Lawson Hill was first envisioned as a home for local families and business that were being forced or pressured to move from the Town of Telluride. Mine employee housing at Pandora was slated for demolition as part of a state/EPA mandated mine reclamation. Businesses like the lumber yard were deemed inappropriate for the downtown core. There was concern however that the development would create competition for existing businesses in the Town of Telluride so the PUD was approved with strict limitations on the types and sizes of businesses allowed.
Lawson Hill has proven to be a regional asset and has accomplished the goals originally set forth by providing opportunities for local workers to own their homes and to live close to where they work. Many companies have found a home in Lawson Hill because of this new opportunity.
Lawson Hill was recognized in 1995 by the Governor for being “smart growth” in the State of Colorado, for proactively creating local housing. Now Lawson Hill is the poster child for successful resort development providing the largest local housing project in this area. The old Rio Grande Southern railroad right of way was developed into a non‐motorized trail by the Forest Service in the early 1990s and named the Galloping Goose after the old cars that ran the track.
In 2009 the Nature Conservancy negotiated a purchase agreement with Telecam to acquire a swath of land cradling both sides of the San Miguel River and including the Keystone falls. They raised the money through donations and grants to conserve forever this section of undammed river from development and to protect the wildlife. The only access is a foot path that traverses both sides of the river and allows an intimate view of the Keystone falls. The Nature Conservancy transferred the parcel to San Miguel County Parks in 2009.
Miners were aggressively searching for gold in the valley in the late 1800’s, when a group of placer miners set their eyes on a section of the Keystone area. They devised a system to gravity feed water through a flume, then into a pipe creating enough pressure to shoot a water cannon with a 9” nozzle across the canyon. This cannon was capable of blasting away the entire hillside sending the gravel into their sluice boxes in an effort to capture the gold flakes. Luckily this was not very successful, and the practice had a short life span. The scars that remain are a permanent reminder of that previous period in history. The land beneath this community played a strategic role in the development of mining in the region. The Rio Grande Southern connected portions of Western Colorado by railroad to move people and ore around the area. The section of the railroad that connected Ridgway to Telluride traversed the hillside above the San Miguel River, eventually crossing the river on a wooden bridge and continuing into Telluride. The famous Galloping Goose cars chugged along this same route. When mining waned, the trains ceased to run and eventually the track was removed.
For years to come the area was mostly abandoned except for the wildlife and sheep run by landowner and rancher Kirk Alexander. Kirk eventually sold the land for Lawson Hill to the developer Hans Jones and his Company, Telecam.