Steve Cychosz (pronounced SEE-kawsh) first learned to pan for gold on Clear Creek in Denver at 70th Avenue and Washington Street in July 1982. That beginning was to form for Steve a love of prospecting and the beginning of not only a lifelong hobby but also the formation of the Gold Prospectors of the Rockies (GPR).
In the Beginning
In June 1992, Steve Cychosz began giving gold panning lessons and selling gold and gold panning supplies on highway 6, in Clear Creek Canyon near mile marker 262, as a roadside vendor. He purchased his supplies from Gary and Barbara Christopher at the Prospector's Cache, a metal detecting and prospecting store on Broadway in Englewood, which had opened in 1976. Steve began acquiring dealerships in 1993 and started buying more supplies directly from gold prospecting equipment manufacturers and fewer supplies from the Prospector's Cache. In 1994, he put an ad in the phone book and began selling prospecting supplies from his house in Lakewood as well as in the canyon. On March 1, 1995, Gary Christopher announced he was closing the Prospector's Cache at the end of March, and marked everything at 10% off. On March 15, 1995, Steve opened his prospecting storefront, Colorado Gold Recourses, in Lakewood and indeed the Prospector's Cache closed two weeks later on March 31, 1995. By that summer of 1995, Steve sensed a need for a gold prospecting club in the Denver metro area and decided he would attempt to start a club on his own. He put a sign-up sheet in his store for people to leave their names and phone numbers, if they were interested in joining a gold prospecting club in the Denver metro area.
In September, 1995, after about 50 people had signed up as being interested in forming a Denver-area prospecting club, Steve called them and they had an unofficial meeting at his store. More than 40 people showed up and all agreed to form a prospecting club called the Gold Prospectors of the Rockies. Appropriately, Steve was elected President on the spot, with Pete Callinicos as Vice President, Paula Snell as Secretary, and Diana Cychosz as Treasurer. Jim Lazar and Ken Oyler were heading up the Claims Committee, but a Librarian and a proposed Education Committee Chair were still to be selected. In November, the Gold Prospectors of the Rockies Corporation held its first official club meeting at Daniels Community Center on Union Street in Lakewood with 107 prospectors attending. On December 7, The Gold Nugget, Volume 1 Number 1, edited by Pete Callinicos (assisted by Charlie Hawkins), rolled off the press. With the interest in prospecting on the rise, three more prospecting stores had opened in the latter part of 1995. One of those new stores was the Prospector's Shop, which opened in Wheat Ridge in August 1995, but didn't last long. A month later, in September, Gold-N-Detectors opened. Another venture, Gold 'N' Wood, opened in the Spring of 1996 at I-70 and Sheridan but lasted only a few short months.
In January 1996, most of the club's committees were populated with chairpeople: Advanced Workshop - Steve Cychosz and Martin Fickling, Beginner Panning - Rick LaCombe, Claims - Ken Oyler and Jim Lazar, Dowsing - Greg Storozuk, Dredging - Brian Berthelsen and Jerry Jensen, Highbanking - Wayne George and Bill Caudill, Membership - Paula Snell, Metal Detecting - Larry Boyes, Newsletter - Charley Hawkins, Refreshments - Diana Cychosz, and Video/Library - George Trujillo. Only the Field Trips Committee chairmanship was open, as it would remain until 1999. Also in January, the club turned its new face to the world when Steve Johnson put up a GPR site on the web, the first for any gold prospecting club in Colorado (the GPOC followed with their online site five months later). The club was now well underway and showing it! On February 25th, Rick LaCombe held the first club Beginner Panning Workshop on the Platte River at Evans. On March 3rd, Steve Cychosz held the first club Highbanking and Sluicing Workshop at 70th Avenue and Washington Street. Charlie Hawkins took over as the sole Editor of the club's newsletter for the March issue. Jim Davis At the April 16th meeting, the club voted to dissolve the Gold Prospectos of the Rockies Corporation and, instead, create a privately-owned club with Steve Cychosz as the club's "benevolent dictator." This move caused the resignation of the Vice President, Secretary, and two other members, as well as the freezing of the club's assets for a short time. Steve Cychosz continued to print the club newsletter out of his own pocket, however. August 3 and 4 saw the club's first Annual Barbecue, this one held in Breckenridge. Also in August, Diana Cychosz became the club's Executive Director in order to handle VP, Secretary, and Treasurer duties.
With the new year at hand, 1997 saw the club as viable as ever. March found the club with a new Video Librarian, Rusty Newberry, but without the services of its Editor of the past year, Charlie Hawkins, who had resigned in February. Steve handled newsletter publication until he convinced Jim Yeatrakas to take over the helm as Editor for the May 1997 issue. Larry Sallee, author of the book Zip Zip, was flown in from California to be the speaker at the July meeting (the first time members were charged an extra fee at the door to help cover airfare). Jim Yeatrakas moved to the East Coast in September and again the newsletter was without an official editor, with Steve Cychosz filling in for the October issue. In November 1997, The Gold Nugget began to be edited by two future club Presidents, Rick Miska and Gary Hawley. Steve closed Colorado Gold Resources on the day his lease ended, March 31, 1997.
On April 28, 1998, the Gold Prospectors of the Rockies became a Colorado Nonprofit Corporation. In the April issue of the club newsletter were three how-to articles by member Chuck Cummins, a mechanical design engineer. The articles were How to Build a Field Classifier, How to Build a Hibanker/Sluice, and How to Modify Your Sluice.
At the end of 1998, Steve Cychosz had decided to go back to college, leaving too little room for his gold activities. Jim Davis was elected the GPR's second President in January 1999, with Dick Oakes as his Vice President. Rick Miska continuing on as the newsletter Editor. Beginning with the May 1999 issue of The Gold Nugget, Dick Oakes took over as Editor, giving the newsletter a different look (similar to his Special Edition in June 1998, created as a publicity piece) and obtaining more advertisers. The successful August 1999 Annual Club BBQ was another special one, being held in Twin Lakes, Colorado. In November 1999, the Editor had the sad duty to report the passing of long-time club Board member, Oliver "Ollie" Abner Miller.
The new millenium saw a notable ocurrence in January of 2000 when Ken Barker was appointed to head the newly created Demonstrations committee, an event that has had tremendous effect on the club to the present day. Dual Alaska trips were organized for August by Jim Davis to Paradise Valley. A highlight of the Alaska experience was the find by twin brothers Gale and Dale Herbertson of a gold nugget weighing 7.4 troy ounces! Another great Annual Club BBQ was held in August on the Douthett's property northwest of Black Hawk. In November, the newsletter announced "GPR Member Improves High Banker Performance" with a feature story on Al Warren's 19-pound, foldable unit that can handle more than two cubic yards of material per hour.
Jim Davis held sway at club meetings until January 2001, when Rick Miska was elected President with Jim continuing on in a support role as Vice President. Rick also took over as Editor of the club's newsletter as Dick Oakes took a leave of absence from the club. In November, members Clarence & Pat Douthett came back from Alaska with a lot of gold plus a deed to some property northeast of Fairbanks they called Faith Creek Camp and on which they began setting up a large operation for prospectors.
In January 2002, Gary Hawley became Vice President, while Rick Miska continued on as President and Carl Sauerland became the club's Editor. In June, Gary conducted another of his famous Central City Tours on history and prospecting to the Gilpin County area. In September, the club received a complimentary letter from Colleen Gadd, Visitor & Resource Protection Supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space in which she thanked all who participated in the "fun and informative prospecting field trip this summer" put together by Gary Hawley. As a direct result of this "outing," GPR members are allowed to prospect Clear Creek from Tunnel #1 to the Hwy. 6/Hwy. 119 Wye, as long as we adhere to our Code of Ethics.
Beginning January 2003, new President Gary Hawley and Vice President Ken Barker put together some long-range plans for the club that included a well-developed panning demonstrations team, a club mentoring program, and an expanded speakers program. In February, Steve Johnson turned the website duties over to new Webmaster, Dick Oakes, who gave the site a facelift along with some new feature pages and the club's own domain name, goldprospectorsoftherockies.com. Dick also began work on a Standard Operating Procedures for the club. In April, the club held its 2nd Annual Flea Market/Swap Meet and a lot of equipment changed hands. In June, Gary Hawley again led his great Historic Black Hawk and Central City Mining District tour. The Prez/VP duo also brought back Dick Oakes as the club's newsletter Editor beginning with the July issue. In that issue, Ken Barker reported that the club panning demonstrations trailer had been painted with the club's name and logo. In September, Shawn & Pinie Conell held their first annual treasure hunt and gold panning outing on Clear Creek. October saw the club helping out at Al Mosch's Phoenix Gold Mine for their annual Ghost Mine Tours. Sadly, however, the club's Vice President, Ken Barker, passed away suddenly that same weekend on October 30, 2003. Those who worked with Ken in the panning demos all showed up at the November meeting in period costume in his honor. Everyone who attended the December meeting received at least one present (selected by Gary & Kathy Hawley) in the end-of-the-year drawings. Prizes included 2 large gold nuggets and 20 1999 Silver Eagle, 1 oz., .999 fine silver rounds.
The advent of 2004 saw Gary Hawley still holding the club's presidential reins and Jeff Mosteller handling VP duties and coordinating the club's panning demos. Dick Oakes continued on as Webmaster and newsletter Editor. A new club structure was unveiled with the Board members responsible for the guidance of various committees assigned to them by the President. At the outing to the Western Museum of Mining & Industry in Colorado Springs, led by Shawn & Pinie Conell, member Larry Boyes received accolades from museum staff for his famous wire gold "Bird's Nest," a photo of which was on a poster on the museum's wall. One of the most memorable outings in club history was held on May 22, 2004, as Shawn & Pinie Conell hosted the 2nd Annual Metal Detecting / Coin Hunting / Gold Prospecting / Speed Panning / Dowsing / Port-A-Potting* Outing on Clear Creek in Jefferson County.
* You had to be there!