The birthplace of the famed 10th Mountain Division is also the birthplace of Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry, and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is trying to declare it a National Historic Landscape.
He made the announcement in front of 10th Mountain Division legends Sandy Treat and Crosby Perry-Smith and a small crowd of their families and friends, amid the remains of Camp Hale’s recreation hall.
Perry-Smith smiled, nodded at the senator and declared it “an excellent idea.”
He was on Riva Ridge, a 1,500-foot climb the Nazis didn’t think could be done in the daylight. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division climbed it at night, under heavy fire, so his and Treat’s opinions count more than most.
“The soldiers we honor today did not just climb Riva Ridge or take Mount Belvedere or serve in the Middle East or come to our nation’s aid — they also shaped much of the state of Colorado as we know it today,” Bennet said. “Their leadership, their resilience and sense of adventure is everywhere. The 10th has produced leaders who have built entire industries from the ground up.
“They changed our state’s entire economy, and changed how people around the world experience the mountains in winter.”
VETS SUPPORT IT
Hundreds of Colorado veterans have made it clear to him and others that this is important to them.
Garett Reppenhagen used to be a sniper in Iraq. Now he’s the Rocky Mountain West coordinator for the Vet Voice Foundation, one of the groups promoting this idea.
When he returned home he headed outdoors, and it was nature that healed him, he said.
He said it’s no surprise that the men of the 10th Mountain Division returned home and started a recreational movement in the outdoors.
“It’s impossible to feel anything but peace when you’re standing in a stream with a rod in your hand,” Reppenhagen said. “I want my son to come here, not just for outdoor recreation, but to learn about why it’s possible for us to enjoy it.”
Nancy Roberts Kramer’s father was a 10th Mountain veteran. They lived in Steamboat Springs after he returned home from World War II. Like most veterans, he didn’t talk much about it.
“There was not a lot of conversation in our families about what happened,” she said.
One summer day, they drove down through Leadville, stopped at the Silver Dollar Saloon for a libation, then made their way to Camp Hale.
“We were just being a bunch of Chatty Cathys when we saw our dad standing silently in front of the memorial with his hand on the names,” Kramer said. “It made us aware of the importance of this place and what they had been through.”
NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDSCAPE
For now, there’s no such thing as a National Historical Landscape, but there will be if Bennet’s idea becomes a reality. The plan is to include Camp Hale as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape in Boulder Democrat Jared Polis’ Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Bill.
“It would protect this landscape, where their story begins, and ensure they are never forgotten,” Bennet said.