Tearing down Turgeonville
September 7, 2016
GYPSUM — Chances are, if you have lived in western Eagle County long enough, you know someone who rented one of the Turgeonville houses.
Maybe it was an employee with Johnson Kunkel and Associates, the Eagle-based civil engineering firm. Those folks used to put up "survey party ahead" signs around Turgeonville when they planned a fiesta.
Maybe it was someone who worked for the town of Gypsum, which used the units as employee housing.
Or maybe it was someone new to the valley who grabbed on to one of those truly affordable units as he or she built up a bank account for the next place.
Turgeonville is the five-cabin enclave located along U.S. Highway 6 as it makes a north/south curve through Gypsum. About a decade ago, the town of Gypsum purchased the parcel from Rick Turgeon who in turn had purchased it from his father Dick Turgeon. The area takes its name from the senior Turgeon. It has served as entry level housing for countless valley residents. But a few weeks ago the last renter moved out of his cabin and later this month, the structures will all be torn down.
"Turgeonville served a niche," said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll. "We probably would have continued renting them out and considered them as a supply of affordable housing, but they are getting pretty run down."
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With costly repairs needed at the cabins and a long term plan that calls for rerouting US6 along the area, the town decided the time has come to tear down Turgeonville.
At the end of 2015, Turgeonville's residents were informed about the town's plan to demolish the cabins this summer. "The tenants who aren't town employees have been there for a long time before we owned them," said Shroll. "If you think about it, it was Gypsum's tiny homes before tiny homes became popular."
The town bumped back its demolition schedule until fall, but September will mark the end of Turgeonville. Before the cabins come down, the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and the Gypsum Fire Department plan to do some training at the site.
When Turgeonville became Turgeonville
Eileen Lister, Dick Turgeon's daughter, said her parents purchased the land from Bill and Eleanor Bindley back in 1968. She and brother Rick both agreed their father said the cabins came from Dotsero, where they formerly housed railroad workers.
Lister recalled that when her father first bought the site, it was very swampy. "I know we hauled a lot of rock to fill it in," she said.
Her parents lived in a trailer located behind the cabins. "We had a lot of Thanksgiving dinners down there," said Lister. "It was always a happy place."
Well, maybe not always. Lister recalled that her mother wasn't thrilled when her father tore down the bathhouse cabin shortly after he purchased the site. That cabin was the sole source of hot water for Turgeonville. Ultimately, however, the cabins were modernized to feature improved plumbing.
The diminutive residences have always had a bit of a dilapidated appearance, but people who lived in the area loved the convenience and the proximity to Gypsum Creek that the site afforded. Turgeonville just seemed to adapt with time, as evidenced by the DirectTV satellite dishes attached to a couple of the now-empty units.
"So many people have lived there through the years. It was one of those places where people stayed until they could get someplace bigger," she said.
Gerald Costanzo was the final Turgeonville resident. "I was literally the last man out," he said.
Costanzo has now moved to a larger place, but he enjoyed his time in Turgeonville. "I use to sit out back by the creek all the time," he said. "It would be nice to have that land and build a massive fence in the front of it to eliminate the highway noise."
With its mature trees and creek frontage, Turgeonville is surprisingly tranquil and more people will be able to make that discovery when the property undergoes its next evolution.
Once the Turgeonville houses are removed, the town of Gypsum plans to construct a small park at the site. The town's path system already leads to the area and mature trees and existing grass will be salvaged. Gypsum plans to build a beach area, picnic tables, a picnic shelter and a small playground.
When it demolishes the cabins, the town also plans to take down nearby concrete walls. The two projects will significantly improve Gypsum's entrance appearance.
Funding for the park improvements will be part of Gypsum's 2017 budget and Shroll noted that the long-term plan for the property is to accommodate an expansion of US6 when needed. But for now, the land will be a modest park, fittingly reflective of its modest roots.
"It's not going to be a park you drive to. It will be a park you walk to," said Shroll. "And we truly do want to dress up our entrance to town."
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