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Avon breaks rules to save history

Nicole Frey
NWS Water Wheel DT 12-01
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AVON – With a second home in Avon, Janette Hix has spent a lot of time down by the Eagle River, which runs behind her Canyon Run townhouse. It was there she discovered an old water wheel. Dating back to 1928, the wheel had been part of a power plant built by one of Avon’s original families – the Nottinghams – to power their ranch and the nearby railroad depot.Weathered by the elements for decades, the wheel was decaying under a tangle of wild plants on the riverbank. “I just felt it was a shame that it wouldn’t be restored,” said Hix, a Houston native. “This neighbor man and I, we wanted to do something. So we found the history, did a cleanup, and that was the beginning.”This summer saw Avon create a Historical Preservation Committee, a board of five people committed to educating the public about the historical significance of the area, and cataloging and saving what remains. “I just think it’s really important to have our history for our children to see how our country grew and how we got to where we are today,” said Hix, chairman of the committee. “Without the history right in front of you, it’s hard to imagine Avon as any more than concrete buildings.”

But finding five historically-minded people in Avon proved to be no easy feat, said town of Avon spokeswoman Jacquie Halburnt.”At the time, the town wanted a board of five, but only four applied,” Halburnt said. Avon found its answer in Karen Nagel. While she was neither an Avon resident nor a voter — as application criteria required — Halburnt said she has a background that makes her a worthy candidate.”I think what attracted them to me was that I’m an architectural historian,” said Nagel, who works creating historic districts, restoring old homes and has sat on countless historical boards and commissions. Regarding Nagel’s impressive resume, the town council agreed to make a one-time exception for the Beaver Creek resident who splits her time between the Vail Valley and Philadelphia. “She lives in Beaver Creek, and we have a relationship with Beaver Creek where we all try to get along,” Halburnt said.

Finding a fifth, the committee got down to tackling its first project – the water wheel. With the help of the town, the committee received a $9,800 grant to do a archeological assessment of the wheel to see if it could be restored. The assessment is expected to be completed in June 2006.What to saveAlthough the town is only about 25 years old, committee members said the region’s history goes back much further than the advent of the ski resort to the times when the area was used as summer fishing and hunting grounds by Ute Indians. It was settled in 1874 by ranchers and farmers. “Very frankly, a lot of what is in Beaver Creek and Avon is threatened by demolition or by neglect more than anything, especially on the mountain,” Nagel said. “There’s no inventory, no formal collection yet of all the historic structures in Avon, and unless you do that, they disappear.”Vail Resorts, formerly known as Vail Associates, does not own most of Beaver Creek Mountain. It operates the ski slopes under a special permit from the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land.



Long before there was a committee, the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch had a hand in preserving history when it elected to save John Anderson’s cabin. Anderson was one of the five original bachelors who homesteaded the narrow valley at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain in the early 1900s, as he and his buddies searched for silver and other metals. At this point, Avon’ committee is still so new, it hasn’t yet identified exactly what needs to be saved or how to go about doing it. But that’s OK by committee and town officials, who are simply happy to have a committee with a mission right now. “I think it is very forward thinking of the town officials that they find this to be important,” Nagel said. “People are interested in what came before, and the town council realizes time needs to be spent preserving these things from the passage of time. We’re interested in making progress.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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