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Guardians of Historic Lakewood: A Citizen Archaeology Program


Beer Creak Park, Courtesy of City of Lakewood.

At first glance, you might not expect a blog about water conservation to lead to a journey through history. Yet, here in Colorado, where water is a precious resource, the story of our past is intricately intertwined with our efforts to protect our environment. Join us as we dive into the intriguing tale of Lakewood, Colorado, where water conservation, archaeology, and community engagement come together in a remarkable initiative known as the Guardians of Historic Lakewood program.


In Colorado, water conservation is not just a buzzword; it's a way of life. Our rivers and lakes have been steadily dwindling, impacting not only our state but also neighboring Nevada, California, and Arizona. To address this pressing issue, Bill HB22-1151, the Turf Replacement Program, emerged on the scene in February 2022. This bill aimed to incentivize water-wise landscapes and create a state program to finance the voluntary replacement of irrigated turf. In June 2022, it became law.


Amid discussions about water conservation, the board members of the Lakewood Historical Society pondered how this initiative might influence local archaeology. In Lakewood, it's not uncommon for residents to stumble upon artifacts while gardening or landscaping. These accidental discoveries hold the potential to unveil hidden stories from the past. The question arose: how could we capture this historical data in a fun and inclusive way, allowing Lakewood's citizens to become explorers of their own heritage?



Enter the Guardians of Historic Lakewood program, where citizens embark on a journey to explore and understand artifacts unearthed in their very own backyards. The program's guidebook not only introduces participants to the initiative but also sheds light on the Lakewood Historical Society and Community Connections LLC. The mission of the Lakewood Historical Society is to bring history enthusiasts together, with a particular focus on Lakewood's rich heritage. Understanding local history fosters a deeper appreciation of our state, nation, and the broader tapestry of American heritage.


In the pages of the guidebook, we delve into the "what, who, where, when, and why" of archaeology. It's a reminder that history is all around us, even in our own backyards. To illustrate this point, we offer a quick history lesson on Lakewood, Colorado:

 

The area of what is now Lakewood was originally inhabited by the Ute people, who traveled between the South Platte River, Cherry Creek, the Rocky Mountain foothills, and the high country. Later, the Cheyenne and Arapaho people arrived and hunted bison near the rivers. However, through a series of treaties, the land was ceded to the United States, displacing the Indigenous inhabitants.


Euro-Americans began farming in Lakewood in 1859. The oldest surviving building today is The Stone House, dating back to the 1860s. People settled here attracted by the area's safety from flooding and its convenient transportation routes. Agriculture dominated the region until the 1940s.


The first subdivision of Lakewood was established in 1889, attracting wealthy Denverites who built summer estates there. The town grew, and in 1893, an electric tramway connected Lakewood, Golden, and Denver. The Remington Arms Company ammunition factory was built in 1941, later becoming the Denver Federal Center.

Lakewood was incorporated in 1969, becoming Colorado's third-largest city at the time. After World War II, suburbanization occurred, and West Colfax developed with mid-century modern architecture and motels. The area is also known for the restaurant Casa Bonita, a local landmark.

Lakewood continues to preserve its history through the Lakewood Historical Society and Lakewood Heritage Center, which houses thousands of artifacts and historical photographs. The city has extensive parkland and open spaces, including the Green Mountain Recreation Center. The population reached 156,605 in 2021, making Lakewood Colorado's 5th largest city and the third largest in the metro area.

 

Lakewood's history is a tapestry woven with threads of diverse cultures and eras. From the Indigenous inhabitants who first tread upon this land to the Euro-American settlers who forged their way in the 19th century, every footstep has left an indelible mark on our community. But how can we ensure that this rich heritage is not lost to time? The answer lies in the "Guardians of Historic Lakewood" program and its invaluable tool: the Citizen Archaeology Guidebook.


Our guidebook doesn't just offer instructions; it provides you with a wealth of expertise. Illustrations and examples are included to help you identify artifacts with confidence. Whether you stumble upon a glass bottle, a metal can, a ceramic fragment, an old nail, or even remnants of barbed wire, this guidebook will be your trusted companion on the journey of discovery.


Below, we offer you a sneak peek into the guidebook's contents with some example pages:


The Guardians of Historic Lakewood guidebook goes beyond archaeology. It combines the realms of archaeology and environmental stewardship by partnering with the Butterfly Pavilion. Gardening tips to protect native pollinators are provided, along with a list of pollinator-friendly plants. Participants can also join the PACE (Pollinator Awareness Through Conservation and Education) initiative to contribute to global pollinator conservation efforts.

By replacing turf with native plants, you're not only benefiting the environment but also uncovering history. If you stumble upon artifacts during this process, you can share your findings with the community. The Lakewood Historical Society has created an artifact reporting form on their website, which will transform your data into a StoryMap. This interactive map allows local residents to share their stories of discovery, helping to bridge Lakewood's past with our present.


Don't worry if you're not a Lakewood resident; history is meant to be shared. The Lakewood Historical Society is eager to assist other local historical societies in launching similar programs. You can connect with them here.


Join us this Fall in celebrating the Guardians of Historic Lakewood program and the stories waiting to be unearthed in your own backyard. After all, history matters, and it's in our hands to preserve and share it with the world.


Jasmine (left) and Jess (right)

As we wrap up this journey through water conservation, archaeology, and history, we invite you to ponder the significance of contributing to our historical narrative. History is not just a dusty relic of the past; it's a living, breathing part of our present. We'll be back in two weeks with more captivating tales. Don't miss out – make sure you subscribe!


See you soon!


Jasmine & Jess (J&J) 🌳


Catch us on IG and FB

@CommunityConnectionsLLC


➡️ In our next blog, we're going behind-the-scenes with International Archaeology Day 2023. Get a sneak peek into the tours, exhibitors, activities, and presenters at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre!

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