Denver Parks Ranger Lonnie Smith will get to live inside one of Denver’s hidden historic gems — for free.
On Monday, Denver City Council approved a three-year contract allowing Smith to live inside one of the cabins at 300 Union Ave. in Morrison. These historic cabins make up a campsite that was once home to Civilian Conservation Corps, which was a government program. Its workers helped build Red Rocks Amphitheatre and other mountain amenities during the 1930s and 1940s. The CCC worked on projects across the country.
Scott Gilmore, deputy director of Denver Parks and Recreation, said the contract helps update the city’s agreements with staff living and working on park grounds. Smith is one of three city employees who work as caretakers for city mountain parks and have with similar living arrangements.
Smith gets to stay at the cabin for free as part of his compensation for his job. He’s responsible for natural gas, cable TV and internet costs. He’s allowed to have pets including cats or dogs, but no livestock. He was unavailable for comment Monday.
Gilmore said Smith lives in a camp the city considers “very special” because of its connection to the city and country’s history, adding that campsite is likely the most intact CCC camp in the country. Smith is responsible for providing security, responding to calls for issues at the park, working with Jefferson County Sheriffs Department and upkeep of the cabin where he lives.
“We have issues that happened at our parks all the time,” Gilmore said. “He is the person that if something happens at night, we call him to dispatch any challenges that we have.”
The CCC campsite includes 14 buildings. Gilmore said the city has started renovating cabins on the site, working with HistoriCorp, which uses volunteers to help preserve historic buildings. The organization is headquartered at the CCC campsite.
Gilmore said the other two city employees with arrangements similar to Smith’s are Matt Brown, who lives near Genesee Mountain Park in Golden, and Ryan Phillian, who lives near Daniels Park in Sedalia. Both are in charge of bison herds in those parks, feeding them and moving them around the park’s pastures.
Correction: A previous article misidentified where Daniels Park is located. It’s Sedalia, not Salida.