Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Safety concerns keep forests off-limits after Waldo Canyon fire

By: MATT STEINER
April 14, 2013
0
photo - An aerial photo Thursday, January 24, 2013, of the foothills just west of Mountain Shadows charred by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE
An aerial photo Thursday, January 24, 2013, of the foothills just west of Mountain Shadows charred by the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE 

The forests along more than 10 miles of Rampart Range Road and the Waldo Canyon hiking trail will remain closed because of safety concerns, a U.S. Forest Service official said last week.

Frank Landis, the manager of recreation and travel for the Pikes Peak Ranger District, said conditions in the Waldo Canyon fire burn area are unpredictable. The fire burned more than 18,000 acres in late June, destroying 347 homes in Colorado Springs and killing two people.

Landis said the burn scar is filled with dead trees that could fall if a strong wind comes along, rocks that are ready to give way because of weakened, burned-out soil and an ever-present threat of floods and landslides.

“It’s just a total unknown,” Landis said.

Landis added that the decision to keep Rampart Range Road from Colorado Springs to Rampart Reservoir in Teller County closed might be different if curious people would avoid the temptation of venturing into the burned forest, which could have many hidden faults and potholes caused by vegetation burning under the surface.

“There’s no guarantee that they will just stay on the road,” Landis said.

Pikes Peak District ranger Al Hahn said the forest service has two priorities over the next several months when deciding whether to open fire-damaged forests. The most important of those is public safety and the second is recovery of the landscape.

“If it endures well and we get good recovery in places, that will lead to us looking at opening up more areas,” Hahn said.

Both officials fear that flood mitigation work and the recovery initiative could cause more danger for people. There will be workers with heavy machinery along Rampart Range Road that could conflict with public travelers.

The two-lane dirt road will be reopened from Woodland Park to the reservoir, allowing trails around the reservoir and the Stanley Canyon trail out of the Air Force Academy to be accessed, Landis said.

The forest service expects that section of Rampart Range Road to open the Friday before Memorial Day, but unpredictable weather patterns could push that back as well.

For Waldo Canyon, many of the concerns are the same. But Landis said the threat of flood is even higher in that section along U.S. 24 through Ute Pass.

“We did do a lot of work in there, but we’re just scared to death if we get 3 inches of rain,” he said.

Landis said people who disobey and venture into the closed sections of forest could face fines up to $5,000 or up to six months in jail.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.