Last Friday afternoon, as snow fell on Colorado Springs, Elke Dickinson heard a "bang" and looked out the window of her home, which backs up to South Chelton Road near Valley Hi Golf Course.
For years, Dickinson and her neighbors in the Spring Lane subdivision have routinely heard loud noises followed by the sight of cars careening through their fences out of control. Maniacal drivers, perhaps late for their tee times, come roaring down Chelton on a slight hill from Fountain Boulevard a few blocks south. They somehow fail to negotiate a gentle curve and launch their vehicles into the neighborhood.
Sometimes they roll over wildly. One destroyed a deck and hot tub. Twice a neighbor's shed was smashed. A time or two, cars plowed through fences and trees and came to rest against homes.
Dickinson's fence was splintered twice by cars. A neighbor's fence was hit six times!
So last Friday, reflexively, Dickinson checked out her window to see if mayhem had broken out in her backyard.
Seeing nothing, she got in her car and left her home. As she turned onto Chelton, she saw that a pickup had plowed into a guardrail that now protects her backyard and those of her neighbors.
The rail was smashed. Posts were broken. The steel mangled. The truck was impaled amid the debris.
Earlier this week, Dickinson gave me a shout to tell me of the wreck.
And she wanted to say thanks.
While sad about the wreck, she was thrilled to report that her fence, as well as her neighbors' fences, sheds and hot tubs, were untouched.
She knew I'd be interested because I'd written a Side Streets column about the South Chelton demolition derby in December 2008. I wrote about the chronic pileups and how neighbors had installed huge boulders along the road, "nature's guardrails" as I called them, hoping to deter drivers seemingly hellbent on destruction.
"You published a column about our problem with speeding cars on Chelton that were regularly demolishing our fence and endangering the people living here," Dickinson reminded me.
At the time, I contacted Dave Krauth, then-city traffic engineer, who got busy pulling police accident reports and studying wreck data. By June 2009, crews had installed 200 feet of sturdy guardrail along the curve at a cost of $10,000.
I sometimes wondered if the guardrail had ever been tested.
Dickinson said that, in fact, it routinely caught marauding motorists and kept them off the sidewalk and out of Spring Lane backyards.
"Over the years, it bore the scars of several car crashes," Dickinson said. "The neighbors talk about that guardrail so often. 'Did you hear that? Yup, I heard it.' But nothing happens to our fences."
The acid test came Friday in the snow.
"If this car would have hit the fence, it would have gone into (a neighbor's) backyard, through the neighbor's yard and into my backyard," Dickinson said, remembering the path of another spectacular wreck that resulted in thousands of dollars in damage to the neighborhood before the guardrail's installation.
"We are very thankful for that guardrail," Dickinson said. "We are grateful to Dave Krauth for having it built. And we are grateful to you for bringing it to everyone's attention."
I'm glad I could help. And I hope the destroyed guardrail gets repaired soon before another wild-eyed driver is turned loose on Chelton.
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