Much to be done before Meeker area receives National Register tag – Part Two of Two

MEEKER I EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week we looked at the plan for the possible inclusion of part of downtown Meeker on the National Register of Historic places and the lack of forced restrictions on any property owner within the proposed district. This week, we look at the process, the grants and other funds available, the listing of the two buildings already included on the National Register and the two buildings already included on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

The Meeker Town Board has given approval for the Rio Blanco County Historical Society to seek designation for a 11-block area of downtown Meeker to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. However, a lot of work must be done on paper and with the property owners within the proposed district before the designation becomes official.
The parameter of the proposed district starts at the intersection of Fourth and Main streets, heads north on both sides of Fourth Street to Park Street, turns left (west) to cover both sides of Park Street to Eighth Street, where it would cover both sides of Eighth Street, turning west through the alleyway to Seventh Street, then south from the alley down to Main Street, then turning east and running back to Fourth Street, covering both sides of Main.
Currently, two properties in Meeker have been listed in the National Register: the Meeker Hotel at 560 Main St., on May 7, 1980; and the St. James Episcopal Church at 368 Fourth St., on March 30, 1978.
There are also two properties in Meeker that have been listed in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties: The J.W. Hugus Co. Building (also known as the A. Oldland and Co. Building or the Oldland Block) at 594 Main St. on Dec. 11, 1991; and the old Rio Blanco High School Building (also known as Meeker Intermediate or Junior High School, now the Meeker School District administration building) at 555 Garfield St., on March 10, 1993.
Other properties are recorded in the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation database as officially eligible, including: the old Meeker Elementary School at 445 Main (currently under construction as the new Rio Blanco County Justice Center); the three buildings historically comprising the garrison Army officers’ quarters from the Camp on the White River (now serving as the Rio Blanco County Museum) in the 500 block of Park Avenue; the Rio Blanco County Courthouse at 565 Main St.; and the Dikeman or Cowling House, also known as the Joy Inn at 687 Garfield St.
The process that the RBCHS will now begin with Meeker town approval is neither simple nor quick.
The RBCHS must submit a grant application to History Colorado in April. This grant would be to fund a consultant that will help the RBCHS obtain an actual consultant for the project, and that consultant would start on the actual process. One of the first parts of the actual project will be to obtain input from all the landowners within the proposed district boundaries.
The individual landowners will decide if they want to pursue the district’s designation to the National Register. Individual landowners can opt in or out. If a majority of the landowners within the proposed district opt out, there will be no National Register district.
If a majority of landowners within the proposed district opt in, the town of Meeker becomes involved in the proposed district, and the town would then be asked to nominate and recommend the district to History Colorado.
That recommendation would help push the continued paperwork, when complete, to the National Park Service, the branch of the U.S. Government that oversees properties on the National Register.
If all is in order, then the area proposed for inclusion on the National Register would then be qualified.
“This would really put Meeker on the map and the designation would help us meet our historic tourism goals,” RBCHS President Ellene Meece said. “This would open the doors we need for subsequent grants and is a very prestigious designation.
“When and if we receive this designation, we will find a competitive grant system awaiting us,” she said. “Meeker has such an eclectic downtown area, covering buildings that stretch from the 1800s to the 1960s, that I believe would make Meeker a natural (choice) for historic designation.”
The local entity to be involved in the local process will be the same task force that is beginning the process, Meece said, referring to a task force that will be established in the near future to pursue the designation. That task force will be under the RBCHS and work in conjunction with the newly acquired Old West Heritage Culture Center, located on Park Street next to the White River Museum.
“I am hopeful that we will receive the History Colorado grant in time to have a consultant on hand by the fall this year and that we can complete the local process by the spring of 2016,” Meece said.
After that, she said, the timeframe from the nomination to a decision by History Colorado is 45 days, so, “we could know by late summer to early fall of 2016.”
“This entire process is without cost,” Meece said. “None of these grants require matching funds. The work for us now is to put in the grant application and get out and do some footwork, convincing the residents within the proposed historic area that it would be beneficial to them and the entire town of Meeker.”
For those who want to take part, there are grants available for painting, property and building improvements, she said.
“I’m hoping that all of Meeker will keep positive,” Meece said. “We want the residents in the district to get excited and the Meeker residents not in the proposed district to help talk up the project and to come up with ideas for other attractions in the area.
“There is so much potential in this area—including the input from those in agriculture,” she said. “We have hunting, fishing, increased OHV traffic and snowmobilers now, but who says we can’t push something else we already have or come up with something new to bring people in so we can turn this into a year-round tourism and history hotspot?”
Meece said that any area residents who want to volunteer to help with the historic district designation or those who have ideas that may be brought to life in the area to email her at: president@rioblancocounty.org.