Historic Douglas County, Inc.
Open Space Day 2012
Historic Douglas County, Inc. (HDC) co-sponsored Open Space Day at Prairie Canyon Ranch with Douglas County’s Division of Open Space and Natural Resources. The event provided a fun day for all who attended and Mother Nature went out of her way in providing a beautifully cool, calm day in spite of the forecasts of menacing weather by some of our learned meteorologists.
Prairie Canyon Ranch is a Douglas County Open Space owned, working ranch operating in a bucolic setting just a mile and a half south of Castlewood Canyon off Highway 83. The just-short of 1,000 acre ranch has a cave and lots of hills and valleys along with meandering streams. The ranch house, barn and outbuildings are typical of early twentieth century ranches with some uniqueness here and there …such as the ranch-unique Happy Days Saloon!
The volunteer participants did a great job in entertaining the event attendees. Parker Area Historical Society (PAHS) brought their magnificent Conestoga wagon to the event and LeiOma Koestner (PAHS) staffed the Parker display table, answering questions and selling the society’s wares. Brooke Fox of Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) brought the CALF folks and displays from CALF’s Lowell Ranch to the event and signed-up a number of new members for CALF. What’s great about Open Space Day is that everyone learns and everyone wins! Yes, folks, this is unlike politics…
The trail ride with some 49 riders and horses was great fun. Led by Jackie Sanderson and Douglas County guides, three groups of riders rode the hills and valleys and crossed the meandering clear stream which bisects the ranch. The picture at the heading of this page depicts one group in the event’s central grounds, returning from the two to two and a half hour ride. After their ride, the riders had immense fun perusing the numerous displays and learning about Douglas County’s boundless pioneer histories.
At noon the riders, hikers, attendees and volunteers had a great hamburger and brat lunch served by Jim DeLay’s Flying Horse caterers and listened for two the outstanding bluegrass music by Kantankerous. Kantankerous did an absolutely beautiful job of entertaining folks for an hour and a half with such songs as “Midnight Flyer,” Shenendoah Breakdown”, “Handsome Molly” and many, many more …ending with the beautiful and all-time favorite, “Amazing Grace.” If you really love bluegrass, check out the Kantankerous Website for a sample of their work and, if you like, consider buying their new CD, Jumping Dog. Now all this great music did not just work to sooth the ear and the soul! Angel Horvat, Castle Rock Historical Society (CRHS) president, served as one of HDC’s ambassador’s for Open Space Day. Angel was dancing most of the time the band was playing …and, dressed appropriately as a gal might have been dressed for running the “Happy Days Saloon” in days of old. Angel did a fabulous job not only as an ambassador for the event but as a can-can dancer as well! Lucia McConnell of both CRHS and HDC also served as one of HDC’s ambassadors at large, riding, so to speak, on what has become HDC’s “stuffed” mascot, Douglas (Check out the end of this webpage …Douglas always signs-off on articles of events where he appears!
Larkspur Historical Society (LHS) had several pioneering demonstrations at their tents. Susan and John Hultman, respectively, displayed the arts of yarn spinning and some really neat firearms …those instruments that put food on the table in the pioneering days of old. John and Susan were both in full dress for their respective parts …right out of the pioneering west! Carol Krueger and Carolyn Jones (LHS) demonstrated butter churning and passed out to the event attendees fresh bread spread with the newly churned butter and offered a cup of sweet-cream buttermilk as a chaser! Good, good stuff! Folks left the LHS tent a couple of pounds heavier than they arrived! LHS president, Danna Hamling, and LHS member as well as Greenland expert, Penny Burdick, were also in the LHS tent …Danna posing as a lady drummer of old, selling LHS wares and Miss Penny provided insight into the redevelopment of Greenland upon which the society is focusing.
There was storytelling in the upper floor of the wonderful barn that served as an auditorium. Jennifer Drybread gave a fantastic, in role account of the area’s Engles family. Bob Schultz, former owner of the Prairie Canyon Ranch before it was purchased by Douglas County Open Space, regaled the audience with stories and reminiscing of life on the ranch. Jackie Sanderson of Douglas County Open Space presented the third program, the Open Space Story, talking about Open Space and conservancy proprieties of Douglas County and Douglas County’s focus and philosophy on such lands. We are indeed fortunate to have such preservation dedication of these pristine lands.
Friends of Castlewood Canyon was at the event and Ron Claussen assisted as a grounds ambassador and other members guided and directed hikers around the various areas of the ranch. As mentioned earlier, Mother Nature really out-did herself for weather of the day. The day was a great day for hiking, cool and only a light breeze lilting along in the air.
Douglas County Historic Preservation Board (HPB), represented by chairperson, Mary Ann Gabriel, and board member Mark Howard, manned the HPB display in the garage area. Roger Tucker of the Colorado Hawking Club and his raptors also were in the garage. Shown in the picture on the left is MaryAnn and Mark talking with Roger about one of his magnificent raptors.
Cline and Carol Porche who live on and operate the ranch provided the “Hayride Express” as welcome transportation between the horse trailer parking area and the central grounds area of the Open Space event. After a two and a half hour trail ride, most of the riders appreciated a John Deere-powered ride to event central in contrast to what would have otherwise been a quarter-mile trek.
Most everyone associated with historical structures around the County know the names “Johnny and Jerry …Johnny Mulligan and Jerry Wlodarek, Historic Restoration Specialists of Douglas County Open Space. These two gentlemen are the County’s important assets in the restoration and reconstruction of historical structures throughout the County. Both Johnny and Jerry were at Open Space Day with Johnny helping with the grounds set-up and Jerry displaying and educating the public about his Indian teepee down by the lake. Both of these great guys have been working on the blacksmith shop at Prairie Canyon Ranch. The blacksmith shop was open to the public although the shop was not yet fully operational. The shop when operational will have a working forge, replete with forge tools, anvil and a Little Giant trip hammer. Although like all blacksmith shops, the floor is dirt, Johnny and Jerry had just finished building a nice wooden floor in the entrance of the building and boxing-in the 2×4 cross beams of the roof rafters. This blacksmith shop is going to be a great example and asset for Douglas County Open Space when complete. Good job guys!
Mary O’Pry, Historic Douglas County, Inc.’s treasurer, commanded the HDC tent. The term “commanded” is used here because Mary was in her familiar “School-marm duds, serving lemonade and cookies and telling everyone who stopped-by about the history and gorgeous area of our incredible County. Not to be out-“commanded,” Jim Weglarz, HDC president, roamed the grounds of the event and addressing those items needing attention that always seem to arise in such events. During Open Space Day at Prairie Canyon Ranch, Jim seemed to be almost omnipresent. By the looks of Jim’s face at right, he must have been addressing one of those items needing attention when the picture was snapped! While Mary and Jim were respectively “commanding,” the other HDC board members were also busy at their tasks. Janet Weglarz had the daunting task of managing the registration and directing of the trail-riding “starting gate” …good, somewhat thankless job, Janet. Ed Hooks and Tim Weber did the traffic and parking directing and Larry Schlupp attended to the needs of the various volunteer displayers, demonstrators, storytellers and musicians on the central grounds of the event.
HDC would also like to thank the Franktown Fire Protection District who graciously provided support both from an EMT and fire protection support. These folks are the best and provide standby, on-site support for potential accidents. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are very thankful that the day passed quickly by without any accidents or medical incidents.
So folks, there you have it, a bit of a thumbnail overview of Open Space Day at Prairie Canyon Ranch. If you missed the event this year, we are truly sorry. The old adage, “There’s always next year…” could apply but, unfortunately, always rings a bit hollow. />But, if you did miss the event, perhaps this brief overview has provided you a bit of a feel of the event …sans the true feel of the expansive, gorgeous scenery, the sights and tastes of the exhibits, the roaming of the hills and valleys of the ranch and the melodious bluegrass music floating across the countryside. So, we shall leave this reminiscing of the event now and ride into the sunset …and, as earlier promised, …on a horse named Douglas…