Locals hope to revamp Coal Camp
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Some local historians think the remains of the ghost town called Coal Camp is a diamond in the rough.
But it’s in dire need of some TLC.
That’s why, for the second time in as many years, city officials want to get Coal Camp onto Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list.
On Saturday, city planner Mike Pelletier, City Councilwoman Jean Martensen, local historian Jim Olp, Historic Preservation Commission member Marice Doll and several others took a morning jaunt through the relics.
Pelletier – whose wife, Perri, delivered the couple’s second baby girl at around 6 a.m. Saturday – amazingly showed up at 9 a.m. to lead the tour.
“At least I don’t have to worry about her going into labor while we’re out there,” he joked.
The tour started at the edge of the old town, which is located up South Canyon Road past the South Canyon Landfill.
An early 20th-Century mining hamlet, Coal Camp once was a bustling place populated by 300 people. It had a thriving coal mine, homes, offices and even a railroad.
But now, more than 100 years after it was first inhabited, the area has been substantially reclaimed by vegetation and, unfortunately, by trash.
If Coal Camp makes Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list, the city could apply for grants that could be used to spruce up the old town and maintain the site.
“We’re doing this to give people a better appreciation of South Canyon,” Olp said.
As the group meandered through the thickly-wooded site, many noticed some of the more obscure remnants and wondered what their functions were.
Next to one of the old house foundations was a hole. Olp said he thinks it was dug by people looking for artifacts. But others hypothesized that it could have been a well or a food-storage area.
Olp also noted the difference between “good trash” and “bad trash.”
Good trash, he explained, is trash that was left 50 to 100 years ago and helps tell the story of the people who lived there. Bad trash, he said, is more recently-deposited junk left among the scattered ruins by careless visitors.
Coal Camp survived as a tiny mining town within the confines of the steep-walled canyon for around 40 years.
The Boston and Colorado Coal Co. dining hall seated 80 men, and the village boasted a store, church, library, 27 cottages, a blacksmith shop, a large bunkhouse and its own post office, according to an article written by Olp.
Many of Glenwood Springs’ early residents lived and worked in Coal Camp before finally moving east to the city.
Many remnants of the town are still evident. Mine entrances, house foundations, cable that would have been used for coal cars, railroad track pieces, machinery and walls are scattered throughout the forest.
Coal mine tailings are piled throughout the area and the water nearby is polluted. The place still houses a bum or two from time to time, a fact attested to by the beer cans and rotting mattresses strewn throughout the place.
That’s part of the reason why the site was nominated for Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list.
The purpose of the list is to raise awareness about the state’s threatened historic, archaeological and cultural resources.
The plan for Coal Camp, if recognized as a threatened place, is to clear out some of the brush, set up a walking trail around the site, and place interpretive signs describing artifacts and telling stories about the camp and the coal mine operations.
Martensen said the deadline to apply for the state list is in September. To be eligible for grants, the site must be among the top three on the list.
Historic Preservation Commission member Oscar McCollum said he’d love to see the site preserved and maintained.
“So many old coal camps have been built over,” he said, “and this one’s pristine.”
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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