New book by Redstone author chronicles efforts to save Crystal River Valley
After a career in teaching, F. Darrell Munsell and his wife Jane moved to the Crystal River Valley in 1997 to retire.
“Jane and I loved this area,” Munsell said.
The couple had been visiting and vacationing in the area since the ’70s.
“When we moved up here, I really had no intention to continue researching and writing,” Munsell added.
He spent his career as a professor teaching Modern European and British History at West Texas A&M University, in Canyon, Texas, writing two books on British history during his tenure.
Munsell admits he didn’t know much about Colorado history when he moved to the state, but that didn’t last long.
The Munsells became involved in the Redstone community, serving on the Redstone Historic Preservation Commission for several years.
The Munsell’s worked with conservationists on easements on the famed Cleveholm Manor, also known as the Redstone Castle, helping to preserve the historic Crystal Valley home.
“I fell in love with Redstone, and decided to do some research on John C. Osgood, the founder of Redstone,” Munsell said.
What started out as an article on his industrial betterment policy became a full-length novel on Osgood, titled “From Redstone to Ludlow,” which was published in 2009.
“The research bug bit me. It piqued my interest again, and I’ve been doing research ever since,” Munsell added.
Munsell dove back into writing, publishing a biography on the late Jack Roberts, a renowned western Colorado artist and Redstone resident, in 2015.
“I became a member of CVEPA (Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association) around 12 years ago,” Munsell said.
CVEPA started in 1972 when a small group of passionate citizens in western Colorado joined together to fight for environmental conservation of their Crystal River Valley home.
As a member of CVEPA, Munsell began looking through some of the articles and newsletters that the association had collected, noting what the group had done and what projects they had been involved in over the years.
“I noticed the Marble Ski area development proposal was quite a controversial issue,” Munsell said.
“That’s what really launched the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association in the early 1970s.”
During his research, he noted that they also opposed the West Divide Project, which was a huge Bureau of Reclamation project to dam the Crystal River and proposing to divert water over the ridge to the Divide area south of Silt and Rifle.
“It was a major project, and would’ve diverted a lot of water from the Crystal,” Munsell added. “And, had the project been built, even if only one of the two proposed dams had been built, it would have changed the whole character of the Crystal River.”
As he learned the history, the trials and tribulations the organization went through came to light.
Munsell said, “Fortunately the members of CVEPA kept every newspaper clipping that ran about subjects and activities the group was involved in.
“All of it was kept in a file, and it made my research a lot easier.”
Thanks to that great record-keeping, Munsell compiled all the materials, other documents and interviews with various individuals and some remaining members of CVEPA, and was able to publish his latest book, “Protecting a Valley and Saving a River.”
“I’m very happy I did this, because this is more than just local history,” he said.
Munsell believes it to be a regional history, not only involving the Crystal River Valley, but also involving the area from Carbondale all the way to DeBeque.
“Really, what I am most proud of is the fact that there wasn’t a complete history of the Marble Ski Area, the West Divide, and Coal Basin reclamation proposals,” Munsell said. “I think it is a major contribution to the environmental history of not only the Valley, but of Colorado.”
With his latest book available on Amazon and a few bookstores in the Valley, Munsell is showing no signs of slowing down.
Along with his wife, Munsell is currently working on a short history of Osgood’s Redstone, which they hope to complete in the near future.
“It is quite an honor and a delight,” Munsell said on having books he has written published.
When he is not writing his next novel, Munsell is working on producing a documentary on the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys.
Working with Jim Havey, a Denver-based documentary director, Munsell hopes to start production this coming spring, with the release of the documentary coming in 2020.
“I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet,” Munsell said.