KEYSTONE " Playing with Lincoln Logs as a child meant getting to be an architect constructing dream homes.
Now, in Summit County, that toy is the inspiration for making those homes a reality while putting the lodgepole pine beetle kill trees to use.
Locals Gene and Therese Dayton began an operation, Breckenridge Timber to Log, that does just that. Using a log lathe machine, the bark is removed (which kills the pine beetle), smoothed and a notch is put in it similar to they way Lincoln Logs look so the logs will seamlessly fit together.
And as this business has come together, it has gained state attention. Recently, a representative from the Colorado Office and Economic Development and International Trade as well as one from the Canadian Consulate made the trip to Summit County to view the Dayton's business, looking at it as a potential model for other areas. During the visit, Matt Dayton, Gene and Therese's son, demonstrated how the machine works in just minutes.
The Lodgepole Recycle Model is for one person, one machine and one log cabin, Therese said. It would take about a week to finish a smaller shed-type cabin, she added.
The Daytons, longtime operators of the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers, began looking into log lathes as they watched what was happening on the trail systems. They knew the infected pine beetle trees needed to come down, and they didn't want them to go to waste, Therese said.
"It's our passion for green, for wanting to make a difference in our community," she added.
So, when they heard about a log lathe machine from Finland, they put in an order for two. That was a couple years ago.
Since then, they've sold those two and upgraded to a more efficient machine that can handle larger logs, Gene said.
About a year ago, the family found a home for the operation and signed a contract wit the Summit County Allocation Resource Park, SCARP, also known as the local landfill. That's when the operation really got off the ground.
Recently, a garage-type shelter so they can work through the winter was completed, and now they have partners who want to create things like fencing, from other parts of the dead trees. They've built one cabin that is on a ranch in the county, and some of their early projects have been to use the trees for street signs and parking barriers.
Often times people think of log homes as not being affordable, but this way trees are coming from the community so they don't have the added cost from distance and less energy is used in transportation, Therese said.
Using the log lathe, the Daytons can also create log accents, log siding that can be attached to any home to make it look like a log cabin and other decorative features, Therese said.
Bob Curfman, of 360 Green in Vail, may be the first to duplicate this operation. He has been working with the Daytons, who freely gave him their business model, and has been learning how to operate the machinery. His plan is to replicate what they are doing at the Eagle County landfill and currently, he's in the process of acquiring funding to make that happen.
"There's a lot of interest all over," Curfman said. "We think we have a solution we can replicate worldwide."