The National Smokejumper Association Colorado Chapter site for information on trail and work projects taking place in Colorado. Maintained by Bill Ruskin (CJ '58).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


7/7/2008 6:00:00 AM

Volunteers from the National Smokejumper Association work on the historic Glade Guard Station north of Dolores on June 24.

Melinda Green
Journal Staff Writer

History is being made and remade at a historic guard station on the Glade in the San Juan National Forest.

A group of 16 volunteers, with funding from grants, spent June 21-28 renovating the 92-year-old Glade Guard Station north of Dolores, the oldest structure in the San Juan National Forest.

"Historic preservation really isn't about buildings. It's really about people," said Silverton Restoration Consulting's David Singer, who is serving as paid project manager. "We're celebrating this building's history, but really these guys are contributing another chapter to the history."

"These guys" are a dynamic team of retired smokejumpers with an average age of 69. They all belong to the National Smokejumper Association, and all volunteer their time in the summers maintaining trails, restoring historic structures and repairing corrals and fences on national forests across the country.

"I am blown away at the progress they've made. I had concerns, based on my own performance history," Singer said jokingly.

The volunteers were as busy as a professional construction crew, installing new roofing, running power tools off a generator, stripping wood and painting.

Essential restoration work was the focus of the week, while keeping the building as much in original condition as possible, according to Julie Coleman, heritage team lead for the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango. The stone foundation was repointed and repaired. The old shingle roof was removed, rafters shored up and new plywood installed, followed by water and ice barrier, a sealer breather layer, then new cedar shingles. A door and windows were removed so they can be restored, and the exterior was sanded, repaired and painted white. A new, telescoping flag pole, donated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was installed on the same site as the original.

"They're great," Coleman said about the volunteers. "They are really hard workers. They were up yodeling before sunrise. They began to work and then took a break for breakfast. They'll work straight through to 5 or 6 at night. They're making a lot of progress. We're real excited."

Some surprising discoveries have been found. On the back side of a wooden door frame from the 1936 or 1937 porch addition were words penciled on the board "The Gaines Lumber Company, Dolores, Co", a company now long out of business.

The project cost of $32,000 is being funded by the San Juan National Forest, Bacon Family Foundation and Ballantine Family Fund. That provided supplies and materials for the project, paid Singer to direct the volunteer crew, and provided for meals prepared by Elevated Fine Foods of Silverton, Coleman said.

"These guys all have the common brotherhood of being smokejumpers. Most of them were smokejumpers in the 1960s, but one was in the 1950s. They did that to put themselves through college, then went on to a wide range of careers. This is their summer vacation. A lot of them had never met before, but they're coming together around the campfire and telling a lot of stories," she said. "They have the satisfaction of contributing and doing a project, but they also enjoy meeting each other."

The Smokejumpers were summer fire crew members who parachuted into remote forest sites where lightning started fires, explained one of the volunteers, Jim Dollard, 74, of Evergreen. After they put out a fire, they had to walk eight to 16 miles out to a road.

The Glade Guard Station house was built in 1916, and remodeled in 1936 and 1937 by Civilian Conservation Corps teams, who also built a one-car garage and woodshed at that time. A barn was built between 1905 and 1915. The buildings were used by forest rangers, who stayed there in the summer and fall, or just stopped in for a few nights. However, the site hadn't been actively used since the 1980s, and the residence was deteriorating from water damage and rodents.

The residence is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, and an application is in progress to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places, Coleman said.

Restoration work scheduled for next year includes replacing the restored windows and door, removing asbestos tile, refinishing the oak wood floor underneath, repairing plaster work in the ceiling and walls, painting inside, installing a new propane heater, kitchen stove and refrigerator, and having a pit toilet built, she said.

By the summer of 2010, the goal is to have the Glade Guard Station ready to rent out to the public. Reservations would be handled through the private, nonprofit Jersey Jim Foundation, which also rents out the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower northeast of Mancos.

Lloyd McNeil, trails supervisor for the Dolores Public Lands Office, foresees that it could be popular during the summer and fall for hunters, and people who might bring their horses up for rides on the Glade, a unique seven-mile long open meadow. The barn and a corral, which will be rebuilt, could accommodate horses, he envisions.

"The rentals would save the building by keeping it in use, and people get to enjoy it," Coleman said. "The funds would go towards preservation. Having the cabin occupied and in use will also help discourage the vandalism that often plagues abandoned structures. There are two site monitors who also keep an eye on the place."

Reach Melinda Green at

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Can't better step then becomes our moral responsibility to protect our Historic assests....gud by those 16 volunteers...gud....


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