Fire threatens golf, fishing resort

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It has a four-star rating from Golf Digest magazine, but the Rio Grande Club in South Fork, owned by a Castle Rock couple, also must have a lucky star. So far, anyway.

The southwest Colorado club — 200-plus acres that weaves back and forth across the Rio Grande River and has gold-medal fly fishing — is the biggest employer in the town of South Fork, population 200.

People from Texas and Arizona and other spots come there to beat the summer heat, said Joey Edge, who bought the club in 2011 with his wife, Kari Edge.

But recently the heat was bearing down on them as a monster wildfire climbed over the Continental Divide June 20, heading east, and was within three miles of the town and the club.

Kari Edge and their daughter, Aspen, were heading that day from Castle Rock to the club, which they typically do every weekend to work on club enhancement projects.

The Edges bought the property — which had been struggling since the recent economic downturn — with no intention of liquidating and selling assets, they said. The mission has been to revive the club and so help South Fork's economy. Joey Edge said he kind of sees his calling in life as to “build economies and enhance economies … that's how people get a leg up.”

Projects for that weekend were to include planting flowers and preparing for a 200-guest wedding to be held there. But Kari Edge said she began to realize the immensity of the problem about 1½ hours away from South Fork. She said the clouds of smoke were a terrible visual reality.

“I was facing a Goliath,” she said.

Kari Edge said there was little sleep that night and the next morning, June 21, they got the news the town was “shutting down,” evacuating. No wedding, no planting, just leaving.

“When we left it was a ghost town,” she said. Except for the caravan of fire trucks. She said the lump in her throat from fearing the unknown turned into a different emotion — gratitude for the firefighters.

Presently, so far, the town is safe, and the hope is that people planning to vacation there will still come. Joey Edge said a lot of people, fishing guides and other businesses, are depending on a short tourism season.

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