The Overland Trail--Strip Mining

How Much Is Enough?

Letter to the Editor
Fort Collins Daily Coloradoan
March 31, 1998

How much IS enough? In a couple of recent Soapbox opinions concerning Colorado Lien and their plans to strip mine the historic Robertís Ranch, mention is made of the impending destruction of agricultural, recreational and environmental resources of Northern Larimer County. My issue has even more significance: that of the destruction of a unique historical resource, like none other in the entire United States, which, once destroyed, can never be replaced.

From the evidence of campsites of Folsom Man, dating back 10,000 years to the grave sites of pioneers who died in the 1860ís along the Overland Trail, this small slice of Larimer County is rich in the history of a variety of cultures. Forty CSU archeological reports show that Native Americans had dwelling places right in the path of where Colorado Lien plans on creating a "haul route" to accommodate truck and trailer rigs hauling limestone. Numerous teepee rings of over 20 feet in diameter line the ruts of the Overland Trail Stage Route, concrete evidence of the use of this site by various Plains Indians. At least two American Indian medicine wheels up to 200 feet in diameter are visible from County Road 80 which is the proposed haul route for an average of over 160 large trucks trips per day. Large hunting parties of Folsom Man, and later the Cheyenne, Ute and Arapaho stampeded entire herds of buffalo off the cliffs which lie within the shadow of what will become sterile wasted plies of slag, euphemistically called "overburden" by the mining company. An identified Indian burial site lies just to the south.

How much IS enough? Are the citizens of Larimer County, especially those of us who value our precious open space, going to allow a South Dakota mining corporation to continue to ravage pristine hay meadows, sparkling springs, and historical sites just for a few dollars? Are we going to allow this to begin, and then, as the "Impact Report" has stated, continue for a minimum of at least 50 years? Will this historical area be lost forever to our children and grandchildren? Will they not be able to visualize the campfires, and listen for the beat of drums of the Native Americans? Will they not be able to reach down and touch the stones of the teepee rings left by the Plains Indiansí villages? Will they never experience the thrill of tramping along the historic Trail immortalized by Mark Twain in his novel, "Roughing It"? Will they not ever be able to trace with their own small hands the weathered names left 150 years ago by pioneers at Signature Rock?

A Soapbox which was printed in the March 24th issue of theColoradoan refers to bonds which are required to be posted by mining companies to reclaim the land. This is apparently not true in that Colorado Lien recently did some test holes near the Robertís Ranch, and no bond was posted, and no reclamation has occurred.

Are we, as a community, willing to allow the whims of a rich corporation to destroy evidence of an important period of the development of human civilization that occurred right here in our own back yard! The possession of mining rights is not a license to destroy history.

E-mail for more information: Elizabeth Larson

(Elizabeth Larson, who lives quite close to the historic Virginia Dale State Station on the Overland Trail, is the author of An Introduction to Virginia Dale and the Overland Trail and has served as a consultant on trail history. Her Internet web site is:

For snail mail information:

Elizabeth Larson

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