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Cañon City tourism bridges gap without top draw

By: JASON BLEVINS, The Denver Post
May 25, 2014 Updated: May 25, 2014 at 5:13 pm
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photo - CANON CITY, CO - MAY 19: Heading north along the Royal Gorge Bridge, the new visitors center that is under construction can be seen. Canon City and the surrounding area looks forward to the upcoming tourist season despite the fact that the Royal Park and Bridge will not reopen until August. Much of the park and bridge were damaged or lost in last year's fire and the region's weak river flows in 2012 has slowed the flow of tourism traffic for the town. But with a healthy snowpack promising a good paddling season down the  Arkansas River, reduced wildfire danger and increased early bookings, folks are optimistic this could be their big summer. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)
CANON CITY, CO - MAY 19: Heading north along the Royal Gorge Bridge, the new visitors center that is under construction can be seen. Canon City and the surrounding area looks forward to the upcoming tourist season despite the fact that the Royal Park and Bridge will not reopen until August. Much of the park and bridge were damaged or lost in last year's fire and the region's weak river flows in 2012 has slowed the flow of tourism traffic for the town. But with a healthy snowpack promising a good paddling season down the Arkansas River, reduced wildfire danger and increased early bookings, folks are optimistic this could be their big summer. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post) 

CANON CITY — It was windy on June 11. Gusts up to 50 mph were whipping a wildfire on the south rim of the Royal Gorge, but Royal Gorge Bridge & Park manager Mike Bandera wasn't too worried.

He was listening to radio chatter from firefighters.

"They said there's no way the fire would jump the gorge," he said. "Wasn't going to happen."

But those winds hurled burning piñon, sage and juniper embers 1,600 feet across the chasm. In 20 minutes, 48 of the 52 buildings in the 85-year-old park were burned to ashes.

It was a devastating blow, not just to the Royal Gorge Company, which has leased the park from Cañon City since 1947, but to the entire Fremont County region, which leans heavily on the bridge and park as its top tourist draw.

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