At just 84 years old, William D. Jochems has prospered in protecting the Crystal River Valley for over 50 years. He fought against the Marble Ski area, was a founding board member of CVEPA and the Redstone Historic Preservation Commission, built both a sailboat and a massive boiler in his garage, retained John Osgood’s third wife as a legal client, experienced the final mine explosion from Coal Basin before Mid-Continent went bust, was around for the first and only tornado recorded in Redstone history, and maintained a legal practice in Glenwood Springs.
As Jochems’ eyesight slowly worsened, making the drive along Highway 133 rather treacherous, so he moved to Carbondale over the summer. If only the walls of his Redstone home could talk, they’d share the vast stories and observations over the decades. However, Jochems’ is not so far away these days, and, lucky for all of you readers, he’s more than willing to tell his tales.
Jochems grew up in Kansas and graduated with an undergraduate degree from Stanford in 1960. The year before graduating, he says he took a remarkable trip with a couple of other guys.
“From San Francisco, we flew out to Cape Town, South Africa, as soon as classes were done. Our plan was to drive from Cape Town to Paris — we didn’t make it,” he says with a laugh.
He and his buddies started driving north in Africa through British East Africa, as it was known then but hit a major obstacle with the Sahara desert. “In order to cross the Sahara,” Jochems explained, “you couldn’t go alone, you needed another car with an inventory of parts and other things, plus money to put up a bond.”
He went on to say that they also had to file a plan with the government, and if they failed to make a check-in, the bond would be used to send a plane out looking for them. His group didn’t have the money for the bond, so they sold the car, and two of them went down the Nile River on a steamer. “What a life-changing trip!” he exclaimed.
After graduating from Stanford, Jochems landed a job with the Aspen Institute where they put on various talks and programs. One of the speakers was D.R.C. Brown, then the president of Aspen Ski Corporation. He talked about what an unusual county Pitkin County was and mentioned some features around the Aspen area but said that the county also included Redstone.
“He said to get to Redstone, you must go through two other counties and it takes an hour to drive there; and I thought, I’ve got to see that place,” said Jochems. “It was a dirt road out of Carbondale, and there was no bypass — back then, the Redstone Boulevard was just the road that went over McClure and up to Marble.”
Jochems described his first visit on a hot, dry afternoon when people were out with hoses trying to sprinkle the road in front of their houses to keep down the billows of dust. Then, the Town House (now Propaganda Pie) and the Redstone Inn were the only establishments in operation.
He only spent a year working in Aspen before going on to Georgetown University and earning his Juris Doctorate in 1964. Jochems immediately took the bar exam in Colorado following graduation and practiced law for a time in Denver before ending up back in California working for a mining business.
“In California, the environmentalist were a hindrance to almost everything that we wanted to do, and then I moved here and immediately was concerned with protecting this environment. I suppose I then became a hindrance to what other people wanted to do here, but I suppose that’s the way it went,” he chuckled.
As he got ready to leave California, he wanted to be in another beautiful area and knew he didn’t want to practice law in Denver. After practicing there, he’d handled several matters in the court system in Glenwood Springs and settled on setting up a practice there as it was the next familiar courtroom scene from Denver.
“My then-wife came back to find a place to live with my sister, who was already and is still in Carbondale. She called to tell me she found a place in Redstone, and the price was quite low, way less than anything she’d said she wanted, so I bought it sight unseen but had an image in my mind since I’d visited the area years before.”
He was 33 years old when they moved to Redstone Boulevard in 1971 and brought a family with him, a wife and two daughters; though the marriage dissolved soon after but his daughters continued to live in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, so they spent lots of time in Redstone.
His youngest daughter, Gretchen, was in Redstone over the summer preparing Jochems’ home for the move to Carbondale. She said living in Redstone was pretty great until she hit her teen years and then it was “snooze-ville.”
Proposed Condo Development in Redstone
The first person he spoke to upon moving to Redstone was Paula Mechau, the widow of famed artist Frank Mechau. She wanted him to vote against the Water and Sanitation District, at the time, it was just an idea that hadn’t moved to the point of presenting anything to voters yet. Some time passed between their meeting and the actual vote, in which Jochems ended up voting for the special district.
Not long after this initial greeting, Jochems caught wind of a large development proposal that would have drastically changed the character of Redstone. Norman Smith, a retired air force colonel, was proposing a string of condos that would have been built behind the Village along Big Horn Ridge, through Saw Mill Hill, and to the Redstone Castle.
“Nothing was going on at the Castle when I moved here,” he said. “There was a caretaker who would let you in, and it was an easy place to go and look around. I think his name was ‘Wood,’ and I think he also had something to do with the [Redstone] Inn, which was an on-again, off-again endeavor during those days.”
The development didn’t happen; Smith was unable to acquire the Castle property needed for the idea to come to fruition. “He just developed other ideas, and went from Redstone to a ski area in Georgia,” chuckled Jochems.
Yet, as this chapter came to a close, another valley threat was becoming much more prominent.
Marble Ski Area
The sheer scale of the proposed Marble Ski area drew Jochems' attention. He explained that it would have been larger than the first filing of Snowmass, which was a functioning entity by 1971.
According to Darrell Munsell’s book Protecting a Valley and Saving a River, a ski area in Marble renewed talks of building a great winter sports area to include Aspen, Crested Butte, and Marble. “The ambitious plan proposed linking an entire area by a tramway connecting the three points of the triangle with chairlifts and T-bars scattered throughout the mountains,” writes Munsell. “It would be the largest winter sports area in the world.”
The developers were planning to have the area completed by 1975, just in time for the Winter Olympics (which Colorado voters ultimately opposed). Jochems said, “I was attracted to Redstone as it was, a quiet place, and to have that much growth and development a few miles up the valley, as I saw it, was going to drastically change the character of Redstone. I just did not want that to happen.”
He explained that there were bitter battles over the ski area development because quite a few people, like realtors and carpenters, thought their lives would be substantially improved should the project receive approval. One of the developers, John Zakovich, asserted, “We are trying to develop the valley as God would have if he’d had the money.”
The project seemed to divide the marble community, and a small group came together to form the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) to oppose the development. Munsell writes that the organization posed two major details of opposition, “it would encroach on National Forest land that was being proposed for inclusion in the Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness, and it would degrade the environment by upsetting the delicate ecological balance of the Crystal River Valley.”
Jochems and Michael Kinsley, who went on to become a Pitkin County Commissioner and now resides on the Open Space and Trail board, made a couple of trips down to Gunnison to make these arguments. Kinsley told Munsell, “Bill always wore a vest, and he would stroll around with his thumbs in the arm openings of the vest just like he was Abe Lincoln talking in broad philosophical terms, and then J.E. [DeVilbiss] would take over. He would slam them with technicalities, kill them with legal technicalities.”
Unfortunately, they didn’t make much progress with Gunnison County and Jochems assumes it was simply due to the potential tax revenue the ski area could have generated. So, they took matters up with the real estate commission instead and went to a couple of hearings in Denver. “Ultimately,” Jochems said, “that’s what did them in because they were so poorly financed.”
Essentially, the project was banking on lot sales. Jochems explained one example; one property owned then by Gus Darian (and today by his son, Larry) was sold to the Marble Ski area where they platted and started selling lots. A buyer paid a third of the sale amount as a downpayment, and then get a loan for the remaining two-thirds. However, Darian wasn’t being paid, so he took the land back; therefore, the lot owners didn’t own an actual piece of real estate anymore but still owed money to the bank, which was theoretically an innocent party.
“That didn’t happen to everybody, though,” he said. “That was just one property that was a fairly small part of the whole picture, but that was the property to cause the real estate commission to say, ‘Hey, your practices are illegal, improper, and fraudulent,’ and that shut ‘em down on all sales.”
Jochems also said he ended up representing a lot of bamboozled folks in bankruptcy court. “I’d go down into the filing room for the bankruptcy court in Denver, and the Marble Ski area bankruptcy must have been a pile that was four feet of shelves or something. It was a disaster!”
The developers never did pay off any of Jochems' clients, but he was able to successfully reduce or obtain total forgiveness for some of those fraudulent loans.
Jochems first met “Mrs. MacDonald,” as he refers to Osgood’s third wife after her marriage to Huntley MacDonald, in the early 70s while trying to remedy a survey error pertaining to lots along the Boulevard from his home on the north end all the way down to about where today's headquarters of The Crystal Valley Echo is near the Redstone General Store. The survey had been done during the 30s and laid out the lots at approximately 50 feet.
“So,” he began, “if you put my house in a 50-foot lot and started going down the street and portioning 50 feet to each house, you didn’t have to go very far until a house wouldn’t fit and the lot line, under that concept, was to shave off part of the house.”
He said he got involved in the procedure to try and straighten it out, and therefore, approached Mrs. MacDonald because solving the issue involved her as a party.
Jochems explained that Colorado “has a marvelous statute” in the case of large-scale survey errors that allows one to hire a surveyor to correct everything by drawing up a plat that shows the property as it is occupied. Once he filed that survey with the district court, notice was given to all the property owners in the area stating that there’d been a petition submitted to readjust all the boundaries from the 1936 plat to the plat that had been drawn by the surveyor. Property owners were given a certain amount of time to object.
That’s where the property that now produces this publication came into the story. Jochems explained, “At that time, the property was the East Creek Wash House, or the laundry mat, and was owned by a man named O.R. White. He also owned several properties towards the north.
“Everybody agreed to the new survey except O.R. White, who was a real pain in the [behind] — and I think he died in the middle of all this, but his widow proved just as intractable. We were in court with the Whites challenging this whole scheme, but eventually, she came around; although, I’m not quite sure why perhaps Mrs. MacDonald talked with her or something.”
It took two to three years just to get the errors lined out, and, according to Jochems, with so many people involved, there was a lot of hand-holding to assure them that everything would be alright. “It cost money, it took a lot of time, and we got it done,” he said with a little chuckle.
At the time of their first meeting, Mrs. MacDonald’s address was at the Del Coranado Hotel in California, which Jochems asserted was a pretty fancy place to live. While trying to iron out the survey, she’d come to Glenwood Springs and stayed in the Hotel Denver so that the two could go through all her records either in Jochems’ office or the hotel. Once the deal had been sorted, MacDonald hired him to represent her for other things.
When asked what she was like, he replied that “she was interesting in that anytime any story was presented to her disadvantage, she would be totally baffled and would exclaim, ‘I just don’t understand, how could this be!’”
He continued to say that she was quite shrewd on the other hand, and knew full and well when things were to her advantage and she understood perfectly well what was going on. According to Jochems, she was a very interesting person to deal with, and, naturally, he had both of those experiences with her as her attorney.
The Meyer Boiler was one of several massive projects that took place in Jochems’ Redstone garage. During the 70s, Clement Meyer resided at what Jochems called the chapel (now the Redstone Art Gallery) as the caretaker. He wanted to build an invention he’d dreamed up, and Jochems was so intrigued that he gave him the space in his garage for construction. Two of the four boilers built stayed in Redstone, one in his house and one in the Worley House, located at 497 Redstone Blvd. Meyer called it a tri-therm boiler because it burned coal, wood, and used electricity for heat.
"He was an ingenious guy,” Jochems said. “It took two years to complete the project, and every time I’d come home from work to find these guys working until 11 o’clock at night, grinding and welding and all that creating this massive thing that went into my house.”
According to Jochems, the boiler was of such a scale that it would have easily provided enough heat for the Redstone Inn, and had three speeds while burning coal. He was able to heat his house for a long time on about six tons of coal a year, which was delivered at $40 per ton, so his total heating bill only cost him about $300 for an entire winter of extravagant heat in an Osgood era cottage that was poorly insulated.
The concept was that the coal, wood, or electricity heats hot water in the boiler and then circulated heat through pipes in the home. “The trouble was,” Jochems explained, “he couldn’t get the cost down below about $60,000 and he was doing this right in the middle of an era with oil embargoes. People were so frightened we were going to run out of energy. So, to be able to heat your home three was rather intriguing.”
The boiler required your attendance to fill the hopper with coal every other day or so, but when Jochems went out of town, he just turned on the electric element to do the job the coal was doing. But, at the time, it was very expensive to do that.
“The boiler was a success until a lady friend pointed out to me that in the course of a 12-hour period, you could run your finger across a table and see the new track of coal dust,” he said. “She persuaded me to abandon the coal boiler for a propane boiler that still used the same distribution system.”
He said it was quite the undertaking to get the massive boiler out of his home and enlisted the help of his neighbor, Scott Kleckner. While the boiler was installed in a single piece, Kleckner had to cut it apart using torches and a grinder and hauled it out in pieces.
In the end, Meyer acquired a trade and started the Meyer Boiler Company, which thrived as he was the only licensed boiler inspector in western Colorado, eastern Utah, and southern Wyoming during a time when there was an abundance of oil and gas drilling happening. And those operations couldn’t afford to shut down for anything. He said Meyer passed away just a few short years ago.
Bob Carr’s Mona Lisa, and da Vinci
In 1975, a tornado ripped down Redstone Boulevard — the only recorded tornado in the history of the Crystal River Valley — and snapped a tree at its trunk in Jochems' front yard. He then commissioned Eric Johnson to carve a woman from the ruins, but Jochems claims the carving ended up becoming a real eyesore.
“What happened was,” he said, “we coated her with oil and all that, but she got very dark and unattractive with stains to the point that by the early 80s I wanted to cut it down. First, though, I had this blank wall and so I commissioned Bob Carr to paint on the clapboard surface.”
According to Jochems, Carr was “pretty darn interesting.” He described him as extremely skilled, but a classic crazy artist. Jochems said Carr was “mercurial in the extreme, and could go off the deep end in frightening ways.”
Not only is Carr responsible for the portraits you still see adorning homes along Redstone Boulevard, but he also did a series of buildings, some of which can still be found at the Redstone Art Gallery. He depicted the Durrett house (138 Redstone Blvd., right across from the Redstone Inn), the Crystal Club (which has now become Propaganda Pie), and the Church at Redstone; he would take a photograph of the building, project it, and then draw it. Jochems said it sounds like something anyone could do, but Carr’s results were near perfect in every detail.
At first, he commissioned Carr to paint a window, but after studying the scene he came back wanting to do more than a window, instead, he painted a porch that was the exact copy of one found just two doors down.
“The porch is an exact copy of the Leone house — true to all detail,” he said. “Then we got to talking, and we needed somebody to look out the window. The first candidate was Marilyn Monroe holding her skirt down as if she was standing over the heater grate — we’d talked about that, and then made the better choice.”
Carr instead pained Mona Lisa looking out the window, and the other portrait is of Leonardo da Vinci, which Jochems says he thought was a mistake, “I thought it made it too gimmicky to have the two portraits, but Carr wanted it and so I let him.”
From all the stories this author has heard about Bob Carr, Jochems probably didn’t have much of a say in exactly what he ended up painting.
“There was many a time that I would have people come walking by, who had driven into town and were now walking and looking around, who would say they’d realized the Mona Lisa was painted onto the window but had assumed everything else was real,” said Jochems. “The talent to be able to do that, on that type of surface is pretty incredible. You know, there’s a French term for that, fooling the eye," which is trompe l’oeil.
The originally painted porch and portraits lasted quite a long time because a blue spruce tree provided shade and it never received direct sunlight; Jochems estimated that it lasted 20 years or so with hardly any damage until the tree blew down and the sunlight quickly deteriorated the painting. “That’s the second tree I lost,” he lamented.
About six or seven years ago when Jochems last had the house painted, the painters covered everything except for the two portraits, which is how they appear still today.
Redstone Historic Preservation Commission
During his time in the Crystal River Valley, Jochems has been no stranger to a plethora of non-profit environmental and historical boards, including aiding in the foundation of the Redstone Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and serving on the board for 17 years.
As described on the Pitkin County website, the HPC board provides for the preservation and continued integrity of the historically designated area within 1,000 feet of the Redstone townsite boundary as well as other designated structures, sites, and objects. They promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public by preserving those qualities which relate to the history of Redstone.
It was sometime during the 80s that an issue arose that Jochems feels was the biggest, most important thing HPC ever did. Back then, Mid-Continent Resources owned both the mining operation in Coal Basin as well as the historic Ice House (119 Redstone Blvd.), including a substantial amount of property to the north up to the chapel (now the Art Gallery). Mid-Continent wanted to erect a row of townhouses, each one a replication of the Ice House and would have provided highly needed housing for the resident miners.
“Housing was always needed for the miners,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that, housing has always been needed for workers here. Always.”
Had the development been permitted, Jochems feels it would have been a real character changer for the village of Redstone, and in front of each home, he predicted, one could find a pickup truck, snowmobile, motorcycle, and a car.
He explained that the board wrote the guidelines in 1981, and took a full year just to write them, which didn’t permit anything like the proposed development. Jochems said that after the commissioners approved the guidelines, “along comes this and Mid-Continent thinking their ideas were so much better than this goofy historic preservation outfit. Just because of that, they thought they could get approval — well, they didn’t.”
Later, Mid-Continent tried to propose another development behind the coke ovens. “At the time, I think the board would have been agreeable to not assert guidelines jurisdiction over the coke ovens because when we originally drafted them we weren’t thinking of anything beyond the Boulevard so it seemed unfair to impose them behind the coke ovens,” he explained.
In the Redstone area, there are historic designations of specific properties, there’s state historic designations, as well as national designations; however, the Historic Preservation District is a creation of Pitkin County, which designated the guidelines jurisdiction as the original townsite plus an additional 1,000 feet radius, which includes the space behind the coke ovens. Therefore, Mid-Continent’s development proposals never made it past the theoretical stage.
The Mid-Continent Years
The mining history in Coal Basin began in the late 1880s with the original Osgood mines only operating until 1909. In 1956, according to the CVEPA website, “Mid-Continent Resources gained ownership, undertook a major upgrade and expansion of the operation, and resumed mining,” which led to the paving of Highway 133 in the late 50s, and eventually the Redstone Boulevard as well.
By the time Jochems arrived in the early 70s, there was, undoubtedly, a heavy influence by Mid-Continent’s Coal Basin mines that continued for the couple of decades that followed. “Because of the mines, [the population] in terms of the Redstone Boulevard may have been greater when I moved in than there is now,” Jochems said.
However, growth today has largely been limited by the Pitkin County Open Space acquisitions from Jochems old Restone home (at 654 Redstone Blvd.) to the Brian Olesen Sanitation Station (at 1091 Redstone Blvd.); the area above the Redstone Inn to the Redstone Castle, which is also known as Sawmill Hill; behind the Coke Ovens, which also includes the Redstone Stables; and past Dorais Way to Filoha Meadows.
Redstone was very much a mining town during the 70s and 80s. John Osgood’s third wife, Lucille MacDonald (after remarrying Huntley MacDonald) had sold off the majority of the original houses. Mid-Continent owned the Redstone Inn, where many miners were able to pay board. The mine supported families in houses and single men in motels and apartments. The Redstone Manor (now Crystal River Villas) was built just for miners by the Shilling family.
As Jochems wrote for The Crystal Valley Echo in April 2021, the end of every day’s shift brought a line of pick-ups to the General Store, buying six-packs for the drive home. At Mid-Continent’s zenith, several hundred miners produced up to a million tons of metallurgical, or coking, coal a year. Two shifts of 30-ton trucks, one every four minutes, hauled coal to the unit train at Carbondale.
Back then, miners patronized and socialized in the Inn and Townhouse (now Propaganda Pie). “Most of the guys were single with big paychecks for the time, and didn’t want to cook dinner,” said Jochems, “they probably frequented the Town House more because, especially in those days, it was much less formal than the Inn.”
When asked if the Town House was a “rough crowd,” Jochems chuckled and replied, “Well, I was a part of it myself!” John Ely chuckled when making the comment that Jochems was always friends with all the great drunks.
He described the explosion that occurred in 1981 in The Crystal Valley Echo’s April 2021 edition:
Thwap… thwap… thwap, followed by the echoes of helicopters woke all of Redstone at dawn on April 15 — it was [over] 40 years ago but seems like yesterday. Then, “and this morning, in Redstone, Colorado…” broke through from Tom Brokaw on the national news as an intense and tragic story unfolded locally.
The gas blew, early during the swing shift, that fateful morning in 1981, and frantic rescue efforts continued for two days. Some miners were able to call out and rescue team members Tim Cole and Lee McBride went in within a couple of hours. They helped six injured miners out, but the devastation kept them 800 feet from the explosion, and 15 men were still missing.
Heavy gloom weighed our town down; we all knew these men.
Access to the explosion site was difficult. The portal was located above Redstone at 10,000 feet in Coal Basin. And then the tunnel extended access 6,000 feet into the mountain, following the coal seam down the 10-degree dip, and ending an extraordinary 3,000 feet under Huntsman’s Ridge. That was the site of the explosion.
Gas had to be cleared and human safety insured before rescuers could access the site on the second day. Sadly, they confirmed that all 15 men had been killed by the explosion.
Marble Judge with No Cases
During the late 80s, Jochems was appointed the Town of Marble judge. At the time, the Town thought they would move forward with gaining police enforcement and a court system.
“I was a judge with no cases,” he said proudly. “This was useful to me because I performed a lot of marriages at the Redstone Inn and the Redstone Castle.”
Jochems, unfortunately, did not wed Jimmy Buffet at the Redstone Castle, he commented that that took place before he was appointed a judge. He later went on to become a Carbondale municipal judge in the mid-90s until he retired completely in 2000. He heard cases about prohibitions of the Town’s code, such as misdemeanor offenses, disturbing the peace, and dogs at large.
Coal Basin Reclamation
Just eight years following the tragedy from the 1981 explosion, Mid-Continent's demise began. As a founding member, Jochems and the rest of the CVEPA board were always an acting watchdog in terms of water quality coming down Coal Creek, but in February 1989 there was a significant offense that caused both the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers as far as Glenwood Springs to run “as black as India ink,” according to Jochems.
He explained, “The wastewater got away from them, and that was a one-time event and truly an accident. They had bulldozed something like 30 miles of road with all the switchbacks and whatnot. The maroon formation of the [Coal] Basin there is very soft anyway, and when you start bulldozing roads out of it, you really create huge sediment flows out of Coal Creek. It was said at one point by the Division of Wildlife that there was no evidence of any natural reproduction of trout in the whole Crystal River from Coal Creek to the Roaring Fork, that the blanket of sediments would suffocate various insects that the trout live on.”
MCR was fined for the incident, and eventually shuttered the mines in 1991. In Protecting a Valley and Saving a River, Darrell Munsell quotes Cameron Burns of the Aspen Times Weekly on what he saw during a 1993 flight over Coal Basin:
“What remains [of a once grandiose enterprise] is a scarred mountain basin of ugly mine shafts, crisscrossing utility roads and giant piles of seeping coal refuse, all strung out over 100 acres of Forest Service land. It was a picture of ecological blight that many valley residents increasingly consider an environmental hazard that should be cleaned up as promised.”
When the mine shut down, CVEPA felt there were not adequate provisions to reclaim Coal Basin, so the board became quite active in pushing for adequate restoration. Jochems explained that with that process, MCR was required to put a bond that was supposed to guarantee that MCR would pay for the reclamation work. “Well, Mid-Continent went bankrupt and they couldn’t do it. The security for their bond was their loading facility in Carbondale, which was not in the bankruptcy because it was already segregated and pledged for reclamation,” he said.
“The problem was,” Jochems continued, “that its value was a transshipment place where the train continued to run up until 1992. When the mine shut down, the property became essentially worthless.”
Upon CVEPA’s urging, Pitkin County, the National Forest Service, and the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety became involved. In 1995, a $4 million restoration effort took place until 2002; however, the area still struggled with revegetation in many areas and the effort largely continues today.
“It’s a fair statement that the current state of reclamation is way less than what’s hoped for today,” said Jochems, “that’s why the methane capture project is so alarming. The question is, how sustainable is the project? The coal is not the same as in Paonia: it's tighter, harder, less permeable, and probably harder for [methane] to move. The gas will be in the deposits still sitting there, but once you start drawing it out, how able is the coal bed to replace it? Then, if they start drilling and essentially fracking it to stimulate gas flows, I can see the ‘re-industrialization of Coal Basin.’”
Boat Builder of Redstone
Jochems built the hull of two boats in his Redstone garage; he and his father first built a row boat in Kansas in the 1940s, and the second boat, Citizen P, was a lug rig that was started in his garage in the early 90s. “A lug rig is not fixed to the mast, the mast serves to lift the top and bottom spars,” he explained. “It’s quite a primitive rig.”
“Sapphire” was his third and final hull to build, which was started in May of 1996. The 27-foot ketch has two masts, is seven feet wide, and has a cabin that runs nearly stern to bow. He told Lynn Burton for an August 1997 Roaring Fork Life article that he suspected the neighbors were highly skeptical of the project, but that they’d been most generous and tolerant of the noise.
Burton writes, “Jochems went to Philip Bolger, one of America’s best small boat designers, to design the schooner. Bolger [was] in his 70s [at the time], and has designed 639 boats, including the one he calls the ‘William D. Jochems.’” When he asked Jochems why he started such a difficult project, Jocehms replied that he just had the urge to do it, and part of that urge was creating something with his hands.
Jochems told The Crystal Valley Echo that Sapphire took two years just to build the basic hull, then she was moved down the valley to one of the big buildings which the mining company wasn’t using. Burton quotes him as saying that building inside his garage was “like doing a painting in a phone booth… you can’t step back and look at it.”
“I just couldn’t come up with a name for the boat,” Jochems said last fall, “and I was painting the hull up to the last moment. Looking down at the paint can the color was called ‘Sapphire,’ so that’s how she got her name.”
Sapphire first splashed in Lake Mead, and then was in the San Francisco Bay Area for a while before Jochems took her to the Sea of Cortez. He said that she’s currently in a port in Texas; however, the current owner told us she’s now kept in a marina on a small estuary that feeds into Buzzards Bay in Bourne, Cape Cod, Mass.
We caught up with Rob Gogan, who told us he and his wife, Frann Addison, are the current owners of 'Blue Moon,’ née Sapphire. “After Bill, she went to Wisconsin and Texas before moving to her current home,” he said. “She’s a terrific, distinctive boat on which my wife and I have had many adventures in the waters of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.”
Gogan continued, “Bolger designed the boat with leeboards. Very few boats around here have them. So, many people who see the boat ask me what they are for and I tell them they enable sailing in much shallower waters than most cruising boats. We can easily sail to knee-deep waters for landing. Sailing her is a little challenging as she is what Bolger calls 'tender,' or tipsy. Though we cannot sail in winds over 15 knots, we love the 360° views, hatches for sky views and fresh air, and interior space aboard. My wife and I are grateful to Bill Jochems for inspiring, and constructing, such a fun, distinctive schooner that we’ve been sailing since 2015."
The Dam Affair
“Bill came out of retirement for me during the West Divide opposition,” said John Ely, Pitkin County Attorney, “and I really appreciate that!”
In Protecting a Valley, Saving a River, Munsell writes, “The West Divide Project was a multipurpose water resource development in Pitkin, Garfield, Mesa, and Gunnison counties for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses.” Jochems explained the expressed purpose of the project was to pump water out of a Placita reservoir over Huntsman Ridge to irrigate hayfields in an area called West Divide, near West Divide Creek south of Silt, Colo.
“Those were amazing proposals,” he said. “Redstone would have been under a couple of hundred feet of water, with the top parts of the Redstone Castle, I think, being above the water line. It was just insanity.”
The Redstone plan, or the so-called Osgood reservoir, would have been located just north of the Village and was originally proposed to be 129,000 acre-feet, and would have backed water up to Placita. Another tall dam was proposed at Placita to be 62,000 acre-feet. The Colorado Water Conservation District (River District) filed the original water rights during the late 50s and was adjudicated by the water court in 1958.
Jochems explained that in Colorado, one would have to go to water court every six years for a showing of diligence. The legal test is that you can and will build the project. “‘Can’ meant that you have the money, and ‘will’ meant that you have the intent,” he said. “You also have to show that you’ve made progress in getting it done.”
He expressed great concern for the River District’s proposed intent of irrigation. “Hay is not valuable enough of a crop for the millions of dollars necessary in getting the water over there,” he explained. “What was really behind all this was oil shale development.”
Jochems never believed the River District was trying to push the project forward and said that the progress they’d shown during court hearings was constantly shifting around as new drawings: New engineering drawings and then fancier drawings — all things that could be done from a desk.
“The only thing that was ever done on the ground,” he said, “was the drilling of one hole up there by Placita to get a characterization of the rock to see if it could properly support the dam. Other than that, everything was on paper.”
When groups like CVEPA and the Crystal River Caucus wanted to push opposition to the project in the late 2000s, they neither had an attorney nor the funds to pay for one. Ely suggested Jochems, who reinstated his license and joined the fight. According to Protecting a Valley, Saving a River, the group called the River District’s bluff and “filed a motion in water court asking the judge to rule that the planning period (50 years) for the West Divide Project had expired and that the water district had not been diligent in perfecting their water rights.”
On August 25, 2013, “the end of the dam affair” was celebrated in Redstone Park. The party was put together by Jochems, “He can throw a party!” exclaimed Lisa Tasker, Administrative Specialist for Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers board.
The River District settled out of court and relinquished all water rights to the Crystal River Valley. It is the threat of these dams that led to the mid-2010s effort to gain national protection of the Crystal River, and the attempt to for a Wild and Scenic Designation continues today.
Reflections on the Future of Redstone
Lisa Tasker first got to know Jochems while carpooling to Healthy Rivers board meetings. Jochems has been a member of the board since its inception in 2009 and continues his involvement even after moving to Garfield County. She said she is impressed at his ability to stay in contact with his people, he speaks with Peter and Ann Martin weekly who left Redstone a few years ago and uses that as an example in her own life.
Tasker also expressed her appreciation for his measured way of speaking. “He has a way of picking things up and making them move a bit,” she said. “Bill makes things happen.”
Jochems said some of his fondest memories were getting together with friends on his back deck for summer dinners. “Watching the sun climb up, the shadows and the sun rising as it set behind me on the cliffs,” he commemorates, “they were just incomparable experiences.”
When asked about the future of Redstone, he replied, “Of course, it has its marvelous protection by Open Space and Redstone's Historic Preservation Commission, so I think everyone can look forward to the rest of their lives there with very little change to the surroundings. That’s a marvelous advantage that very few people have.”
He was a board member of CVEPA from the very beginning but parted ways over their support for the Crystal River bike trail proposals. “At that point, I decided that I could not see how the building of the trail was in favor of protecting the environment,” he explained. “I do believe a form of the trail is necessary, but as proposed by Pitkin County Open Space with a dozen or so bridges between the BRB (now the KOA) to Redstone would totally change the character and puts bicycles in areas important to wildlife.”
As Micheal Kinsley wrote in his January Letter to the Editor, Jochems' move from Redstone to Carbondale truly marks the end of an era. We hope you’ll join us and Kinsley in raising a glass to a great guy. Cheers, Bill!