In the Jan/Feb issue of
Colorado Central Magazine

An aerial view of the current gold mine operation outside Fairplay. The operation is partially financed by sponsors of the Gold Rush reality TV series which is featuring the operation. Some residents are opposing expanded mining for what they claim is a detrimental impact on the South Park community. Drone photo by Michael Asher.

Park County Mining Controversy Grinds On

By Daniel Smith

Mining was a big part of Fairplay’s past, but a recent mine expansion off Colo. Hwy. 9 has residents divided over its benefits versus concerns over environmental harm and change to the town’s character.

In addition, the fact that Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” reality TV series has been filming and aiding miners’ financing exacerbates the divisions.

A group of concerned residents, Save Park County (, alleges that Park County commissioners ignored citizens’ concerns, and questions whether proper procedures were followed in granting an expansion of the current mining operation by High Speed Mining, aided by the television show’s money from sponsors, including Volvo.

The group claims the county ignored the advice of its own planning commission when it approved rezoning an additional 28-acre, heavily wooded area zoned residential and dotted with homes for mining in August.

Save Park County’s co-chair, Fairplay businessman Trevor Messa, says the group filed a so-called 106 action, seeking an injunction to stop the mining and rezoning because of what they feel is an obvious incompatibility issue. The injunction was thrown out, due to procedural errors, Messa says, by a district judge who was formerly the county attorney. Read more


Dispatch From the Edge

As you head into the good cheer of the holidays, you run into an old friend on the corner downtown between the bank and the post office who happens to be hauling a hydraulic wood splitter. And you have several piñons, decimated by an influx of beetles, which have been downed and bucked up into some gnarly rounds that would take most of a winter to split by hand. And she says, sure, I can drop the splitter by and leave it for a while. And then you spend a weekend with a few buddies and that wondrous piece of machinery and end up with enough wood to feed the stove for the next two winters. And later, you remember you have some aged rounds of juniper that haven’t been split and you share them with your daughter who thinks it’s great fun to wield the maul, which opens up the burgundy innards of this tender wood so readily.  Read more


Doyleville, Colorado: Jumping-off point into the Gunnison Country

The little ranching community on Tomichi Creek preceded the great mining boom in the Gunnison country. Doyleville, located near the mouth of both Hot Springs and Razor Creeks, began in 1876 when 52-year-old Henry Doyle of northern Michigan, his wife and two youngest sons, crossed Marshall Pass and entered the Tomichi Valley. He settled next to the S.W. Davidson family, who had a dairy farm, as did Doyle.

Taking advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, Doyle acquired 160 acres for $1.25 an acre. He lived in a tent that first summer.

When the Gunnison country mining boom began in 1879, Doyleville became a stop for Barlow and Sanderson stages and for the many freighters en route to Gunnison and nearby silver camps.

Jesse and Frank James came to Doyleville in the 1870s and worked on the Coats ranch, where they hid from the law. Mrs. Coats was a relative of the James boys. Ike Thompson had known Jesse and Frank in Missouri. Jesse drew him aside. “Hello Ike, my name is Brown here. You understand?”

“I understand alright,” said Thompson and kept his lips sealed. After a three-week stay, the James boys returned to Missouri.  Read more