Crystal Mill, outside Marble, is an iconic Colorado postcard location. The powerhouse was built in 1892 and operated until the closure of the Sheep Mountain Mine in 1917. Photo by Christian Murdock

An effort is afoot to save a Colorado icon.

Saving is what Crystal Mill needs, says a group recently formed for the sake of the widely photographed scene that dates 127 years to the mining days. Reached at the end of a four-wheel-drive road from Marble, the wooden structure is perched upon a rock beside a waterfall feeding an emerald pool, surrounded by aspen groves that glow gold in the fall.

Crystal Mill Foundation launched "to prevent it from possible destruction," read a news release announcing the nonprofit at the end of July.

"Most visitors think the Crystal Mill is a state- or county-owned historic structure that is already preserved," foundation president Heather Leigh said in the release. "They have no idea it is privately owned and could be torn down tomorrow."

Leigh has partnered with owner Christopher Cox, who recently obtained the majority of Crystal Mountain Ranch from deep-rooted family members, according to The Sopris Sun. The paper reported visitors have been getting charged $10 to get close to the water — a fee Cox said helps to cover the cost of enforcement.

"We've never seen the numbers we're seeing now," he told The Sun. "There has been vandalism and other problems so we have to keep staff down there seven days a week over the summer."

In the news release, he said: "It is time to place the Crystal Mill into a nonprofit and let the public experience it in the future."

Leigh has told reporters the goal is to raise $10 million by June. That would secure the property and establish visitor-friendly amenities and staff, she has said. The idea is to build bathrooms and water fountains and to hire "historic educators and guides," according to the release.

Crystal Mill Foundation's website includes letters of support from various preservation groups, including History Colorado, the official state agency. White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams wrote in his letter of the U.S. Forest Service's decades-old attempts to acquire the landmark.

"Unfortunately that has not worked out and I am not sure the Forest Service has the resources to properly protect and maintain this iconic structure," he wrote. "A nonprofit foundation would be the perfect avenue to ensure this site is properly cared for."


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