Flooding closes Broadmoor's new ranch

September 18, 2013 Updated: September 18, 2013 at 8:39 am
photo - People tour the Hill House at the Broadmoor Hotel's newest luxury location, The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Tuesday, August 27, 2013. The ranch, which opened at the beginning of August, offers an all-inclusive western getaway with 10 cabins on 16 acres of property in the Pike National Forest. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
People tour the Hill House at the Broadmoor Hotel's newest luxury location, The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Tuesday, August 27, 2013. The ranch, which opened at the beginning of August, offers an all-inclusive western getaway with 10 cabins on 16 acres of property in the Pike National Forest. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

The Broadmoor hotel's new Ranch at Emerald Valley, an upscale, rustic retreat that opened Aug. 1 in the Pike National Forest, closed for the season prematurely last week after heavy rains caused a pair of dams on the property to burst - eroding roads in and around the area, significantly damaging at least one cabin and forcing the evacuation of 22 guests and 25 hotel staffers.

Nobody was injured and guests were rebooked at the hotel, Broadmoor President and CEO Steve Bartolin said Tuesday. The Ranch at Emerald Valley was supposed to remain open through Oct. 31; instead, the hotel canceled reservations over the final six weeks of the ranch's initial season. The ranch will reopen as scheduled May 1 after repairs are made, Bartolin said.

The closure and evacuations took place Thursday afternoon, Bartolin said. Churning waters from the Little Fountain Creek flowed into a pair of lakes on the ranch, and two earthen dams couldn't hold back the water, Bartolin said.

Ground around the ranch - which is 30 minutes west of the hotel - and roads on and leading to the ranch property began to erode, he said.

"None of our guests were in any danger," Bartolin said. "We had them on high ground. But getting out of there was a little dicey because so many of the roads were beginning to wash away."

The foundation of one of the ranch's 10 cabins, a two-bedroom unit, "is pretty much gone" and the hotel is in danger of losing the structure, Bartolin said. The other cabins and the ranch's lodge are being evaluated to determine what, if any, damage they suffered, he said. Bartolin said it's too early to estimate the cost to make repairs.

Last year, The Broadmoor - the internationally known, five-star resort on Colorado Springs' southwest side - purchased buildings that make up the ranch, while leasing the land underneath from the U.S. Forest Service.

The ranch, whose history dates to 1904, was once used as a retreat by Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose and his friends.

The hotel remodeled the cabins and lodge with the plan to turn the ranch into a wilderness getaway for families, businesses and other guests. Hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities are part of the ranch experience.

"I consider us fortunate compared to what some other parts of the state have to go through right now," Bartolin said. "It wasn't a good thing by any means, but it's nothing that can't be fixed."

The Broadmoor is owned by the Anschutz Corp., whose Clarity Media Group owns The Gazette.

Bear Trap Ranch, a Christian conference and retreat center located on Old Stage Road behind The Broadmoor, also took a beating in last week's rains - so much so that it's closed indefinitely.

The deluge from Little Fountain Creek "carved entirely new riverbeds, gullies, ditches and trenches all over the property," said Matt Dealy, CEO of Foundation of the Heart, the nonprofit that owns the ranch.

"At this point in time we can't even drive around because water eroded huge amounts of the property away," he said Tuesday. "We're going to be losing revenue every day right now," he said. "It's really hard on us because we depend so much on the revenue from our customers. We'll probably be closed at least a month." Damage includes broken and exposed utilities, he said.

The Stables at the Broadmoor - which is not affiliated with the resort - also was hard-hit, but property damage is the least of owner Hugh Trabandt's worries.

The stable's 28 horses are running out of feed. If Old Stage Road is still closed in a few days, Trabandt will be forced to bring feed up with pack horses - something stable workers have resorted to before after snowstorms and other natural disasters.

Like Bear Trap Ranch, the stables are closed until repairs can be made, which will require the reopening of Old Stage Road so heavy equipment can arrive.

The city of Colorado Springs, meanwhile, on Tuesday set initial damage estimates to city infrastructure at $10 million - a figure likely to rise.

"Public works, parks and recreation and city engineers have been reviewing the damage relentlessly, and conservatively we estimate the damage to stand around $10 million," said Bret Waters, division manager of the Office of Emergency Management. "That number will continue to be refined as we continue to assess."

The city has requested to be included in the Federal Disaster Declaration for Colorado and has received approval for aid related to emergency response and city infrastructure. Officials hope to learn by the week's end whether there is the potential for aid to individuals.

"FEMA learned a lot during Hurricane Sandy, and one of the important aspects of rebuilding is to really think through whether it should be done exactly the way it was before," said Mayor Steve Bach. "There's no point in trying to rebuild infrastructure if it's going to be wiped out yet again. We have to learn from this and try to plan as best as we can for the future."

A disaster assistance center will open in the next few days, the fourth El Paso County Health Services has set up in the past 16 months, director Jill Law said.

"I hate to tell people that we've gotten really good at it, but we have," Law said. "It will be ready to assist Colorado Springs and El Paso County residents that need help to get through this crisis."

Also Tuesday, voluntary evacuations for residents in 50 homes along Cheyenne Creek were lifted.

"The water levels of Cheyenne Creek were dangerously high and the creek overflowed its banks considerably, so we asked residents to voluntarily evacuate for their safety," Waters said.

Fire Chief Chris Riley said firefighters are ready should the weather take another turn for the worse.

"What's most important is that Colorado Springs residents know that the entire department is on 'stand up status,' we are ready to go," Riley said. "Extra firefighters and three extra engines have been activated and we are monitoring waterways, watching weather forecasts closely and if the worst-case scenario should come, we'll be prepared."

The city also has sent nine firefighters and a Type 3 engine to Boulder County to assist with flood recovery operations.


Gazette reporters Andrea Sinclair and Erin Prater contributed to this story.

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