Dixie National Forest Browse ranger station receives tender love and care – St George News
ST. GEORGE- At the end of a rough forest service road is an old ranger station. Paint is peeling and nearby markers are littered with bullet holes. A sign on the door reads: “Danger. Do not enter.” The windows are boarded up.
Despite these signs of imminent abandonment, the future of the site is promising.
In a Facebook post, the US Forest Service called a recent project at the Browse Guard Station in the Dixie National Forest a “great success” after a collaborative group began rehabilitation efforts at the historic site.
“It was invigorating to see members of the public enthusiastic and passionate about historic preservation,” the post read.
The Utah Cultural Landmarks Stewardship Program, under the responsibility of the State Historic Preservation Office, coordinated with Dixie Nation Forest staff, including Pine Valley Ranger District recreation staff, to conduct complete the project, according to the message.
“These projects can deter valuable time and resources from other demands of the season,” the post said. “Their support, along with the necessary supplies and expertise, was crucial to the success of this restoration.”
“Preserving what we have left”
Laurel Glidden, archaeologist and heritage program manager for the Dixie National Forest, said the project has been on the group’s radar for some time and the ranger station is important to locals and the forest service because of its story. It is one of six remaining of the 30 originally estimated.
“So it’s very important that we preserve what we have left,” she said.
The guardhouse was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. But the 179-acre Mill Creek Browse Experimental Range was developed earlier in 1921 to study local vegetation, St. George News reported.
Towering over the dilapidated structure stands the giant Pine Valley Sequoia, a unique attraction nestled in this secluded site. He is believed to be around 80 years old, the article states.
According to the article, the tree is widely believed to have been planted by University of Utah botany professor Dr. Walter Cottam in the 1930s as part of the Browse Experiment Station.
The guardhouse was one of four buildings scheduled to be decommissioned and would have been demolished, but for various reasons it was not, Glidden said.
So Glidden and Debra McCarthy, a Dixie National Forest archaeologist, approached the regional office asking to work on the structure “before it deteriorates further.”
The group partnered with Ian Wright, the Utah Cultural Site Stewardship Coordinator, who organized volunteers. Ultimately, 23 people were on hand to complete the initial phase of the project, Wright said.
One of the goals of the office is to ease the workload of land managers by monitoring sites and organizing volunteers, Wright said.
“Having a good partnership between a state historic preservation office and the local forest service is a big deal,” he said.
The Forest Service described the project as the “first step” in restoring the site and that the partners involved “now have the momentum and support to continue making improvements to this important site”.
As part of this effort, volunteers and employees secured the doors, installed plywood to protect the entrances, covered the chimney to prevent water damage and made minor repairs to the structure. They also sanded and prepared the station sign for painting and removed brush, broken glass and trash from the site.
Glidden said she was “blown away” by the experience. While she sometimes felt discouraged by behaviors like vandalism, the project was “rejuvenating.”
“We showed up there and the volunteers were there and they were ready to go,” she said. “I was so ecstatic to have both the number of people and just their passion and interest. They were so excited to be there.
McCarthy said the original project was to shore up the building to make sure it could withstand the winter “because it’s been there all these years.” Now, each time the group visits the site, they “get more excited about (their) next steps.”
“It’s one of those days that reminds us of the fun parts of being an archaeologist, and we’re just excited about the future,” she said.
The Forest Service is interested in more intensive rehabilitation of the site and will likely repair the guardhouse’s chimney, refinish its porch and work on the doors and roof, Glidden said.
Additionally, Glidden said that during a subsequent visit to the site, an expert from the preservation office identified the original paint color of the structure. Thus, the building can be repainted in its historic green color.
McCarthy said the Forest Service is interested in continuing the project in conjunction with the Stewardship Program and the Passport in Time project.
According to its website, the Passport in Time program is sponsored by the Forest Service and works to “preserve the nation’s past.”
“Volunteers work with professional archaeologists and historians on public lands across the United States on activities as diverse as archaeological study and excavation, rock art restoration, archival research, the restoration of historic structures, the collection of oral history, and the analysis and preservation of artifacts,” the webpage reads. .
The State Historic Preservation Office trains and organizes site stewards to monitor archaeological and cultural sites across Utah, according to the forest service’s Facebook post.
“Much of the overdue work needed on historic Forest Service buildings would not be possible without the help of local volunteers,” the message read. “It also creates an opportunity for agency employees to share their skills and knowledge and engage with the public. This really gives ownership of the shared historical resources.
Wright said Utah was “stupidly lucky” to have “such great volunteers.” Once the program opens registrations for volunteer opportunities, slots are typically filled in about three days.
“One thing that I hope everyone would understand is that everyone can make a big difference by helping to save Utah’s cultural history,” he said. “And, I mean, we have stuff for every type of person in every region of the state with any level of ability, and we work really hard to find areas that they can handle and where they feel. that they can make a difference.”
To learn more about Utah’s Cultural Sites Stewardship Program, click here. Those interested in the history of the Browse Guard Station can read more in this St. George News article.
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