Festival’s over, but his work’s just begun | PostIndependent.com

Festival’s over, but his work’s just begun

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

He’s the finder of lost rings and rare coins. He’s the seeker of hidden treasure and historical secrets. He’s that guy with the metal detector walking through Sayre Park every year after Strawberry Days. Meet Jerry Olp.Olp has lived 32 of his 61 years in Glenwood Springs. He bought his first metal detector 25 years ago and he has been hooked ever since.

“I’m always curious,” Olp said as he sways the detector back and forth just inches above the ground. “I’m always wondering what is hidden – what I missed or what I might find next.”And Olp has found some very interesting artifacts in the aftermath of Strawberry Days over the past quarter of a century, including a South African Krugerrand gold coin, pocket knives and numerous gold, silver and platinum rings. In some cases Olp is able to find a clue to the rightful owner, but in most instances there is no trace. So he collects his found objects not planning to sell them any time soon. “I think of my collections as my retirement fund,” he explains. “Someday I’ll sell my treasures, but for now I just enjoy the collecting.”One of Olp’s favorite stories is of a Chinese ring he found under an elm tree in West Glenwood. He could tell that it was very old so he took it to a museum in Denver where Olp says he received appraisal papers stating it was an artifact from the Ming Dynasty. The owner of property where Olp found the ring confirmed that his land had once been full of lettuce crops, and Chinese laborers would come in to harvest the fields each season. The Chinese supervisor would sit under that very elm tree and count the boxes of lettuce.

For Olp, metal detecting is a relaxing hobby. He makes his living as a handyman, mowing lawns and doing odd jobs. But sometimes his hobby crosses over into his professional life.”It’s not too unusual for people to contact me to use my metal detector to find their car keys after they drop them in the deep snow,” Olp said with a laugh.The Colorado Division of Wildlife once called upon Olp’s expertise to help recover some rifle shell casings in a bear poaching investigation. Olp says he found the casings using his metal detector, enabling the DOW to prosecute the poacher.Olp is a Vietnam veteran and a history buff. He takes his metal detector on road trips and hikes throughout Colorado. He says he has discovered sites of old pioneer settlements, stagecoach stops and covered wagon trails with the help of his detector.

“I probably know more about local history than most historians,” Olp said with a smile.Olp’s next planned venture is, of course, the day after another local festival. He will be scouring Sopris Park following the Carbondale Mountain Fair next month. So, if you happen to lose your keys while dancing barefoot around the drumming circle, track down Jerry Olp. He might just have what you’re looking for.

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