Last week I held a ‘coffee and conversation’ morning at the Mocha Moose, which is one of the two fine coffee shops in Lake City (the other being Mean Jean’s).
It was great to meet the people that came along to express their affection for the Ute Ulay site, and their hopes that it will be preserved for future generations. The Ute Ulay mine and mill site is fairly rare in that many of the structures and landform associated with the workings are still there, and many of those date from the 1880’s, with a smattering of additions from various periods, up to the present day.
There were lots of helpful suggestions. A feeling of urgency that something should be done before more of those structures are lost was in the air. Some people volunteered to help with the physical reconstructions, and there were some great ideas about how people might be engaged as development happens.
Historical preservation of the site seems to be uppermost in most peoples’ minds when they think about the Ute Ulay. It is the historical aspect of the place that intrigues people. The fact that it lies empty is intriguing in itself. J. B. Jackson says that ‘there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be that discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential… ruins provide the incentive for restoration and for a return to origins’ (Jackson, J.B. (1980) ‘The Necessity For Ruins’. Amherst: University of Massachussets. p102).
One of the attendees mentioned the town of Bodie in California. What struck me about the images of Bodie is the presence of many everyday objects which give the visitor a tangible and real flavour of what life was like in that place, across time. There is a similar opportunity to retain traces of working lives at the Ute Ulay.
On the official website it states that ‘Bodie State Historic Park is part of the California State Parks System. With the State of California’s budget crisis (for the past several years), State Parks have lost annual funding for many years in a row. Bodie has not been spared. These continued decreases in funding for Bodie by the State has led to fewer and fewer park aides and lack of interpretation for visitors.‘ (accessed 27th Feb 2012)
The future economic situation at the Ute Ulay (and in Lake City) is something that I am very aware of. The economy of Lake City is based around a narrow range of sectors, which is unsurprising due to the small population of the town (around 375). Tourism brings in the most money here, due to the small tax base and remoteness.
Click on the image to see details.
It seems to me that the gift of the Ute-Ulay would be greater if it was able to not only be self-funding, but to contribute to the breadth of economic activity in Lake City.
What if the Ute-Ulay was an economic resource? As well as attracting more visitors, it could lengthen the tourist season (or tempt second home owners to spend more time here). It might provide more jobs for Lake Citians, and over a longer time period. For now, it’s just an aim – but an important one.