Carl Clay, a 1961 graduate of Hotchkiss High School and member of the HHS Alumni Association, is spearheading a project to improve the "H" located near the school. The hillside letter dates back to 1951 when three freshmen lettered in sports. Their initiation involved digging a trench in the shape of an H.
In 1954, said Clay, rocks were taken from Raymond White's orchard and placed in the trench. In 1960, concrete was poured into the trench, and the H has remained largely the same since then. Each year it gets a new coat of whitewash.
But the historic structure is giving way to erosion and harsh weather conditions. Last year the first efforts were made to shore up and stabilize the structure.
"After spending time trying to get it to stay on the side of the hill, it was determined that we probably need to do more than just try to keep it together," said Clay. In an effort dubbed "Raise the H," a team is now in place to rebuild the structure. It includes Hotchkiss High School principal Paul Rodriguez, Ray Katzdorn (HHS Class of 1986), representing the Booster Club; Mike Owens (Class of 1975), representing the town; at-large member John Marta (Class of 1957); Karen Martin (1950) with the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Society; Cliff Lacey (1976), and Jim and Gladys Carpenter, owners of the land on which the H was built.
The plan is to construct a wooden cover over the existing 100-foot-tall concrete structure, explained Clay at the April 14 Hotchkiss Town Council meeting. To maintain the historical value, the shape of the 100-foot-tall structure, one of the oldest of its kind in the state, will be preserved. Katzdorn said approximately 240 bolts will be needed to secure the framing. A new gate will be placed at the base of the trail to regulate traffic to the structure.
The Class of 1993 contacted Clay to ask if they could work on the project when they hold their class reunion this July. While the structure should last at least another 60 years, "We don't know exactly whether it'll be Paonia-proof or not," said Clay, referring to the 1962 dynamiting of the north leg by students from the rival school.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $7,500, said Clay. Tax-deductible contributions can be made during regular school hours at the HHS office.