Shaping the Land

Entrance sign to the Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm.

Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm (CHP@RCF) Open Space is a story within a story. A story of human history spanning 5,500 years Before Present wrapped inside the larger story of life on Earth as part of the fossil-rich upper Cretaceous Laramie Formation — all on 1,124 acres.

This amazing combination of fossil potential and human history resulted in Parks & Open Space completing a 2021 paleontological resources survey on part of the property as well as nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places with the assistance of a Colorado State Historical Fund grant.

Located in the southeast corner of Boulder County, CHP@RCF is named after Carolyn Holmberg, the Parks & Open Space director who promoted the property’s acquisition. She strongly believed the property embodied open space values where people could connect, farmers could lease agricultural land, grassland resources and their associated wildlife would be protected, and its cultural resources would be forever preserved.

Although much of the surrounding land has been urbanized, CHP@RCF remains an oasis and a link to the past. Today, visitors to the property have access to hiking and riding trails across the property and Stearns Lake, which provides access for fishing and wildlife viewing.

Photo collage of scenes from Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm.
Since time immemorial, the rolling semi-arid short-grass prairie in the entire Front Range was home to numerous Indigenous people. Archaeological evidence of early human presence on the property dates to as far back as 5,500 years Before Present at a well-preserved Early Archaic Period and Ceramic Period site. Through excavation of the site, along with analysis of floral and faunal remains, archaeologists determined that the site was an Indigenous camp used to procure and process resources and to manufacture stone tools. Due to the well-preserved condition of the site and the quality and quantity of cultural material, the site was listed on the State Register of Historic Properties in 1993.

More recent historic features on the property include the Goodhue Farm/Stearns Dairy Farm No. 2 farmstead, two railroad corridors, a wagon road, and a former coal mining site. The Goodhue Farm/Stearns Dairy Farm No. 2 is an extensive complex of historic agricultural buildings dating from the early to middle decades of the twentieth century. The centerpiece of the farm complex is the 1916 craftsman bungalow house. Constructed during the ownership of the Goodhue family, the house exhibits classic stylistic elements that include wood frame construction, one-and-a-half-story low massing accentuating its horizontal lines and a full-width front porch. The first Euro-American owners of the property include the Foote, Miller, and Goodhue families, who grew crops that included hay, corn, alfalfa, and raised beef and dairy cattle as well as horses. Parks & Open Space continues the property’s agricultural tradition by leasing the property and many of its buildings to a tenant farmer.

Goodhue Farm House

All the locations and features on the property weave a story of human occupation shaping the land that together contribute to the historic significance of the property unlike any other open space property managed by the department. In recognition of the property’s historic significance, the National Park Service officially listed Rock Creek Farm on the National Register of Historic Places on April 20, 2023.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources. The more than 96,000 properties listed represent 1.8 million contributing resources — buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects. Almost every county in the United States has at least one place listed in the national register!

Boulder County Parks & Open Space Properties in the National Register

  • Denver, Boulder, and Western Railway Historic District (aka Switzerland Trail of America) segments on Boulder County Parks & Open Space properties (1980)
  • Walker Ranch Historic District (1984; boundary increase 1988)
  • Wall Street Assay Office (1989; boundary increase 1992)
  • Rocky Mountain Mammoth Mine (2010)
  • Cardinal Mill (2011)
  • Carolyn Holmberg Preserve at Rock Creek Farm (2023)