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Steamboat Magazine

Visions of Strawberry Park

08/15/2022 01:26PM ● By Deb Olsen

“Kakela Hay Shed,” Susan Corser, Oil PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM MURPHY

Steamboat Springs, CO - The delicate balance between change and preservation is in the very fabric of Strawberry Park, just north of Steamboat Springs. Named after the plentiful strawberry plants that covered the land following the creation of the Soda Creek Ditch system in 1887, Strawberry Park has held onto this agricultural heritage while adapting to a changing world. Local painter Susan Corser captured this dynamic in her series of paintings called, “Strawberry Park: Scenes of History and Change.” These paintings capture the balance between change and stagnancy, darkness and light, abstraction and realism, movement and stillness. Corser’s paintings focus on the scenery that defines this dynamic of change and preservation. Buildings are razed and rebuilt, land is repurposed, families leave and return, weather patterns shift, but the timeless spirit of Strawberry Park remains the same.

The glaciers that used to cover much of Strawberry Park pushed granite boulders down Soda Creek. Many of the boulders were removed over the years to make way for agricultural operations, but the Kakela family chose to leave this rock in place to reflect the history and original character of the park.

“Elkstone Stripes II,” Susan Corser, Oil PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM MURPHY

The creation of Elkstone Farm in 2005 represented a major boost to the county’s local food production. With recent expansions, the farm now offers farm-to-table dinners, cooking classes and a Community Supported Agriculture program through which members invest in the farm in exchange for a weekly box of seasonal produce. The farm also hosts workshops in traditional arts, including beekeeping and stone masonry.

“Daisy’s Pink Pumphouse,” Susan Corser, Oil PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM MURPHY

Daisy Anderson was part of an African American family that settled along County Rd 38A in the 1940s. They came to work in the strawberry fields, after which Strawberry Park is named. After the death of her husband, Robert Anderson, a former slave and Civil War vet, Daisy and her sister Mae’s family built the Rushing Water Inn across the road from Daisy’s cabin. Daisy and Mae cooked, cleaned, washed linens and offered guiding services. Taking visitors into the mountains to fish and hunt elk, deer and bighorn sheep, they claimed to be the first licensed female guides in the state.

“Fran’s Garden,” Susan Corser, Oil PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM MURPHY

When Fran and Jim Carollo built this barn in 2008, their intent was to build a structure that felt like it had been there for decades, using recycled beams from an old ice house in Denver and other Colorado buildings. They built the barn in the old timber framing style, using dowels or wooden pegs to fasten the beams. This barn and a second one, also made from recycled lumber, reflect the evolving fabric of Strawberry Park, creating a beautiful mix of new and old. 

“Sharon’s Cabin,” Susan Corser, Oil PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM MURPHY

This log cabin, originally used to house local coal miners, was ferried around to various Routt County mines on skids. Sharon Fuller bought the cabin for $775 in 1981 from Lane Palmer in Oak Creek, and had it moved to her property in Strawberry Park. Since then she’s worked hard to restore the cabin, preserving a piece of local history while providing a charming tea house for her grandchildren. 

Susan Corser’s work can be found at Pine Moon Fine Art and Circle 7 Fine Art in Steamboat Springs, CO.