Help us keep the Pass open


To many, it offers a path from one world to another. It has been for years.

"The pass includes the towns of Cascade, Chipita Park, Green Mountain Falls, Crystola, Woodland Park, and Divide. It skirts the north side of Pikes Peak through the Fountain Creek canyon west of Manitou Springs, and climbs 3,000 feet to its summit in Divide at 9,165 feet," by description of the Ute Pass Historical Society.

Now U.S. Highway 24 snakes its way up the the old Indian trail as a gateway to the mountains, and to slightly different ways, and a slower pace beyond.

The county of origin's name is even derivative. One of the original 17 territorial counties garnered the Spanish designation El Paso, or “the Pass” in 1861 when Territorial Governor William Gilpin asked the new territorial legislature to extend boundaries across the entire territory. In 1899, when Teller County was carved out, a portion of one county's namesake fell into another.

Today, "26,000 vehicles per day travel on this critical U.S. Highway connecting the Front Range to the mountains," according to a recent presentation to Congressman Doug Lamborn created by El Paso County officials.

The presentation notes that the Waldo Canyon Fire, which started June 23, 2012, near Colorado Springs in western El Paso County, killed two people, burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and has required more than $30 million spent on fire recovery and flood mitigation to date. That does not even consider the amount that the Colorado Department of Transportation has spent.

The problem in the Pass, of course, is there is no buffer zones between the canyons and communities and the ancient path is closed anytime the National Weather Service issues a flash flood warning.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark calls attention to an unprecedented coordinated regional effort and alphabet soup involved. The players striving to mitigate flood risk include El Paso County, U.S. Forest Service, City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, City of Manitou Springs, Flying W Ranch, El Pomar Foundation, Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), Navigators/Glen Eyrie, Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Congressional representation, U.S. Weather Service, just to name a few. The recovery group for 2013, spent more than $30 million and needs ongoing funding to continue and maintain completed projects.

As of September 2013, 45 detention basins had been created, 30,560 feet of reshaped channels worked, 2,383 derbis deflectors installed, and 89 hand treatments completed to reduce catastrophic events.

But this is what the collective recovery group has identified as what they need.

• Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds to initiate and complete mitigation projects.

• Funds to restore healthy forests and prevent catastrophic wildfires and damage to watersheds and communities.

• Aid for healthy forests and hazardous fuel reduction.

• Continuation of Good Neighbor Authority and Forest Stewardship Program under the Farm Bill, critical in mitigation projects.

• Fund (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program) needed to purchase private property that is repeatedly flooded to reduce long-term risk and insured losses.

Perhaps, with some success in securing these needs, the path from one world to another can remain open and accessible, as it has been for years.


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