Colorado Springs parks officials made an announcement Wednesday that ought to put smiles on the faces of hikers, bikers and anyone else who enjoys getting outside despite chilly winter temperatures.
North Cheyenne Canon Park will reopen to the public 5 a.m. Saturday. The park was closed for more than two months as contractors and city workers scrambled to repair damaged roads, trails and slopes after torrential rains flooded the Front Range in mid September.
"We're certainly delighted to be able to open it up," said Chris Lieber, the city's park development manager as he stood just yards from Helen Hunt Falls Wednesday morning.
Lieber said most of the rock scaling, debris removal, repairs to guard rails, hazardous tree mitigation and temporary road work have been completed.
He warned people who visit the park over the winter months to be cautious, however, as some isolated, ongoing work will still be underway. Lieber said the canyon is an active geologic feature and asked that anyone who notices shifting ground or rock during periods of freeze-thaw to notify park officials.
"A lot of progress has been made, and a lot of public-safety related issues have been addressed," Lieber said. "For some of our repairs, we need warmer weather."
The city has removed more than 280 dump truck loads of debris over the last couple of months as the repair price tag reached about $235,000 Lieber said.
The parks and public services departments have applied for Federal Emergency Management Administration disaster relief money. Lieber said the city could receive up to an 87 percent reimbursement for the repairs in the Cheyenne Creek watershed.
Cheyenne Creek was among the hardest hit areas in El Paso County during rains that began Sept. 11 and continued to pound the Front Range north to the Wyoming border for about five days. Some areas received more than 10 inches of rain on Sept. 12 and thousands were evacuated. Nine people died in the torrent, including two in El Paso County.
Gold Camp Road, including a large section north of Cheyenne Canon, also sustained washouts in September.
The U.S. Forest Service spent more than $1 million on repairs to that section and on other areas of Gold Camp higher in the mountains. Colorado Springs crews brought much of the debris from Cheyenne Canon up the mountain for use in restoring Gold Camp Road.
Jeff Hovermale of the Forest Service said crews will finish work on the road Saturday and Gold Camp will be totally open by Sunday.
While all hiking trails will be accessible on city land in North Cheyenne Canon Park, Hovermale said Forest Service trails along Gold Camp Road that link to city land will remain closed. People hiking in that area will be met with signage wherever access is denied.
"We've only begun our preliminary assessment work on the forest trails that are accessed by these front country trails," Hovermale said.
The National Weather Service is predicting highs in the 30s and 40s for the Colorado Springs area Saturday and Sunday. There is a slight chance of snow Saturday night.
As part of the reopening of North Cheyenne Canon Park and Gold Camp Road, the group Friends of Cheyenne Canon will hold an event at 11 a.m. Jan. 4 complete with snacks, drinks and activities, said Ron Leasure who is on the group's board of directors.
"It will be a celebration for the community to come out and enjoy the park," Leasure said