, and maps and carried them next door to a temporary structure so the historical structure can be demolished.

“It took us three days to make the move,” Inhelder said, “and it was raining the whole time.”

Phones and utilities were connected in the temporary building on Tuesday.

The new building will be built next spring in the footprint of the old one. The Forest Service will be putting out a call for construction bids this winter.

The major concerns when building the new structure will be accessibility for the handicapped and a conference room large enough for community meetings.

The Forest Service chose to rebuild on site, tucked away from traffic, because there is no land available near the highway where information centers are usually located.

Though the Yampa office is one of the older Forest Service structures, it was not set aside as historic, Inhelder said.

The new building will resemble the structure built at the Brush Creek/Hayden station, Inhelder said.

The old ranger house and bunkhouse will stay as they are.


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