Hoping to open the old Putney Ranger Station by spring, renovations continue by Meridzo Center Ministries. The historical facility will house a trail head, museum, gift shop and living quarters for staff.
Lonnie Riley, the Meridzo Center Ministries director, and his wife, Belinda, said they hope to have the trail head open by spring.
“Along with a museum displaying Appalachian culture and the history of the ranger station, there will also be a gift shop,” said Riley. “There will also be a room for rangers who need to come and have a place to stay. A public restroom will also be available. A staff person will live at the trail head, where there are four bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room. There is also a great room, with a large stone fireplace. Those visiting the area will be able to check in at the station or sign in at Goss Park as well.”
In charge of the museum will be Pam Holcomb and her sister, Nancy Lawson, who’s late father Astor Holcomb was a long-time forest ranger for the county.
“We’re taking one room, which was previously used as office space, where we plan to put memorabilia where the history of the ranger station can be viewed,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb and Lawson lived at the ranger station with their family for two years while their father was the ranger.
“We just wanted to do something to honor the seven or eight rangers who served the Harlan County area in that capacity,” said Lawson. “Someone told me they had a big ‘Smokey the Bear’ sign to donate. These are things we’d like to have for this room in the trail head.”
Lawson said the Putney Ranger Station was part of their lives growing up and she has “wonderful memories” of those years living there.
“I wrote a story in college about life in the ranger station,” said Lawson. “I talked about what it was like. When people visited they just thought it was one of the most beautiful places they had ever been. They didn’t realize the danger behind the scene when the men had to go out and fight fires.”
Lawson said her father and another ranger, Arthur Collins had actually built the Little Shepherd Trail. She said her father “drove a dozier and Collins used a grader to pave the way.”
She said they were both guard rangers at the time and later her dad became head ranger.
Hoping to preserve this part of Harlan County’s history, Lawson said, “This is just one of the ways we can accomplish this.”
Currently working on a tour book for the Little Shepherd Trail, Lawson said she’d “love to have photos of all the old fire towers to put in the room at the trail head.”
“We’re collecting photos of all the people who served as rangers at the Putney Ranger Station,” said Holcomb. “As we get them, we’ll put them on display. Anyone who has any photos or any other memorabilia they wish to donate for display may contact me at 573-4376 or my sister, Nancy at 573-7282.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org