Familiar to all who have visited the Preserve, the claim is the bench, on which sits the rock locally known as Big Rock. It is also the place where the trail first meets Bear Creek, a spot that gives visitors an unobstructed view of Bear Creek Falls. The Crystal Millsite is one of the few remaining parcels contiguous to the Preserve that was in private ownership.
Purchased in 1957 by Dwight Oliver and Frank Buss of Norwood, the millsite remained in Buss family hands until its sale to SMCF.
Gary Hickcox, executive director of SMCF applauded Violet Oliver and Elizabeth Buss for their sensitivity to the conservation values of the parcel.
"When notified by County Commissioner Art Goodtimes that the property might be available for sale, I opened discussions with the owners," said Hickcox. "This resultant transaction is incredibly satisfying. Not only in that it will result in the preservation in perpetuity of important acreage, but as an example of both a cooperative effort and a growing vision of regional landowners in proactively working to protect this special environment. I couldn't be more thrilled."
The purchase of the Crystal Millsite is the third transaction in the past two years between the San Miguel Conservation Foundation and private owners of mining claims in Bear Creek Canyon. In April of this year, the Golden Chief Millsite, Golden Chief Lode, Northern Ohio Lode and Star Lode were purchased from the Trust For Public Land as a part of that organization's high country transaction with Idarado Mining Company. In 2002 the Little Canton Millsite was purchased from the Hawkins family. Totaling 46 acres, these parcels will ultimately be transferred to the Town of Telluride for inclusion into the Preserve.
In 1994, through the efforts of SMCF and its founder, Rich Salem, 325 acres of pristine, high-altitude wilderness adjacent to the Town of Telluride were purchased for protection and formed the core of what is now known as the Bear Creek Preserve. Gifted to the Town of Telluride in 1997, the property is managed under the Bear Creek Charter and a management agreement with the town. SMCF holds a conservation easement on the property. In the ten years since its acquisition the original Preserve has expanded to 423 acres, due to the cooperative efforts of the town and SMCF.
The San Miguel Conservation Foundation is a non-profit, public purpose land conservation organization founded in 1993 and based in Telluride. Through a variety of conservation techniques, SMCF works with confidentiality and in cooperation with private landowners to protect natural and open resources throughout the region. More than 6,000 acres in San Miguel County are currently under the stewardship of SMCF.
For information about land conservation options or the recent acquisition of the Crystal Millsite contact Gary Hickcox, Executive Director, SMCF, at (970) 728-1539, ghickcox@SMCF.org or visit the SMCF office at 121 N. Pine St. in Telluride.