Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Vision #18: Audio Tours

Visitors to the Ute Ulay site may have the choice of various audio tours featuring the voices and knowledge of local residents. 
Julia enjoying an audio tour
For example, one could choose to take the poetry audio tour and listen to regional poets reading work evocative of the landscape or mining.  Someone else might choose the ghost tour, and listen to the voice of local miner George Hurd or historian Grant Houston telling stories about the mine and Lake City.  Yet another visitor might choose to listen to the voice of Matt Ingram describe what it was like to work at the mill.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Vision #17: Mill and Assayer’s Cabin

The unique and remarkably intact mill building could become the central historic attraction of the Ute Ulay site, as well as another source of revenue.  There may be potential for a partnership with the Hard Tack Mine, and with miner Matt Ingram, who could give tours or record an audio guide.  
Mill Building with Walkway Superstructure
Building walkways around and through the mill would solve the problem of a costly indoor restoration, allowing visitors to view the complex machinery and imagine the milling process. A sound artist could be invited to repurpose some of the machinery as kinetic sculptures, giving visitors a sense of the industrial cacophony inside a working ore mill.
The assayer’s office next to the mill might be reused as a workspace for a resident artist or writer or building administrator.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Vision #16: Tramway, Zipline, Waterslide

Productive mines are often discovered in inaccessible terrain. For many mining operations like the Ute Ulay, it was not cost-effective to build and maintain roads for several burros or pack horses to transport ore down the mountain. Aerial tramways developed in the 1860s transformed the mining industry. This creative solution inspired us to imagine reinstating the Ute Ulay tramway. 
Ute Ulay adventure loop
In our vision, a low-energy, small tramcar would carry two people up the slope. At the top, visitors would have the choice to ride the tram down or take a zipline to the inoperative Ute Ulay dam. If the flume were also reinstated, one could waterslide back to the mill site, completing the Ute Ulay loop adventure.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Vision #15: Trails

Interpretive trails are found in many parks, historical sites, and open-air museums. Designs range from simple signage to highly integrated benches, pavers, and design elements that display or provide information. At the Ute Ulay, a variety of options exist for self-guided tours. 
old flume path trail
One area that particularly stands out is the path of the old flume that transported tailings from the mill to a field west of the site. Cut into the hillside at a gentle slope, this is an ideal spot to situate an interpretive trail, leading casual walkers away from the Ute Ulay to a Bureau of Land Management reclamation site. The educational content found around the trails should employ natural materials as well as local poetry and anecdotes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Vision #14: Transportation

Motorized transport including ATVs, jeeps, and dirt bikes dominate the Alpine Loop.  To encourage a slightly different kind of visitor to the hostel, the Hardrock Revision team wanted to consider options for those without a motor to propel them up to the site. 
Burro ride to the Ute Ulay anyone?
 Shuttle pick-ups scheduled from Lake City, in the form of car or burro, are two possibilities that would have the additional benefit of cutting down on the need for parking space.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Vision #13: Water Tank as Camera Obscura

The term camera obscura comes from the Latin for “dark vaulted chamber.” Popular in Victorian times, the camera obscura is an optical devise that projects an image of its surroundings onto a screen.  Also referred to as The Mirror of Life, camera obscuras were seen in many U.S. parks and public spaces from the 1870s to 1950s. The proposal to use the water tank at the Ute Ulay as a periscope camera obscura combines two methods of viewing the surroundings in one experience. Light is tunneled down a shaft (not unlike light filtering down a mine shaft) to project a moving image onto a concave dish. Inside the tower, viewers may manipulate the periscope themselves or with the help of a guide.
1880s Redwood Water Tank as Camera Obscura

Our Vision #12: Spring and Aspen Grove

Just up the hill from the headframe there is a small grove of aspen. Among the trees, at the top of what is currently a dry streambed, is a natural spring where water flows out of the earth into a concrete cistern. It could easily be made into a more natural pool.

This area is a small gem. By formalizing the path and adding stones or other natural seating, it could become a quiet place for connecting with the landscape of the Rocky Mountains

Our Vision #11: Ute Plaza and Picnic Area

The flat area between the headframe and the water tank is an ideal place to establish an accessible overlook, community space, and picnic area. Since it is also adjacent to the education building, the space is perfect for nature and history talks, poetry readings, and to give an overview to the mining and milling process.
Design elements of the plaza and picnic area should have symbolic value and create an inviting place. Circular forms made of rock, brick, or steel may refer to the many layers of time and human history at the site. Circles also evoke the Ute Indian baskets and tepees, historic kilns, as well as gears and other mining equipment. A fire ring would encourage storytelling and a sense of community. 

The overlook needs a fence for safety. This should be considered an opportunity for engaging an artist to make this utilitarian object an integrated part of the character of the Ute Ulay site.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Vision #10: Hostel & Cabins [2/2]

Additional Housing
Recycled materials from the site and environs could be used to construct additional low-impact housing on the site.
Piet Hein Eek's log cabins imagined at the Ute Ulay
Dutch designer and architect Piet Hein Eek is known for his use of scrap-wood furniture and recycled building materials. Pictured here is a log cabin he designed for the entertainer Hans Liberg. The structural elements consist of a salvaged steel frame, log exterior, sheep’s wool for insulation, and painted plywood interiors. Set on wheels, the cabin can be easily relocated.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Vision #9: Hostel & Cabins [1/2]

This is the first element within STAGE II
miner’s boardinghouse
 The miner’s boardinghouse and the two cabins will be a revenue-generating hostel, reflecting the buildings’ original use.  Structures will undergo a deep energy retrofit to preserve historic character while becoming energy efficient.  Thoughtful interior decoration could interpret the site’s history. 
Winterization will be self-contained in the boardinghouse, with cabins for summer use.  The main structure will include private and group bedrooms, hot showers, plumbing, gathering space, and a communal kitchen.  Other amenities could include interpretive resources, educational programming, and a small-scale farming endeavor with chickens or alpacas.  A live-in site caretaker, potentially a VISTA volunteer or artist-in-residence, could handle online reservations, light housekeeping, and greeting duties. 
Marketing would target ice climbers, backpackers, corporate retreats, family reunions, and student groups.  A price spectrum could be implemented to include a special rate for locals and work-trades for low-income visitors; one or both cabins may be renovated into more private, rustic luxury accommodations. 
Creative interior and exterior wallpapering, drawing on the structure’s original wallpaper and Victorian patterns, could emphasize the hidden history of domesticity within the mining landscape.  
hostel or cabin interior

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Vision #8: Early Art Integration [4/4]

Adit Closure: Aeolian Harps.
In the immediate future, adits at the Ute Ulay site will need to be closed off. Usually this is done by placing grills or gates at the entrance of the adit.
The gate structure could be modified to include aeolian harps that take advantage of the natural movement of air through the mine.  In winter, the warmer air inside the adit rushes upward through the mine shaft; in summer, when the air inside is cooler than the outside air, the flow is reversed.  Aeolian harps are sensitive to the movement of air and produce different sounds depending on the force of the wind. Different tonal ranges are created through the use of differing tensions in the metal construction of the harp.
Aeolian Harps in the Ute Ulay adits

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our Vision #7: Early Art Integration [3/4]

Shaft & Adit Periscope and Diorama
The head shaft and lower adit next to the mill site are connected deep underground.  Before shafts and adits are closed for safety, installation of a periscope or live video feed could draw visitors, generate revenue, and create a sense of the unseen connections underground.
adit periscope
Alternatively, adits could be closed several yards back so that visitors could enter the adit briefly and experience the space of the mine; rock walls could be painted iridescent gold or silver.
Another option might be to have an artist install a peephole tube from outside the adit or shaft into a diorama created just inside the mine. A visitor might see a tiny scene or collection of precious minerals inside. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our Vision #6: Early Art Integration [2/4]

Structure Splinting
There are two frame structures on the Ute Ulay site in need of immediate repair, the head frame and the remains of the flume head at the former mill site. Both of these historical fragments communicate how the mine worked at the height of its productive life. 

historic structure splinting

In medical parlance, bone fractures can be held together using internal and external orthopedic metal splints. If we consider the frame structures as skeletons of the industrial past, an aesthetic sculptural component of the remediation process could be making visible methods of repair.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Vision #5: Early Art Integration [1/4]

Roof Tarps

Many of the buildings on the town site and mill site are currently degrading due to inadequate roofing, and the community has considered installing tarps as a short-term solution. This presents an opportunity to embellish the site with creative tarps in lieu of plain blue ones.

Protective vinyl tarps could be printed with images or information related to future creative enhancements of the site. For example, one tarp may showcase how the water storage tank may be transformed into a camera obscura. Alternatively, tarps could display historical imagery of miners who once worked at the Ute Ulay. This imagery could be provided by the historical society or created by an arts group or class. After the tarps are used, they can be transformed into tote bags as a fundraiser.

protective and decorative tarps

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our Vision #4: Bioremediation

Bioremediation Research Center

Phyto- or green remediation looks to nature to help clean up contaminated soils. It is cheaper and of lower impact than more traditional remediation methods. In particular, phytoremediation uses plants to draw heavy metals out of the soil.  Although this process has not been scientifically proven to treat lead contamination, there are scientists who think it might be possible.  A cheap and quick-to-construct hoop house on top of a small area of lead-heavy tailings could serve as a research center for phytoremediation techniques.

Our Vision #3: Art and Educational Programming

Art and Educational Programming Precedent

A wide variety of educational opportunities could be offered at the Ute Ulay. Toward this aim, a central building for staff, storage, and small group meetings could be located in a new structure behind the headframe.

The Ute Ulay holds the potential for educational programming for all ages and could include opportunities for school groups, workshops, and university research, as well as the casual tourist. Educational tools include creative signage, historically sensitive design, and tours. Text and images can be embedded throughout the site and sourced from an interdisciplinary array of poetry, diaries, maps, history, and science. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Vision #2: Ground Stabilization and Grading

Ground stabilization and grading is key to both the town site and the mill site. Grading should facilitate walkways to all elements of the site. The layout and overall planning of the site should be considered before work commences. As much as possible the site should be fully accessible.

We strongly recommend that retaining walls are made with gabion walls instead of concrete or engineered block. Gabions should use on-site waste rock material. The rock may be sorted for color and size and placed in layers that reference site geology. An artist could be engaged to design the stratified gabions.

ground stabilization and grading

Thoughtfully expanded parking is a necessary part of a future vision for the Ute Ulay.  There are a few possible parking sites that are minimally visible from the road and will not significantly change a visitor’s first experience of the site.  Relative invisibility, as well as safety and convenience, is a priority.

expanded parking

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our Vision #1: Structure Stabilization

Some of the buildings on the Ute Ulay mine site are in need of immediate protection and stabilization until funding can be secured. The team has identified key buildings and structures in need of care. These were chosen for their importance to the identity of the site, their potential importance to the future of the site, and their structural vulnerability.

The site is split into two areas; above the road (to the north) is the town site, and below the road (to the south) is the mill site.
  • At town site: the headframe, boardinghouse, two log cabins, and water tank.
  • At the mill site: the mill, assayer’s office, and flume head.
structures in need of immediate care
From left to right, top to bottom:
  • Redwood Water Tank
  • Eastern Log Cabin
  • Western Log Cabin
  • Flume Head
  • Miner's Boarding House
  • L-shaped Cabin
  • The Mill
  • Assayer's Office
  • Headframe
For information on how this fits the overall vision see our collaborative vision and three stage approach.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Three Stage Approach

There are many factors which affect the ordering of the different elements we are proposing for the Ute Ulay mine; legal, financial, physical etc. Many of these factors are as yet unknown, and so in the interests of clarity we decided to group our ideas into 3 stages. These stages are imperfect, but are flexible enough to respond to the creativity and resourcefulness of local Lake Citians, as well as external factors.  

Below is an outline of the stages.

Stage 1

STAGE 1: Immediate preservation & stabilization, art as community momentum

Identify key structures for stabilizing:
            2 cabins
            Water tank
            Assayer’s Office
            Flume Head  
Grading and stabilization of town site
            Gabion walls
Bio-remediation project instigated
            Outline function of website, webmaster etc.
Art Projects
            Roof Tarp art project
            Head frame clinic
            Shafts and adits before closure:
            Aeolian Harps 

Stage 2 

STAGE 2: Town site
Deep-energy retrofit hostel and cabins
            Winterized hostel
            Chickens or alpaca farm: producing on-site
Incinerating toilets
            Solar showers
            Interpretive resources and decoration
Development of head frame picnic area
Head frame restoration, picnic area, contemplation space
Water tank projects
Tramway and zip-line, re-establish flume as slide

Stage 3
STAGE 3: Mill site expansion

Access to mill and assayer’s office
            Tours and outside walkways
            Audio tours
Underground passage to river
Tailings pile mountain remediated as monument
Gathering spot in ruins with movies
Ice rink and expanded ice climbing
Alternative energy development in Henson Creek
Sheds as extra hostel space/residency/workshop
Web presence expands/continues
Pika research center

All these ideas will be detailed here on the Hardrock Revision blog in forthcoming weeks...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Collaborative Vision

It's been a month now since the Artposium, and it seems about time to let you all know what we came up with. The results will be posted roughly in the order they were presented, to give those of you who couldn't make it, the chance to see what happened. It will begin with the more general, and become more specific with each new post.

To begin, here are a series of overarching statements we jointly came up with:


The Ute Ulay will be a functional site.  It must be a habitable public space that is educational, environmentally conscious, and historically sensitive

Ute Ulay upper site

Project Summary

The Hardrock Revision team spent a month in Lake City, consulting with many scientists, mining historians, and an archaeologist to gain a fuller sense of the Ute Ulay site’s past functions and present conditions.  The group sought community involvement through formal and informal interviews, participation in local events, and regular consultations with a community advisory group.
The collaborative team included a poet, historian, sculptors, videographer, landscape architect, mixed-media artists, and two facilitators.  Working as a group, in smaller configurations, and independently, the team identified project priorities, a guiding approach to development, and a vision for the transformation of the site in three stages. 

Group meeting in 'The Moose' cabin. [image Bland Hoke]

The five priorities of the project are 1) sustainability, 2) community, 3) a balance of preservation and innovation, 4) feasibility and flexibility, and 5) public education.

Sustainability: The Ute Ulay mine site should be both environmentally and economically sustainable.  Construction materials should be reused from the site or locally sourced whenever possible, and power needs generated on site.  Repurposed buildings should undergo deep energy retrofits.  At least one part of the complex should generate revenue to finance the site’s upkeep, and other areas require minimal staffing and maintenance.

Community: The Ute Ulay mine site should reflect the desires, values, and spirit of the local, seasonal, and wider communities.  The site’s function should fill community needs, such as expanding the tourist season, and will not replicate local amenities or other attractions on the Alpine Loop.  Community ownership at every stage of development will ensure the project’s success.  The site should reflect Hinsdale County’s pride of place and bridge cultural and environmental issues.  
Balancing preservation and innovation: Maintaining the Ute Ulay’s historic character, and creating new uses for the site are not necessarily in conflict.  The spirit of the site’s mining use -- repurposing structures, exploration, and nearly constant change -- should be followed, rather than the letter of conforming to a replication of antique mining at every turn. Putting buildings into current use will discourage vandalism.

Feasibility and Flexibility: The vision has multiple stages and multiple options.  Ideas are on a spectrum from simple maintenance to much more ambitious projects.  The community need not follow the plan in a linear fashion, and parts of the vision can be implemented immediately. 

Public Education: The mine site should be a public space with an educational mission, as a platform for mine remediation, experiments in phyto-remediation, and a model for low-impact resourcefulness, as well as interpretation and access to a historic mining landscape.  

Lake City downtown
Keep checking back for more details of what we proposed....

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Check out the Hardrock Team's Vision at the Moseley Arts Center for one day only! The team will present their vision August 13th, 2011 at 2:15pm followed by an informal community conversation and reception at 5:00pm. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Amplifying a Vision

By Bland

(Image courtesy of Social Innovation Solutions)

In a recent trip to Silverton Colorado, the Hard Rock Revision Team presented their initial ‘sketch’ vision for the Ute Ulay mine to a crowd at the Mountain Studies Institute. Overall the presentation went well, minus the lack of visual information we had yet to generate to illustrate the vision. What is transpiring is a menu of options and ideas that extend the boundaries of possibility for the Ute Ulay mine.

The innovative nature of many of the ideas is a direct response to one of the goals the team established – not to feel bored with the ideas we are pursuing. Whereby most of the community feedback was centered around preserving buildings, or having the opportunity to stay on the site, our preliminary vision did not extend well beyond these actions. During a picnic with Stan Whinnery, Hinsdale the County Commissioner, we asked him what his ideal vision was for the site. Commissioner Winnery basically summed up what we had come up with over the past 3 weeks in a short 2 minute pitch. It was at this moment that I thought (assumably with others), “what have we done for the past 3 weeks?” This realization jumpstarted the ideation process as we all tapped into our last reserves for the final week.

The results speak for themselves. Ideas evolved and turned into wonderful examples of creativity and innovation, balancing preservation and deep rooted heritage.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jesus of the Adit, aka Christ of the Mines

We took the Alpine Loop yesterday over to Silverton to tour the Old 100 Mine and Mayflower Mill, as well as give a talk about our project at the Mountain Studies Institute.

First we stopped at Animus Forks, an old mining ghost town that's been fixed up marginally and left to explore. Then, we went deep into the Old 100 Mine in little carts and felt the cold and hardrock damp. At the Mill, we admired their cross-valley tramway and pressed buttons.

The trip was great in order to see the things that have already been done on the Alpine Loop with mine sites, and the Ute Ulay, we hope, will reflect some of the same themes while being quite different.

Our talk was well-received in Silverton by an interesting group of folks. There's a lot of enthusiasm about creative community re-purposing of old mine structures over there!

Finally, we made a moonlit pilgrimage to the Christ of the Mines shrine that looks down over Silverton, keeping miners safe.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I seem to have the convenient job of blogging on Sunday--usually a day off. It may just seem that I'm lazy, not writing about fancy things like phytoremediation and the mechanics of milling metals and whatnot, but really it's the luck of the draw. Because yesterday, we went for a swim in the grass alongside Waterdog Lake.

It was a 7.6-mile roundtrip hike from the wastewater treatment facility in Lake City (oooh, bubbling wastewater) up to Waterdog, through aspen groves and meadows of wildflowers. And just for the record, yes, we did swim in the lake, too--though not without some trepidation concerning alpine gators and tentacled aliens lurking in the weedy waters...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Out and about and overnight

best cowboy over the age of twelve

the rodeo queen and her horse, er, unicorn

stick horses waiting for their riders

As part of our initiative to understand the dynamics of the Lake City community, all of us attended and two of us competed in the Stick Horse Rodeo held downtown on Saturday. The Stick Horse Rodeo is apparently an annual event here and judging by the long list of competitors of all ages, it is a popular one.

Bland had a big day, winning overall best cowboy over the age of twelve. Julia served as color guard and rodeo queen as well as competing in the bucking bronco and barrel racing events. A video may be forthcoming.

That night, a few of us braved the ghosts and uncertain terrain of the mine to spend a night camping on site. We can report no hauntings but a lot of bats who possibly live in the adits or shaft, which was pretty exciting since at least one of us was an early advocate of a bat sanctuary.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens) is a plant that is usually thought of as a wild flower or a weed. It’s a member of the brassica family that grows in western Colorado, Wyoming and up to Montana. It’s often found at high elevations in the Rockies as well as in the Alps and the Pyrenees, among other places.

In an earlier post about phyto or green remediation, I wrote about the possibility of using plants to draw heavy metals out of contaminated soil. Alpine pennycress is a particularly promising plant for remediation because it can tolerate high amounts of cadmium, lead, and zinc. It has also been shown to draw cadmium and zinc out of the soil and can be used to mitigate erosion on lead contaminated soil.

We’ve found alpine pennycress growing on the site of the Ute Ulay. It’s small and scrubby but it’s there. This seems to be a promising sign, both for the soil and for the possibility of phytoremediation.

And there’s more: alpine pennycress’s cousin field pennycress is being developed in the US as a source of biodiesel. Pennycress is not useful as livestock feed, though its leaves and seeds are a good source of oil, and it’s production would not compete with land for food production because it is used as a winter cover crop.

As far as we can tell, alpine pennycress is not being tested for bio-fuel possibilities, perhaps because it has fewer leaves and smaller seeds and doesn’t grow in the mid-west, where most of the field pennycress research is going on. But what if it was useful for bio-fuel on a small scale? We could use the plants for soil remediation and then process them as bio-diesel to run the Buckeye Engine.* An almost perfect loop!

*This plan is not scientifically verifiable.