Yankee Girl Mine Saved by Local Hero!

Montrose’s Mark Young Buys Threatened Mining Property,
Conservation Easement with TLR Assures Permanent Protection,
Stabilization of Historic Headframe Building Scheduled for 2007,

Yankee Girl Mine as seen from US Highway 550 Scenic Overlook

Governor Ritter says it’s his favorite historical landmark in Colorado. It is perhaps the most iconic mining structure in the Red Mountain Mining District of the San Juan Mountains. Literally hundreds of thousands of people view it each year from the San Juan Skyway, otherwise known as US Highway 550. Locals say it is one of Ouray County’s most important historical features, and until May of 2006, one of its most threatened.

It’s the Yankee Girl Mine.  The first, and for many years the most productive, mine in the world-famous Red Mountain Mining District, in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. All that remains today is a very weathered, very tall, very narrow, very old building that is much need to repair and stabilization.  It contains what miners call the headframe, essentially a hoist built of heavy timber, sitting over the main shaft of the mine, used to lower and raise everything that went in or came out of the nearly 1,000 foot deep hole.

The Yankee Girl headframe building stands in the middle of the Red Mountain District, as one of the few remaining relics of the great mining boom of the late 1800s.  It is in full view of Highway 550, Otto Mear’s famed “Million Dollar Highway,” today also known as the San Juan Skyway, a national scenic and historic byway.  In fact, it is the building of principal interest, as seen from the improved Red Mountain Scenic Overlook.   However, until the spring of 2006, this wonderful old structure was in grave danger of being torn down, the pawn in a game of real estate speculation. In 2005, “for sale” signs and bulldozers warned that the Yankee Girl headframe was going to be torn down unless a buyer stepped up.  Trust for Public Land and the US Forest Service briefly considered it, but deemed the asking price to be exorbitant.

In rides the hero! Mark Young of Montrose buys the property, announcing his goal is to restore the building, and keep the land from being developed into a homesite. Almost immediately he begins discussions with TLR to place a permanent conservation easement on the property, at the same time a team of locals, led by Ken Francis of Fort Lewis College/Durango, Bob Risch of the Red Mountain Task Force, and Tom Hillhouse at the Ouray County Historical Society, lobby for dollars for stabilization from the Colorado State Historical Fund.

The conservation easement with TLR was signed at a ceremony attended by several dozen interested citizens, on a beautiful September morning at the Red Mountain Scenic Overlook off Highway 550. State Historical Funds for stabilization were awarded, and work began summer of 2007 to protect what local building restoration specialist Chris George calls the “head and feet of the structure.”

So who if Mark Young? He’s an entrepreneur, helicopter pilot, businessman, search and rescue volunteer, and former Montrose County Coroner.  He’s also no stranger to the world of land trusts and conservation easements, having placed several properties in Montrose County under easement protection over the past 10 years.  As with all of the easements TLR has accepted since our inception, not only did Mr. Young donate the easement, he also paid TLR’s transaction costs and donated dollars to ensure TLR’s perpetual stewardship.  Mark’s been humble when accepting the public’s thanks for stepping up and saving an important historical landmark.  All he says is “My wife and I saw a way we could help, and we thought ‘why not’.  We are thankful to be in a position in our lives where we can do this kind of thing.”

Mark Young, Bob Risch and Chris George discuss stabilization inside the Yankee Girl headframe building.

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The Trust for Land Restoration
555 West Clinton Street, POB 743, Ridgway, Colorado 81432 Phone/Fax: 970-626-3236, Email: The Trust for Land Restoration