TLR 2023 Updates: Working Miracles at the Idarado Houses; Marble Wetlands Preserve Goes Public

Working Miracles at the Idarado Houses

For over twenty-three years Ridgway-based Trust for Land Restoration has been tackling projects state-wide that larger organizations and even local governments are afraid to touch.  Our specialty is figuring out legal pathways through the regulatory maze surrounding past mining to allow good conservation and historic preservation to get done.

Our secret to success has been to stay small, minimize overhead, and maximize donor dollars, volunteers and partnerships, as best demonstrated by our current flagship project in Ouray County: The Preservation of the Idarado Houses, for which we are most grateful for your past support and again ask for your help to bring this project home.

With over $168,000 raised since 2020, we feel great about the clean-up and protective stabilization work of the Idarado Houses that has been accomplished over the last three field seasons.  The Houses are completely ready for all the winter Mother Nature can throw at them.  Work completed this past year utilizing former-Ouray Silver Mine employees focused on long- term preservation including installing Ice and Water Shield underneath existing roof tin, improving drainage to direct snow and stormwater away from rebuilt foundations, replacing plywood and roll roof skirting around base of each House with galvanized metal salvaged from the Revenue-Virginias Mine, installing bomber plastic sheathing in all the window openings, and repairing (and replacing where necessary) all doors to make them fully operate-able, unlocked and open to the public.  Volunteers including members of the Ghost Town Club of Colorado pulled damaged interior wallboard, removed rodent-infested installation and dilapidated ceilings, rebuilt window and door frames, scrapped floors, swept out dingy corners, and hauled out a couple tons of junk, filling a 30-yard roll-off dumpster.

Now it’s time to finish the job.  On top of our list for 2024 are installing a proper entrance gate that keeps out cars but invites in pedestrians, adding a “Thank You” board with your name on it to the kiosk we installed last year, renewing the Special Use Permit with the US Forest Service for the land under Houses 3&4, and beginning the longer process of purchasing the property outright (the land under Houses 1&2 already belongs to Ouray County thanks to the 2020 land donation from the Newmont Corporation negotiated by TLR).

In addition, preservation specialists are recommending an Idarado Houses Preservation Project Phase III, calling for some critical siding repair, complete repainting of all four Houses exteriors, and the construction and installation of newly built but historically accurate windows in all the window openings (using super-tough Lexan plastic instead of glass).  Projected cost is $200,000. Consultants working with Ouray County and TLR are shooting for an April 2024 State Historical Fund grant request of $150,000.  If the grant is awarded, TLR and the Ouray County Historical Society (OCHS) have pledged to help raise a large portion of the $50,000 match.

Marble Wetlands Preserve Goes Public

Following our success in 2022 to consolidate, cap and fence the slag pile associated with the 100 year-old Hoffman Smelter Site, TLR this past spring officially opened the 54-acre Marble Wetlands Preserve to the public, allowing day-use hiking, fishing and picnicking.  Working with partners the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association, the Aspen Valley Land Trust and the Town of Marble, use of the Preserve is being guided by a Biological Baseline Inventory that was completed this year by the private consulting company Rare Earth Sciences, and by a Management Plan that is being drafted as this is being written.

Concurrently TLR is close to finalizing a Conservation Easement with the Aspen Valley Land Trust that will permanently eliminate all potential future residential development and ensure the perpetual preservation of the natural wonder that is this remarkable nature preserve.  In the near-term, the Town of Marble will be responsible for patrolling and managing the site, with the goal of eventually taking full ownership sometime in the not-too-distant future.

It was great to see a steady flow of people enjoying the Preserve this past summer, and equally delightful to watch cross-country skiers and even ice skaters out on the property this winter.  Next time you are near Marble, please stop and check it out.  As you enter the Town from the west on County Road 3, make a right turn at the first stop sign on to County Road 3A AKA the Marble Quarry Road, and drive across the Crystal River Bridge and travel .3 miles up the hill to the Preserve entrance gate and views of the Preserve on the left.

The San Juan Mountains are incredibly special.  Your dollars keep us working to keep them that way.  Thanks for being on our team!

Every Dollar raised via this appeal will go directly to the Idarado Houses Project.  Donations may be made either to TLR or OCHS.  Donations of $250 made to OCHS’ Idarado Houses Fund will earn back a 25% Colorado Enterprise Zone Tax Credit.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to either:

The Trust for Land Restoration

PO Box 743

Ridgway, CO 81432


Ouray County Historical Society

Idarado Houses Fund

PO Box 151

Ouray, CO 81427

Donations of $250 made to OCHS’ Idarado Houses Fund will earn back 25% Colorado Enterprise Zone Tax Credit. 


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