Flying W Ranch, Glen Eyrie take different paths after Waldo Canyon fire

By: matt steiner
June 23, 2013 Updated: June 24, 2013 at 8:03 am
photo - Russ Wolfe accesses the damage to the Flying W Ranch as a result of the Waldo Canyon Fire on Monday, July 9, 2012. Photo by Susannah Kay, The Gazette
Russ Wolfe accesses the damage to the Flying W Ranch as a result of the Waldo Canyon Fire on Monday, July 9, 2012. Photo by Susannah Kay, The Gazette  

Two Colorado Springs landmarks have taken drastically different paths in the year since the Waldo Canyon fire ravaged their lands one year ago.

Glen Eyrie and the Navigators are flourishing after the flames raged through Queen's Canyon but mostly dodged Eagle Lake Camp and the organization's campus off 31st Street in western Colorado Springs.

In contrast, the Flying W Ranch had 1,700 of its 1,800 acres scorched and almost all of its Old West attraction off Chuckwagon Road was destroyed.

Read more here about the long road back after the Waldo Canyon fire.

Gary Cantwell, a spokesman for the Navigators, which runs Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake Camp said, "Everything is in full swing" as the anniversary of the fire approached.

The camp reopened June 2 and expects a full house of 2,000 kids over the 10 weeks that Eagle Lake will be open in 2013. The camp was open for just three weeks before the fire began in 2012.

Cantwell said most of the camp property was untouched by the Waldo Canyon blaze and what was burned has been reseeded and erosion barriers put in place.

Cantwell said the lake is in great condition and ready for kids to fish and swim. While 100 acres of the camp burned, ash running down the slopes and into the lake has not been a problem. Cantwell said the camp missed the last seven weeks of the 2012 season, allowing workers to come in and line hills with horizontal logs and sediment catches to keep the lake clean.

As for the Glen Eyrie campus, Cantwell said it too was virtually untouched by the fire. The area only had to close two of its 16 hiking trails. The most popular that winds up Queen's Canyon is closed because of flash flood danger from the burn scar.

"We've actually found an uptick in the number of guests this year as compared to this time last year," Cantwell said.

The Navigators used grant money for much of the mitigation work, including $50,000 from the Pikes Peak United Way. The organization installed two large debris nets in Queens Canyon and the moat around the Glen Eyrie Castle was upgraded. The flood project cost well more than $1 million, Glen Eyrie Group executive director Jack McQueeney said. The Navigators were sponsored by Colorado Springs to receive Emergency Watershed Protection money for 75 percent of the costs.

The Flying W Ranch expected to have a pole barn built by late June for chuckwagon meals and Flying W Wrangler shows. Ranch marketing director Mollie Wolf announced June 6 that those plans were canceled.

Wolf said altering the burned-out landscape and redirecting potential flash-flood channels has proven to be more daunting than ranch officials expected.

"We really need to be focusing on the flood and fire mitigation efforts," Wolf said. "We need to protect the landscape and protect the homes that are downstream from us."

Volunteers, ranch staffers and members of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte have used $90,000 in watershed protection money for flood mitigation and revegetation of the burned slopes.

The ranch might open its gates for special events, Wolf said, noting that tentative plans to hold private weddings were in the works.

The Flying W will take part in a benefit concert June 26 at Mountain Shadows Park on Flying W Ranch Road. The Wranglers and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at a free concert. Proceeds from food sales will go to fire and flood mitigation and equipment.

The long-term plans for the ranch are still a question mark. Russ Wolfe, the ranch's founder, said the family is discussing several options for the Flying W's 1,800 acres.

"The reality is it's not the same Flying W and it never will be," said Aaron Winter, executive director of the Flying W Ranch Foundation.

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