Douglas County

Castlewood Canyon marks 50 years

Volunteer group wants to buy land as birthday gift

Chris Michlewicz
The waterfall in Castlewood Canyon State Park is a popular spot for hikers and amateur photographers.
Chris Michlewicz
Ron Claussen, president of the Friends of Castlewood Canyon, points out the crumbling remnants of the dam, which broke in 1933, flooding Denver and all points in between.
Courtesy photo
An image of the intact Castlewood Canyon Dam, before it failed in 1933. The Kleinert homestead can be seen on the right side of the lake.
Chris Michlewicz
Ron Claussen, president of the Friends of Castlewood Canyon, a volunteer group that educates visitors and raises funds for park projects, talks about the unique geological formations in the state park May 16.
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Finding the perfect gift for a dear friend who’s turning 50 can prove difficult, but that’s not the case for one group.

The kind-hearted caretakers known as the Friends of Castlewood Canyon State Park knew just how to mark the milestone: expansion. The volunteer group has its eye on a 15-acre parcel of land adjacent to the park upon which sits the Kleinert homestead, a ranch built in 1887 along the banks of the lake that burst through the canyon’s dam nearly five decades later.

The Friends of Castlewood Canyon have committed to raising $25,000 toward the purchase and are busy organizing a number of events to raise money for the “birthday gift,” said Ron Claussen, president of the group. The events include a 10K trail run in September and a “yoga in the park” series that starts in June.

The Friends raised $6,000 in the first month of the fundraising campaign. It needs another $19,000 for the Kleinert property.

While Castlewood Canyon officially became a state park in 1964, its history began three years earlier when a man purported to be the grandson of “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown donated 87 acres to the state. From there, the park has grown piece by piece to just over 2,200 acres through donations and discounted acquisitions.

The park is located south of Franktown on State Highway 83 in Douglas County.

Claussen enthusiastically talks about the unique topography, varied flora and story-telling geological formations that define Castlewood Canyon, sprinkling in the occasional legend (it is said that bigfoot has been spotted in those parts). He readily admits that historical gaps are often filled with educated conjecture by the 50-plus volunteers who help out at the park.

For Claussen and the other helpers, there is a magnetic attraction to Castlewood Canyon. He began his stint at the park in 2001 as an interpreter for Great Outdoors Colorado, and even moved to Douglas County to be closer to the canyon. After retiring in 2011, he couldn’t stay away.

“I work more now for Castlewood than when I was being paid,” he said. “Retirement’s not working out for me at all.”

As incredible as it might seem, there are people who live in nearby communities who have never heard of Castlewood Canyon, let alone visited. The volunteers are trying to change that, and the fundraising activities are expected to help boost its public profile.

Those who contribute are invited to sign a massive birthday card at the visitor center and track the fundraising progress on a gauge in the form of a candle on top of a cupcake, said Liz Bade, volunteer naturalist and vice president of the Friends.

Aside from the $25,000 for the Kleinert property, which will provide storage and better access for maintenance crews on the west end, the Friends are hoping to raise another $25,000 this year for park programs and improvements to the visitor center. That’s $1,000 for every year the park has been in existence. A long-term goal is focused on building an environmental education center, but that is several years out, Claussen said.

To donate, send a check to P.O. Box 403, Franktown, CO, 80116. Find more information on the Friends of Castlewood Canyon State Park at www.castlewoodfriends.org.