Museum looking to 1A

Hayden Heritage Center hopes to expand hours, collection

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The Hayden Heritage Center is stuck, spinning its proverbial wheels.

The 87-year-old railroad depot that houses the Heritage Center is structurally sound, and its collection is well protected, but the building could use some work, be better secured and use an expansion, said Donna Hellyer, Heritage Center tour guide and chairwoman of the Hayden Planning Commission.

Admission to the Heritage Center is free, so it relies on donations from the town of Hayden, private contributors and volunteers. Approval of Referendum 1A -- the Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund -- would provide money needed to expand the museum and several other needed improvements, Hellyer said.

The fund would provide money to all the county museums, including more than $18,000 to the Hayden Heritage Center when property taxes are collected, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. The fund calls for a 0.3-mill levy, which would raise property tax by $2.28 per $100,000 of property.

"(Referendum) 1A is important to the historic climate of the whole county," Hellyer said. "What we have is wonderful. It's just an exciting place. I love it. It could be so much more, though."

"If it weren't for this museum, the history of this area would be lost, and we need to preserve our history," Hayden Heritage Center Board President Gary Stone said earlier this year.

If the historic tax were approved, Hellyer said the money would be used for many improvements, including rewiring the outdated electrical system; landscaping; implementing a newer, high-tech security system; improving structural elements; increasing advertising; and hiring a full-time curator to extend the museum's visiting hours and to help organize and archive pieces.

"The bottom line is we need more room," Hellyer said. "Right now, space is very limited."

The need for more room is not only for the museum's current inventory but also for any additions to the collection, Hellyer said. Another goal if Referendum 1A is passed is to increase advertising and public relations for the museum, which might encourage more people to offer their own historically significant items to the museum, Hellyer said.

"We need brochures placed throughout the area because we're off the beaten path, off the highway," Hellyer said. "A lot of people don't even know the museum is here. More intense PR and ads would be good."

The Hayden Heritage Center is open only for private group tours upon request. Regular hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, from Memorial Day to Sept. 29, providing a window of opportunity for schools to tour the facility.

Exhibits at the museum include fossils, rock collections, an Old West exhibit with several old saddles, an antique threshing machine, and the original printing press from the old Routt County Republican newspaper.

What happens if Referendum 1A does not pass?

"We'll keep struggling on donations," Hellyer said. "It's kind of a day-to-day budget.

"The thing is, it's a heritage museum. It has the significance of agriculture and mining, and it has the significance of why Hayden is here."

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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