Tom Malecek, Deputy Forest Supervisor for Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF), led Hinsdale County Commissioners Stan Whinnery and Cindy Dozier, along with a contingent of Forest Service personnel and county employees, on a leisurely tour of the county’s newly acquired 30-Mile Resort on Wednesday, August 16, following the commissioners’ meeting and luncheon held at Freemon’s Guest Ranch.
Trego’s 30-Mile Resort is the 9.39 acres of Rio Grande National Forest land tucked scenically into the woods along Squaw Creek some 10 miles along County Road 520 below Rio Grande Reservoir. Seemingly suspended in time, the pretty site, which is dotted now with wild raspberries and luxurious aspen, takes its name from its convenient locale only 30 miles up river from Creede.
The resort is also strategically located near the boundary to the Weminuche Wilderness.
Final paperwork was signed at the commissioners’ meeting earlier in the day of August 16, (WORLD, September 1) which finalized the business plans for the Forest Service on the USFS land. The Forest Service is awarding a 20-year Special Use Permit (SUP) to Hinsdale County to improve the existing buildings, and reopen the historic resort under the auspices of concessionaire management for heritage tourism rentals. Malecek stated at the meeting, “We have every expectation that this permit will be extended over and over again.”
Estimates for rehabilitation costs for the site have remained true since the 30-Mile Resort Rehabilitation Plan was drafted in February, 2016, and revised just last month after inspections and testing were finally completed on the resort’s vintage water and electrical systems, and site structures. The three phase, multi-year rehabilitation plan projected by the Hinsdale County Commissioners will cost an estimated $223,019.
With a goal of getting several of the cabins up and running quickly to begin generating rental income, Phase 1 includes mitigation of small amounts of lead- based paint on several cabin windows and the encapsulating abatement of some asbestos which is estimated to cost $18,019. Connection to grid power and beginning repairs to the electrical system, drilling a new well and restoration of the main house/store structure, restoration of three initial cabins and the bath/shower house and one pit privy carry an additional price tag of $110,000.
Phase 1 totals are estimated to be $128,000.
County Administrator Deanna Cooper states that funding for the 30-Mile site is as yet to be determined.
While the search for grant funding could not begin until the Forest Service/Hinsdale County partnership was completed and the operational-rehabilitation plans were signed, Hinsdale County Grant writer Kristie Borchers remains optimistic.
“We anticipate nominating 30-Mile Resort as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, “similar,
Borchers said, “to what the county did in 2015 in its endangered nomination for the Ute-Ulay Mine.”
This awareness, she went on to explain, “brings volunteers, assistance and sometimes grant funding through HistoriCorps to a specific project. We will need to work together with the Forest Service to apply for grants since the land is federal and the structures will be county-owned. We have run into this issue before when we applied for assessment funds [the EPA was unable to fund the assessment because they can’t complete projects on federal land, so that request was denied]. There are private grant sources that may be interested as well.”
Borchers added, “The State Historic Fund will fund projects on Forest Service land, so that may be a good source when we identify where the 25 percent required cash match is coming from.” The county grant writer also referenced other potential options, including working directly with builders/volunteers to get the site up to code and how that may work following as the result of a bidding process or concessionaire relationship.
According to the rehabilitation plan for 30-Mile Resort, funding possibilities suggested included those inumerated above, as well as, “…mini grants through the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) or foundations such as the Anschutz Family Foundation, Adolph Coors Foundation, El Pomar Foundation Regional Council.” The plan cites a handful of other possible financial sources, as well as a variety of partnership development ideas with existing programs such as Wounded Warriors, Heritage Craft School, or Girl and Boy Scouts of America.
Phase 2 is slated to include the continuation of repair or replacement of the resort’s electrical systems, as well as water systems and the renovation of three additional cabins and two more privies for an estimated price tag of $75,000.
Final Phase 3 is expected to cost $20,000 for the rehabilitation of three more cabins and more outdoor pit privies.
The phased plan states in its introduction, “Analysis shows that projected annual income can cover most operation and maintenance costs for the expanded services and basic services options. Phase 1 is projected to provide limited accommodations in a primitive setting.
Survey drawings included in the plan show nine cabins and the larger owner residence/store, as well as a variety of smaller structures which include outhouses, storage sheds, a generator and well house and the remains of a barn structure which burned in 2005.
With development beginning just after World War I, the majority of the rustic resort was built by high school teacher Ernest Trego and his wife, Leona, starting in the 1930s. The Tregos’ daughter, Charlotte, later operated the resort. Ernest Trego obtained a 99-year permit in 1938 from the Forest Service and is lauded for his foresight and ingenuity developing the rustic and popular fishing resort. The resort has been closed to the public since 2009 when the Forest Service revoked the SUP citing safety repairs which were not made expeditiously following the fire which burned the barn.
Years of neglect and deferred maintenance have left all the primitive structures in need new roofs and many are in need of foundation and structural repair, in addition to rodent removal, new mattresses and electric and plumbing upgrades. A true step back in time, the little cabins come to Hinsdale County furnished with the original vintage cook stoves, the occasional “ice box” or “Hoosier” to complement the charming little tables and wood frame beds.
The Papoose Fire in the summer of 2013 came dangerously close to the vintage family get-away spot. During last month’s tour, Commissioner Whinnery pointed out the fire break dug by volunteers in case the flames jumped Squaw Creek and also where helicopters were able to quickly dip and empty their buckets on the encroaching flames during that disaster.
Since the potential county project was first introduced early in 2016, the prevailing rationale for taking on the picturesque, albeit long-distance project, has been historic preservation in terms of heritage tourism.
Hinsdale County Commissioners state in the 30- Mile Plan, “Under-utilized historic buildings are a problem for public lands agencies. With time, the buildings have become iconic representations of American history worthy of preservation. Their presence on public land complicates the role of the agency that permitted them, adding a responsibility to preserve their architectural history.” The plan also notes, “Multiple uses for the site include heritage tourism, and a facility for recreation activities and programs. These programs will increase its relevancy, generate income for maintenance and make the buildings useful again.”
Continuing the hopeful outlook, the Rehabilitation Plan projects, “Old uses will be revitalized and new uses will require modifications, but the overall historic character of 30-Mile Resort will stay the same. Readapting the site to offer overnight accommodation again is the best and most reliable way to assure this important site has the attention and resources it needs to thrive.”
Trego’s 30-Mile Resort lies well over an hour from Lake City. In making a relevant connection between anticipated expenditures for the site and its preservation value to Hinsdale County, the Rehabilitation Plan states, “The historic significance is an opportunity. Hinsdale County benefits greatly from Heritage Tourism and 30-Mile would fit nicely within that model. The area of 30-Mile provides access to the Weminuche Wilderness. Fishing opportunities abound at Rio Grande Reservoir, Red Canyon and the Rio Grande. The 4×4 route of Stony Pass connects this area to Silverton.”
The plan goes on to state, “The Upper Rio Grande is a historically relevant economic driver in the region of Creede and Lake City. County Road 520 is identified by the RGNF as the second busiest road in the area for both residents and visitors.
Initial start-up capital needs outlined in the plan during the first year are $163,019 and include safety equipment which is lacking onsite, restoration of three cabins, exterior costs and porch repair, $55,000 outlay for electrical and water. Propane costs were to be determined and contractor “profits and overhead” are listed at an estimated $35,000.
Nightly rates suggested for cabin rental during summer months are $50. Per night (at a conservative 50 percent occupancy rate), with a gross income projected for the limited, Phase 1 rentals is estimated at $4,200.
Day-to-day management of the site during the “season” is hoped to be handled by an on-site concessionaire who, dependent on the type of contract negotiated, can also profit from the arrangement. It was noted by county commissioners at the August 16 meeting that interested potential managers have already contacted the county in anticipation of the F.S. SUP being awarded.
As each phase of the redemption is completed, receipts are expected to grow as more rentable cabins come available. In coming seasons, commissioners expect cash receipts will top $32,000, which are expected to pay for the expenses, maintenance and upkeep related to the innovative rental operation.