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Santa gives Skeel family a week without water

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By Vicky Gits

Park district chief John Skeel and his family woke up on Christmas Day to discover that Santa had left them with a dry well, forcing the family of five to go without toilet flushing and hot showers for a week.

By the day after New Year’s, the problem had been fixed with the addition of two 175-gallon storage tanks, and now the system works better than ever, Skeel said. “I can take a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time.”

Well experts diagnosed the problem as a relative lack of rain this year.

The family lives in the Alderfer House on Buffalo Park Road, in the center of Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, part of Jefferson County Open Space. The house became available to Skeel for free as part of his $90,000 pay package, when he was hired to replace Dick Wulf last year. Skeel pays his own utility bill. The former resident of the house was Pat Shea, athletics supervisor.

Canyon Courier columnist Hank Alderfer lived in the house until 1986.

“It was an active cattle ranch until 1968, and from 1968 to 1986, we ran horses,” Alderfer said. He thinks the house was built about 1900.

Alderfer remembers putting in a new well around 1976.

“It’s always been a strong well, but it’s been a dry year,” he said. He remembers the well being 285 feet deep.

In 1945, E.J. Alderfer and his wife, Arleta, Hank’s mother, moved into the ranch house. “We had one light bulb and no water,” Alderfer said.

When the senior Alderfer died in 1972, the family sold the 385-acre estate to Jefferson County Open Space. The Evergreen Park and Recreation District took over responsibility for the house, the barn and 5 acres under a 25-year lease. Open Space recently took over responsibility for the public bathroom.

Before Skeel and the family moved in, the district spent about $40,000 on remodeling the kitchen and upgrading the bathrooms, said Kit Darrow, a member of the district’s board of directors. The play structure was a gift donated by a former board member, Darrow said.

“John tries to fix things himself if he has the ability,” Darrow said. “He even put in a new door frame. … He’s very frugal. We need to keep the place well maintained.”

Darrow described the Alderfer House as “an Evergreen icon and symbol of the old ranching lifestyle.”