It took seven years of fundraising and a lot of beer sales, but there’s a new visitor center at Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Cañon.
“The Cub,” once an outbuilding to the long-since destroyed Bruin Inn, was a small gift shop for visitors to the popular waterfalls. The leaky, rotting, mouse-infested building was demolished this spring.
A grand opening will be Saturday for its replacement, a modernly constructed yet rustic looking log and stone cabin. The celebration, which starts at 10 a.m., is free and open to the public.
See it then, because after Saturday it will close until Memorial Day, as supporters work on exhibits to spice up the sparse interior.
“Our Friends’ vision was to keep what was there, to keep that 150-year-old feeling: You’re with Mother Nature and you’ve got this old log building. So we wanted to put up a building that looked old and keep it primitive,” said Lee Wolf, former president of Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, the group that raised about half of the $200,000 for the new building.
Bristol Brewing Co. raised about $90,000, donating proceeds from the sale of its Piñon Nut Brown Ale, and the City of Colorado Springs gave $36,000. Numerous contractors, engineers and consultants donated their time, as did architects Doug Fullen and George Way.
The building is slightly bigger than its decrepit predecessor, and has a large shaded balcony with a view of the falls. Little else will change. Volunteers and city staff will sell gifts, water and other beverages, and visitors will be able to learn about the history of the park and the area through exhibits. As before, there are no rest rooms.
“We don’t have insulation or heat or glass in the windows. It’s actually fooled a few people into thinking we renovated the old building,” said Cathy Railton, program manager for city parks. “Hummingbirds are still going to be able to fly into the building like they always did.”
Wolf said it could have been built years earlier, but the city budget crisis forced the Friends group to use money earmarked for the new center to keep facilities in the park running.
Said Railton, “I’m very proud of our partnership with the city and the Friends. It could not have been accomplished by the city alone.”
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