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'Friends of Cheyenne Canon' celebrate park reopening amid snow, blessing

January 4, 2014 Updated: January 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm
Caption +
People applaud and former President of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon Ron Leasure, left, gives the thumbs up after Ute elder Austin Box, center, cut the ribbon to officially reopen North Cheyenne Canon Park Saturday, January 4, 2014 after September floods damaged and closed the park for months. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

What Mother Nature ravaged with torrential rains this summer, she swaddled with snow on Saturday as supporters of North Cheyenne Canon Park celebrated its reopening.

Nearly 50 were on hand for the 11 a.m. ceremony at Starsmore Discovery Center, which featured a ribbon-cutting, a blessing by local Ute tribal elder Austin Box and refreshments.

"Are we ready to open the park?" shouted event organizer and Friends of Cheyenne Canon board member Bob Falcone Saturday outside the center.

Visitors, bundled in coats and scarves, huddled around him, nursing hot cups of coffee and taking cell-phone pictures.

"Yes!" they cried.

Colorado Springs officials were forced to close North Cheyenne Canon Park when more than 12 inches of rain fell Sept. 11-15, devastated the open area, said Cathy Railton, park manager.

"I think some huge cloud just opened up right over the park and poured away," she said.

The park's trails "took a good beating" and required the help of volunteers to repair them, Falcone said.

"For the most part, the park is back to like it was," he said.

The park reopened Dec. 21, the winter solstice, but with no fanfare, he said.

"We needed to get people here," Falcone said. "This is the city's biggest and wildest park."

Kathern Lawson, a regular at the park, was so excited about Saturday's ceremony she donned a long velvet dress - and furry boots.

Lawson saw the flood damage first hand. She and her husband were two of the many of volunteers who worked to repair trails over the past several months.

"It was pretty trashed and majorly flooded out," she said.

She found Box's blessing especially beautiful and referred to it as "good juju for everyone."

Ryan Wolfe, an avid moutain biker, was happy to be back at the park, if only on foot.

He had spent nearly every weekend riding the park's trails this summer until flooding closed it.

"This is one of the best places to ride in the city," he said. "I was pretty upset to see what happened."

Jenni Swogger had never set foot in the park before Saturday. But she wanted to celebrate its rebirth anyway.

Swogger and her husband, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student, recently relocated from Texas.

The park's incredible beauty and the tragic damage it incurred had preceded it, she said.

"It's so beautiful," Swogger said, her 10-week-old baby, Lyra, strapped to her chest. "We want to take our puppy and kids and hike here."

On Saturday, the heavens opened up as they did in September, and again moisture fell - this time it was lighter and fluffier.

Snow crunched underfoot as visitors milled about the park, laughing and hugging. White powder collected on trees, coating their branches like icing and turning the park into a veritable snow globe.

"This is a good, fresh start with the snow," Railton said.

Falcone agreed.

"With the snow - this is as beautiful as the park gets."

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