June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm
To the average viewer of national TV news, Colorado is burning. More discerning viewers have a bit more refined perspective on the Black Forest fire, believing the inferno has Colorado Springs or the Pikes Peak region ablaze. Any such view is understandable, given limitations of context, but also grossly distorted.
The Black Forest fire is the most destructive in Colorado history, yet it should have no negative effect on those who want to visit Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region this summer. We are open for business as the country's best and most diversified destination for summer recreation. The vast majority of visitors would have to make a concerted effort to even catch a glimpse of the Black Forest burn scar.
One cannot overemphasize the hardship this fire imposes on residents who lost their possessions in more than 500 homes destroyed by the fire. Worse than all damage combined is the loss of two lives that can never be replaced. Our thoughts and prayers should remain with the deceased and their survivors.
The fire destroyed more than 14,000 acres of pristine pine in an urban forest that won't look the same in the course of our lives.
But let's view it in perspective. The vast majority of the Pikes Peak region - even most of Black Forest - looks the same as it did before this wildfire. Many homes, businesses and neighborhoods within the Black Forest did not burn.
Metropolitan Colorado Springs consists of 2,609 square miles that are home to nearly 700,000 residents who populate a major city, small towns, suburbs, forests, mountains, hills and plains. The Black Forest fire burned more than 14,000 acres, or about 22 square miles. That means the fire burned 0.85 percent of the community's landmass and didn't touch 99.15 percent of it. Nearly all of the region's forested areas - post Waldo and Black Forest fires - remain alive, well and green. At its peak, about 5 percent of residents of the metro area were ordered to evacuate and, as of Tuesday afternoon, many had returned home in anticipation of getting on with life.
For visitors, the Black Forest burn scar should blemish this region like that left-side mole devalues supermodel Cindy Crawford's face. That means not in the least.
We must not forget the immediate and long-term needs of those who lost so much to this fire. They will need the support of friends, family, neighbors, religious organizations and governments until such time as life resembles the days before the fire. Do not forget them. Do not assume they're doing OK once this tragedy outlives the news media's attention span.
Meanwhile, let the world know that Colorado Springs and the surrounding region survived quite well. The summer will go forth with a bountiful array of events and activities. Hiking and biking trails remain open to the public, along with city, state and national parks. For ordinary visitors, nothing that attracts tourists to this region has changed.
Now, more than ever, we need to talk up the merits of visiting Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, Old Colorado City, Monument, Palmer Lake, The Broadmoor, Cave of the Winds, Seven Falls, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the North Pole family amusement park, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and dozens of other events and attractions (see The Gazette's summer fun guide at http://bit.ly/1857dEB).
Each year, the growing and maturing Pikes Peak region becomes more fun and culturally enriched. Yes, we have endured another massive fire - just as other parts of the country endured earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes in recent months and years. Despite the hardship this has imposed on Black Forest residents, there has never been a better time to visit Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.