Billings Open Space Cultural Resource Survey Project

On March 1, 2021, History Colorado awarded Boulder County Parks & Open Space (BCPOS) a $22,150 grant in partnership with a $2,000 BCPOS cash match to complete an intensive-level cultural resource survey on the 326-acre Billings Open Space property located along Longmont Dam Road (County Road 80) west of the Town of Lyons.

What are cultural resources?

Cultural resources are highly valued because they represent a cultural system. A cultural resource may be a tangible entity or a cultural practice. Tangible cultural resources are categorized as districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects. Archeological resources, cultural landscapes, and ethnographic resources can also be considered cultural resources.

Why conduct a cultural resource survey? The BCPOS mission statement, “To conserve natural, cultural and agricultural resources and provide public uses which reflect sound resource management and community values” ensures that BCPOS considers potential adverse effects to cultural resources prior to action that may disturb a site. In the case of the Billings Open Space, the activity that may have a potential adverse effect to cultural resources is the proposed forest thinning activities to reduce wildfire risk on the property in 2022-2023. Using mechanical tree harvesting equipment, trucks, and chippers to complete the forest thinning, BCPOS, along with its contractor, will identify and document cultural resources in advance of the forest thinning project, helping the department make informed management  decisions to protect significant cultural resources from damage or destruction.

What is a cultural resource survey? A cultural resource survey combines fieldwork and post fieldwork reporting to identify and evaluate all cultural resources over 50 years in a specific project area, such as the Billings Open Space.

Cultural Resource Survey Fieldwork

The Billings Open Space cultural resource survey fieldwork will be conducted by a team of consisting of a professionally qualified and Office of the State Archaeologist-permitted crew chief and two crew members. The field crew will walk the site with a maximum spacing of 50 feet to provide 100% ground coverage of the property. It is expected that the survey crew will complete fieldwork activities in mid- to late October 2021 and complete the post fieldwork reporting by early 2022.

During fieldwork, cultural resources 50 years old or older and visible on the surface or in subsurface exposures will be documented according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Identification and Evaluation and History Colorado’s Cultural Resource Survey Manual.

Billings Open Space—A Short History

Boulder County is the ancestral homeland to numerous indigenous people that include, but are not limited to, the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, Comanche, and Sioux. Some indigenous people were occasional visitors to the area, but others, like the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute were more prominent in the area.

Around 1880, the Billings brothers, George, Ferdinand, Norton and Jabe, arrived by covered wagons from South Dakota to the Lyons area. The brothers, their wives, and children prospered in the area with their descendants remaining there today. BCPOS acquired the Billings Open Space in a series of acquisitions from Claire and Margaret Billings between 2000-2007. Claire and Margaret acquired the property in 1965 from Claire’s parents, William and Eugenia Billings, who owned portions of the property since the early 1940s. The property was used for livestock grazing.