By Ruth L. Miller
Eons ago, during the Cambrian Era, an ocean covered much of Colorado, leaving fossils behind when the water receded. In the Jurassic Period, with its warm, humid climate, the ground was swampy, the flora tropical, and dinosaurs ruled the countryside. The Laramide orogeny took place; a tremendous upheaval of the land began, forming the Rocky Mountains. During the Tertiary Period, the mountains thrust up further, volcanic and other debris filled the high plains. Coal deposits, oil shale, and minerals settled deep beneath the ground's surface. Centuries passed; the palm, fig, and other trees from Jurassic times became petrified. At the Moore Ranch on Democrat Road is a beautiful specimen of a large petrified tree, which fell and was buried by time. Animals began to appear: woolly mammoths, dire wolves, camels, and huge antique bisons. About 12,000 years ago, man made his appearance.
Whether Sandia, Clovis, or Folsom man, time has erased most of his tracks. It is known these early men were in Colorado, hunting numerous animals. These forerunners disappeared about 2,000 years ago, leaving behind some points of their weapons.
The primitive men were followed by the Woodland-Plains Indians, who left an encampment opposite Ponderosa High School, and a dry cave near Franktown, complete with arrow and spear points, moccasins, and other belongings. Even today, the flakes from their manufactured weapons may be found in the Pinery and its surroundings. Made of petrified wood, they are brick-red in color, a sign they were hardened by fire. Shards of crude pottery left by these natives have also been found. The rolling hills around the Pinery allowed the Woodland-Plains families to look out upon the lower vistas to spot enemies or herds of animals. Their location seemed ideal to meet their needs, but they, too, disappeared. Their place was taken by the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute tribes. These “modern” inheritors of early man were witnesses to the arrival of the early settlers in this area of Colorado.
Early settlers in Pine Grove (Parker) cohabited reasonably well with the Indians. John and Elizabeth Tallman owned property northeast of Parker. The mountain-dwelling Utes frequently crossed their land heading toward hunting grounds. Elizabeth customarily left food for them, so she became a favorite with their chieftains. Jonathan Tallman, John's brother, wasn't so lucky in his dealings with Indians. Buried in Parker Cemetery, his headstone reads: "Killed by Indians, 1870.
The Parker family, consisting of four brothers and their families, gained prominence. James owned the 20 Mile House Stage Stop; George bought much of the property along Euclid Avenue (Main Street) east of Rte 83, donating some or selling it at reasonable prices to help the town's growth.
William Rowley owned 160 acres in what has become Stroh Ranch. Later, his family bought 960 acres east of Parker, now known as Rowley Downs. William Newlin at first inhabited the land around Newlin Gulch, but later bought the Tallman property and its cabin. He brought 30 head of short horned cattle to Parker to improve the cattle industry in the area. Newlin Gulch, Parker's experiment in gold mining, was named for him.
Closer to the future site of the Pinery were Hubert and Miriam Fonder. The Fonder School, now the offices of the Pinery Water and Waste Water District, is located west of South Pinery Parkway. The earliest school in the area, it is also the oldest extant in Douglas County.
Forested areas in the county were called pineries. During the 1860's, hillsides of the Pinery were denuded of all but the smallest trees to supply building materials for Denver, Auraria, and other developing towns. Nearby sawmills met the demand for finished lumber. The Fonders made shingles in addition to ranching.
An early plat of the area shows the names and land acquisitions of many property owners in the 1800's. Unfortunately, most shown are west of Rte. 83. The ones to the east are scant. Where North Pinery Parkway and Lakeview Drive now exist, the property had a homestead entry for William Newlin, Jr., son of the aforementioned Newlin family, dated 1884. Acreage just north of that was owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, dated 1892.
In the pineries, lumber for cabins, buildings, railroad ties, and fuel was cut; the clearing of land for farms and ranches further depleted resources. Fires, floods, and insects also took their toll on the forests. In spite of this ravaging of the trees, General William Larimer, an early Denver developer, blithely declared during an 1858 Christmas celebration at Cherry Creek, “Our pineries are convenient, and will last for generations to come”. During the next 100 years, trees were growing back, reseeded by nature, but not in the density that had given the land its forests. Of the original trees, only some that were saplings in the 1800's survived.
Despite a 100-year flood in 1864 in the Cherry Creek valley, and a second one in 1965; despite a blizzard in 1858 that piled snow into 20-foot drifts, and the snow of 1913 that overwhelmed everyone with 50-foot drifts, the area around Parker, north of the town and south to Democrat Road, attracted people. The old Cherokee Trail still had traffic through the 1800's; the stage coach heading into Parker and the 20-Mile House stage stop used it. Freight wagons also caused congestion. The new road, built parallel and to the east of the Cherokee Trail, road number 13, had traffic jams similar to today's. Residents of that time complained about their traffic, with the slow wagons, livestock being driven to Denver, carriages, and riders on horseback delaying their exiting onto the road. (History does tend to repeat itself!) Farmers and ranchers along road 13 (later Parker Road) had to travel the road to Parker for supplies, but their trips would, of necessity, be infrequent because of chores on their properties that took up their time. The knowledge they acquired through the years about dry farming helped their crops flourish. Tending to them with livestock to care for as well, they had more than enough to do around their acreage.
As more people settled in and around Parker, it was inevitable that developers would come upon the scene, offering good prices per acre for the land. The property owners couldn't resist selling. During the latter half of the 20th century, properties changed hands, and today’s Pinery slowly came into existence.
Terracor and Senior Corp
The first developer of the Pinery was Terracor, a Utah-based company. They planned on building a premier development in the area. The original vision of Terracor was to plot sites for small vacation cabins for people living in Denver. The plan called for open space, green belts, and excellent views of the mountains. This plan never came to fruition: the developer decided the 'homes should be permanent rather than summer "getaways.” The open areas were replotted for 5 - 10 acre sites and estate-sized homes. Included in the new plan were a park and a bird sanctuary. The development was begun in 1971, when the real estate market was poor. Some lots were sold and built on by independent builders, but the selling lagged. Terracor advertised their enterprise heavily to attract more buyers. In 1976-1977, hot air balloon races were held: take-off for the balloons was the elevated site where Mountain View Elementary School now stands. They also conceived of holding bicycle races throughout the Pinery. None of their advertising schemes worked well; in 1982, Terracor was forced to declare bankruptcy. At that time, the Pinery was separated from the undeveloped remainder of the property.
Senior Corp. took title to the undeveloped land, becoming the Master Developer. Its president, Jim Harper, joined William Lyons in the enterprise, paying $141 million to Terracor for the land. Within 18 months, Senior Corp. had recovered the buying price by selling most of the available lots in the Pinery. Property owners had, in the meantime, organized the Pinery Homeowners' Association, which made an agreement with Terracor and Senior Corp.: Senior Corp. was to assume all liabilities of Terracor so that the homeowners would be protected. The new Master Developer, would then either transfer certain properties to the PHA or form a Pinery Metropolitan District, which would maintain the quality of the development. With Senior Corp. in control, the lot sizes were reduced to 2 ½ acres. Further reduction took place later, but the developer did make the effort to retain a country atmosphere in the Pinery.
Developing the Pinery involved Senior Corp experiencing some opposition from residents. A rezoning plan by the developer for Filing 10, the area north of Lt. William Clark Road and adjacent to Misty Pines, was presented to the Douglas County commissioners in Nov. of 1986. Senior Corp wanted 57 houses to be built on 1/2 to 3/4 acre sites in this 37-acre parcel. The Pinery Homeowners' Association and a committee organized by Fred Rossiter appealed to the commissioners, asking that Filing 10 be declared "open space." PHA and the committee members appeared in person before the commissioners on Nov. 17th to oppose Senior Corp's application.
The ad hoc committee of homeowners was called the "Pinery Homeowners Outraged Over Excessive Expansion," or PHOOEE! PHOOEE!'s members had secured over 700 signatures, 240 letters, and numerous phone calls to protest the aims of the developer. A letter from then Governor Lamm was also submitted. Because of the well-planned protest, Senior Corp requested a postponement of a decision on the matter.
Shortly thereafter, PHA, PHOOEE!, and Senior Corp announced that they had reached a compromise: the 37 acres of land in Filing 10 would become open space. Located in the midst of the Pinery, it became known as The Preserve. Densely treed and heavily vegetated, it would become a refuge for all, including the wild animals.
Senior Corp, of course, made further filings in the Pinery. They planned to change another parcel adjacent to Thunderhill Road from open space to condominiums, a golf course, a riding path, or estate property. Not PHOOEE!, but another group of Pinery residents living on Thunderhill Road, raised their voices and presented a petition asking for a review of the plans for Filing 22. They wanted to minimize any negative effects of new homes already built, specifically regarding erosion, drainage, and slope control. More than three years later, the homeowners won their cause when the developer agreed Filing 22 would remain open space.
In April, 1979, the Pinery was hit by a snowstorm, causing cancellation of the April Homeowners' meeting, as well as the first scheduled "Park Kick-Off." The latter was rescheduled. County Commissioner Carl Winkler turned the first shovel of dirt, and money was collected from Terracor and various Pinery residents to further the project. At this same time, Walt Mueller was chairing a committee to ensure enjoyment of Bingham Lake for all Pinery residents. The June Newsletter noted that Walt's committee had received more than $1,000 in pledges from homeowners, but needed more to fund what was necessary at the site. Their plans included not only restocking the lake, but trash collection, tables, parking, erosion elimination, proper signs, an aeration system, planting of trees, and more - a lot of work for the volunteer homeowners!
The August Newsletter told of improvements: new picnic benches had been installed, the dock was cleaned, and grass mowed around the lake. Terracor and the Pinery Country Club had helped with the finances, and homeowners had donated over $1,300 for an aeration system.
But Walt was concerned: teenage vandalism and alcohol consumption were taking place at night by the lake. Terracor established operation hours for the area and the sheriff's department instituted regular patrols to enforce good behavior and the curfew hours. A word of caution was added: parents were liable for the acts of minors.
The November Newsletter reported that the lake had been stocked with trout. Many residents had donated in excess of $1,000, and the committee had installed more lights, additional landscaping. and a workable set of rules and regulations to make Bingham Lake a prime place for recreation.
Unfortunately, 23 years later new delinquents' vandalism continues. Parents, do you know where your children are?
More Pinery Memories
Norma and Larry Miller bought their lot in the Pinery in 1975. Moving day for the Miller family took place in June of 1976; theirs was the first home built on Shavano. When they moved in, there was water and electricity for their new house, but no gas, so their house was - and is - heated by electricity. Not too long after they took possession, they were able to get telephone service with a 2-party line. Norma remembers the hot air balloons taking off and, although she never soared in one, she took her two young children often to watch the launchings.
The PHA wanted a park for the residents. Norma and Larry were among the volunteers who went door to door soliciting donations from other residents to make a baseball field for the park. Larry also worked on installing a sprinkler system there and acquired a backstop for the baseball field. While Norma worked as a volunteer at Northeast Elementary, Larry organized a Pinery-wide road race in 1976, which he managed for about four years. The race was 10 kilometers; the runners numbered about 50 the first year. By 1979, 500 runners were involved, but traffic was heavier on the roads, so Larry began devoting his energies to a relay race from Cherry Creek High School through Douglas County to Colorado Springs.
The first buildings in the Pinery were the townhouses. Norma recalled that the tennis dome at the country club was once a source of contention. The residents were asked if they would prefer a dome over the tennis courts or the swimming pool. The majority favored the pool, but country club management chose the courts. By 1979, more houses and paved roads came into being. Today, in spite of the growth and the traffic along Parker Road, the Millers enjoy their home. Says Norma, "There's no place we'd rather be."
Animals Of The Pinery
People aren't the only residents of the Pinery. Before settlers came, buffalo roamed the grasslands, supplying food, clothing, and tepees for the Indians. With their disappearance, other animals populated the area: cougars, bears, deer, coyotes, and other smaller animals, as well as raptors. Most of us have learned to share the land and enjoy their presence.
Cougars are shy, but each snowfall shows evidence of one passing, with the footprints well defined. A neighbor with a skylight glanced upward once to find a cougar alternately looking through the skylight and watching a small herd of deer nearby. A black bear appeared recently in the Pinery, seeking food, which was scarce in his normal habitat.
I was fortunate to witness a romantic interlude between a fox and his vixen in our yard. This fox was so tame he would sit on the road, watching youngsters throw a Frisbee back and forth. The mule deer bring their fawns, use our yard to rest after foraging, and the does chase any buck that dares to follow them. They forage in our garden and listen intently when I chastise them, but go right on eating the plants!
We have two dens of coyotes nearby. At night the pups and parents yip as the young ones are taught to hunt. When gardening one day, a half-grown pup raced by me; I had disturbed him at his nap.
Prairie falcons and eagles are fun to watch. Sometimes hunting, sometimes enjoying the thermals, they epitomize freedom. But my favorite raptors are great horned owls. We were serenaded by a male and female outside our window, "hooting" a lovely duet. The harmony was beautiful until one of them missed a note, causing the rest of their courting song to be out of sync! That night we fell asleep smiling.
Parker Road Traffic
The January 30, 1979 Pinery Newsletter had an article about Parker Road, written by resident Frank Thompson. It was entitled, "Only the Brave Dare Drive Parker Road.” Mr. Thompson stated, "The population growth ... has brought about an... increase in traffic. Throughout most of the daytime, this road is congested with a flow of traffic that far exceeds its ability to handle.
Sound familiar? Remember, this quotation dates from 1979! At that time, the Highway Department was considering five methods of improving Highway 83. One of the choices was to do nothing except for normal maintenance. Three of the remaining four solutions were to widen the road to four lanes.
Of these, one would follow the existing alignment with paved 8-foot shoulders and the addition of acceleration/deceleration lanes at some intersections. Another would also follow the alignment, but the lanes would be 12-feet wide with 10-foot shoulders and a concrete barrier within a paved median. The next option was the same, but with a 32-foot wide depressed grass median. The final choice would also have 12-foot lanes and the requisite median, but its alignment would deviate from the existing road near Parker. Just west of Parker, a by-pass would start at Douglas County Rd. #4, run parallel to the existing Parker Road and Cherry Creek for 3 miles, then tie into an existing road further on.
An environmental impact study was necessary even in 1979. Mr. Thompson said that at the normal rate of such things, "we may see a new road start under construction in about 4 more years." (He was an optimist!) He appealed to Pinery residents to contact legislators to see if anything could be done to hasten the process. The PHA made it their number one goal to "make a concerted effort and campaign to expedite the widening of Parker Road.”
End of Summer Thoughts
A long hot summer has given way to autumn. In July a sneaky hailstorm hit parts of the Pinery, leaving roofs damaged, paint pockmarked, and homeowners calling their insurance agents. The fishing contest was held; the Pinery Pedal was a great success, and in spite of many days over 90 degrees and forest fires, the stalwart joggers, runners, walkers, and determined cyclist got their daily exercise. Picnics and cookouts took place - an excellent way to touch base with your neighbors.
Perusing old copies of the Pinery Newsletter from 1978 to the 1980's, I found many things had changed, but essentially stayed the same through the years. R.V. storage was a big topic in 1978-1979. The Newsletter described the size of the lots, the cost, and necessary insurance. The first phase of it was open for business by November, 1979.
Fund-raising for parks in the Pinery took place, and the first park was completed by 1979. Bingham Lake had money set aside for renovation and improvement, some earmarked to repair vandalism.
The HOA had set aside a "Trash Bash" day, when residents would pick up paper, plastic, bottles, etc. on their property, vacant lots, and neighbors' lawns to keep the Pinery beautiful. This became a yearly event.
The first fishing derby I came upon in back issues was scheduled for May 17, 1982. A snowstorm postponed it until June 15.
Kudos to all Pinery officers and volunteers, past and present, for multiple jobs well-done!