Ute Pass Elementary School celebrated the new playground Nov. 15. On a chilly and sunny fall morning, the school's principal, Christopher Briggs-Hale, tied the destruction of the playground in the floodwaters of summer to the earth's natural cycle.
“Fires happen and when they do, floods do, too,” he said. “In early August, the realization of what we were truly living with seemed overwhelming, as scorched earth revealed its other horrible nature, the conveyor of water.”
However, in the process of assessing the damage, regional officials discovered that the land was once a delta thousands of years ago. “When we looked at the hillsides of our beloved home it struck us that every ravine, not just sand gulch, had been crafted in endless cycles of fire and floods, something burnt, something loosened up, something slid,” he said. “And a new riparian zone of aspen, willow and water came into being. For centuries this land around us has been perfecting itself, collapsing and rising again in so many ways.”
As the land rejuvenates, so, too, has the school grown stronger, Briggs-Hale said. “Like the landscape will, we have recovered.”
Today, the playground, made of recyclable materials, is inviting to all children, including those with special needs. “What you are standing on is the result of the new growth of our thinking,” Briggs-Hale said.
In a touching ceremony, the principal thanked the funders of the project, including Eric Cefus, director of new business development for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which donated $25,000.
As well, Cefus convinced Lockheed Martin Corp. to add $15,000 to the foundation's contribution. In addition, wildland firefighters in the area, under the name “Wildfire Tees Fund,” sold t-shirts and contributed $15,000.
To convey the message of gratitude, several students talked about what they were grateful for, many of them related to having survived the Waldo Canyon Fire and subsequent flooding.
The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting with the principal and students Daniel Everly and Chandler Disch.