Deckers

Deedee and Peter Decker on their ranch in Ridgway. (Courtesy photo)

He was a celebrated author and passionate environmental advocate; she is a committed historic preservationist.

Between the two of them, Peter and Deedee Decker have done much good work for decades on behalf of the citizens (both past and present) of Ouray County, and the land itself.

Next month, their contributions will be celebrated at a fete in Denver, where they’ll receive Colorado’s “premier preservation honor,” the Dana Crawford Award.

Peter Decker is the author of numerous books, including “The Utes Must Go!” and “Old Fences, New Neighbors” — considered to this day to be essential reading if you want to understand Ouray County, from Utes to gentleman ranchers.

Deedee Decker — who resides on the couple’s ranch in Ridgway — has been the president of the Ouray County Historical Society, and has worked on, and donated to, numerous local preservation initiatives. She’ll accept the Dana Crawford Award, the highest honor conferred by Colorado Preservation Inc., at the state’s premier preservation-awards event next month. The ceremony will take place outdoors this year, in an auspicious spot for the Deckers (because, yes, they have bettered this place, too): will be held at Four Mile Historic Park, land that “once served as a stagecoach stop and dance hall for travelers” along the Cherokee Trail before reaching Denver, according to the website Atlas Obscura. (The site is named “for the exact distance between the homestead and the fledgling town.”)

“A few years ago, Peter and I happened to make a donation to Four Mile Historic Park,” Deedee recalled. “There was a stagecoach there, and an open, four-seater carriage that had been parked outside. They were covered in plastic” in order to be protected from the elements. “We helped to build a carriage house” for the coach and carriage. “So we already had a connection to the carriage house.”

The Deckers learned of the honor last summer, and CPI dispatched a camera crew to Ridgway to film the Deckers and good friend Lynn Kircher — who served on the Ouray County Planning Commission with Peter Decker in the early 1980s, when the Master Plan of the county was created — and Richard Ballantyne — who was on the board of Fort Lewis College with Decker — to discuss their longstanding friendship and efforts to conserve open spaces and further historic preservation. (The Deckers were among the first to place their ranch under a conservation easement, protecting it from development into perpetuity.)

“We were thrilled and shocked when we learned we received the award,” Deedee said. “It was a total shock to both of us. We really didn’t get it.”

They didn’t “get it” because, “although Peter knew Dana Crawford and a lot of my friends from preservation, it wasn’t his world at all.”

Peter Decker’s focus, she explained, was on conservation.

Representatives of the Dana Crawford Award explained that in the future, “they want to concentrate as much on conservation as historic preservation. So then it made sense,” Deedee Decker explained. It’s an award that will recognize the Decker’s works, and also points and the way forward, to future endeavors CPI plans to emphasize and encourage.

So, this reporter asked, “Are you pleased?”

“Oh, gosh,” Deedee Decker replied. “Yes!”

The 2021 Dana Crawford Award will be conferred at 6 p.m. on June 8 at Four Mile Historic Park in Denver, where Peter and Deedee Decker will be celebrated. Also honored this year will be CPI State Award recipients Trinidad Space to Create (in Las Animas County), Dr. Bonnie Clark (in Prowess County) and Santa Maria Ranch (in Park County). The Preservation Edge Award recipient for 2021 is Jessup Farm Artisan Village, in Larimer County. Paris Mill, in Park County, will receive the Endangered Places Progress Award. On the Western Slope, CPI’s Endangered Places program has successfully worked to preserve historic mining sites on Red Mountain Pass and the Colona School and Grange in Ouray County. To learn more, visit coloradopreservation.org.