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22 December 2006
Ancient site in Colorado becomes a jewel

Thirteen thousand years ago, people lived in northern Colorado's Lindenmeier Valley, (USA) hunting ancient, giant bison. Five hundred years ago, people there built stone tipi rings and dug earthen ovens. Today, the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County together own 23,000 acres of the famous archaeological site - and they're trying to figure out how people can enjoy the area without destroying it.
     Mark Stiger, an archaeologist at Western State College in Gunnison, said the cautious approach is appropriate. Next month, Daylan Figgs, senior environmental planner with Fort Collins' natural-areas program, and his counterpart at Larimer County will begin the first of several public meetings to plan the future of properties now called Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. Both were purchased about two years ago and are scheduled to open to the public in 2009. At issue are the location of roads and trails, what paths may be traveled by foot, by horse or by bike, and whether people will be allowed off trail, Figgs said.
     The planning process begins just as Colorado State University archaeologist Jason LaBelle finishes 12 months surveying the region - the first comprehensive assessment since Smithsonian Institution experts studied a half-mile stretch of the spring-fed valley in the 1930s. In a 1934 Denver Post article, Smithsonian scientists described the "handicraft of mysterious people who followed the retreating glaciers northward, thousands of years ago, at the time of the last ice age." Scientists back then called the Folsom people who lived in the Lindenmeier Valley "the oldest culture yet discovered in North America." Today, LaBelle calls Lindenmeier the "New York City" of the Folsom, who hunted and gathered in the mountains, plains and foothills of Colorado thousands of years ago. LaBelle suspects that families gathered at Lindenmeier in the winter, forming groups of 40 to 100 - a metropolis for the nomadic Folsom people.
     The region had been inhabited continually for 13,000 years, LaBelle suspects, based on his summer's discoveries of more than 200 new sites nearby. Rangers patrol the areas, LaBelle said, to protect vulnerable cultural resources. The first public meeting is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Fort Collins Senior Center. For more information, go to fcgov.com.

Source: Denver Post (20 December 2006)

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