• Wildfire a wake-up call as Woodmen Valley residents rally against possible arson

    Sat, July 20, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    A Woodmen Valley resident battled a small wildfire on June 13, 2013, that erupted during the height of the Black Forest fire. Neighbors were able to put out the fire before it spread to the 190 or so homes in the valley. Photo courtesy the Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District.

    A Woodmen Valley resident battled a small wildfire on June 13, 2013, that erupted during the height of the Black Forest fire. Neighbors were able to put out the fire before it spread to the 190 or so homes in the valley. Photo courtesy the Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District.

    On the night of June 13, during the height of the recent Black Forest fire, a few residents of the densely forested Woodmen Valley were drawn outside their homes by barking dogs.

    The neighbors were shocked to see a patch of ground and a tree ablaze and a suspicious car racing away down Westwood Road, one of only two roads into the valley.

    Quickly the neighbors grabbed garden hoses and shovels of dirt and extinguished the fire before strong winds could spread it to the valley’s 190 or so homes. But the flames ignited passions in the valley that night.

    “We had a close call on Westwood tonight,” Kevin Bush of the Woodmen Valley Fire Protection District wrote to residents, telling them fire officials were unsure “if it was accidental or intentional.”

    Signs are still visible of the small wildfire that erupted in Woodmen Valley on June 13, 2013, along Westwood Road.

    Signs are still visible of the small wildfire that erupted in Woodmen Valley on June 13, 2013, along Westwood Road.

    Without the quick actions of the neighbors, Bush said it could have been a catastrophe equal to Black Forest, which killed two and destroyed 488 homes, and the Waldo Canyon fire a year ago that killed two Mountain Shadows residents, destroyed 347 homes and forced the evacuation of 30,000 including everyone in the valley.

    Bark scorched by  a small wildfire is a reminder to Woodmen Valley residents of their vulnerability to wildfire.

    Bark scorched by a small wildfire is a reminder to Woodmen Valley residents of their vulnerability to wildfire.

    “With the strong winds heading east, it could have easily consumed the entire valley,” Bush said in his email to residents. “We narrowly avoided a major disaster.”

    Residents were so scared that they spent the rest of the night stopping cars leaving and entering the valley and aggressively quizzing the occupants in a wild search for a suspected arsonist.

    The next day, when emotions cooled, the neighbors took a more thoughtful approach to protecting their private, unincorporated neighborhood tucked  between Woodmen Road and the Air Force Academy just east of Peregrine.

    Woodmen Valley residents Laura Whiteside, left, and Wendy Geisler gather buckets to fill with sand Thursday, July 18, 2013, as part of their organized efforts to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. The buckets will be placed along roadsides in the neighborhood. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Woodmen Valley residents Laura Whiteside, left, and Wendy Geisler gather buckets to fill with sand Thursday, July 18, 2013, as part of their organized efforts to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. The buckets will be placed along roadsides in the neighborhood. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Led by longtime valley resident Laura Whiteside, residents have launched a multi-pronged approach to watch for fire and strangers, prepare to fight another fire and even plan for evacuation in the event of a disaster.

    Seems the possible arson fire was a real wake-up call.

    “We’ve lived here 28 years and we’ve always worried about fire,” Whiteside said.

    The valley has experienced a couple grassfires. But they didn’t prompt the kind of response seen since the recent close call.

    “People were very scared that night,” said Wendy Geisler, a newcomer to the valley who has energetically helped Whiteside get the neighborhood organized.

    Every night since, teams of residents have patrolled the valley. Some carry flashlights, fire extinguishers, cameras and cellphones. They even put strobe lights on the roofs of their cars to let folks know they are watching.

    “We considered hiring off-duty sheriff’s deputies but it was too expensive,” Geisler said. “So one of the men organized neighborhood patrols.

    WValley sign X“We have people signed up every night for the next six months at least.”

    They are doing much more.

    Residents pooled their money to buy and erect security cameras at the two access roads in the valley so they can track suspicious vehicles.

    They’ve formed committees to study evacuation strategies, such as designating safe areas and “evacuation buddies” for isolated residents. And they’ve mapped four-wheel-drive evacuation routes and even negotiated with an adjacent neighborhood to create a new access road where none exists in the event of an emergency evacuation.

    Crews have done fire mitigation along the roadways, clearing brush and cutting tree limbs. Folks are discussing FireWise techniques to create defensible spaces around homes.

    They’ve designed and distributed car decals to identify the cars of valley residents and distinguish them from vehicles that don’t belong in the area.

    Woodmen Valley resident Brad Carlson arranges buckets to fill with sand Thursday, July 18, 2013, as part of an organized effort to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. The buckets will be placed along roadsides in the neighborhood. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Woodmen Valley resident Brad Carlson arranges buckets to fill with sand Thursday, July 18, 2013, as part of an organized effort to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. The buckets will be placed along roadsides in the neighborhood. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Geisler even secured corporate donations of 200 five-gallon buckets and nine tons of sand which are being placed along valley roads to extinguish fires. She’s also seeking air horns to place with every bucket, fire extinguishers and other items they believe will help protect them from future fires.

    “We’re making a visual statement that this neighborhood is watching,” Geisler said. “I felt so helpless watching Black Forest go up in flames. Now, we’re taking small, reasonable, preventative measures to protect ourselves.”

    I marveled at the nightly patrols and the dedication they require.

    “I’ve gone out six times,” Geisler said. “Everyone goes in pairs. I take a cup of hot chocolate and make my rounds. It takes about half an hour to make one round.”

    If a fire or stranger is spotted, the protocol they’ve established is strict.

    “The purpose of the patrol is to look for fire,” Whiteside said. “No one gets out of the car. There are no confrontations. If you see something suspicious you call 9-1-1 and leave.”

    In light of two suspected arson fires started last week in Fox Run Regional Park in Black Forest, I think the Woodmen Valley folks are smart to be concerned and keep their eyes open. I’m guessing they’ll all be safer and come out of this a much closer community.

    Woodmen Valley resident Wendy Geisler looks at a strobe light on top of her car Thursday, July 18, 2013. She and other neighbors have six kits of strobe lights, fire extinguishers and air horns they share to patrol at night for fire. The patrols are part of an organized effort to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Woodmen Valley resident Wendy Geisler looks at a strobe light on top of her car Thursday, July 18, 2013. She and other neighbors have six kits of strobe lights, fire extinguishers and air horns they share to patrol at night for fire. The patrols are part of an organized effort to protect the neighborhood in response to a smal fire that erupted one night during the Black Forest fire. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

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  • Wounded Warriors inspire awe as they give their all to games

    Tue, May 14, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Marines' cyclist Breanna Dill and her son landon, 3, warm up in the parking lot before competing in the Women's Handcycle and Recumbent Cycle race at the Warrior Games Sunday, May 12, 2013 at the Air Force Academy. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    Marines’ cyclist Breanna Dill and her son landon, 3, warm up in the parking lot before competing in the Women’s Handcycle and Recumbent Cycle race at the Warrior Games Sunday, May 12, 2013 at the Air Force Academy. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

    On Sunday, I stood next to the bicycle race track at the Warrior Games and I cried.

    Not because I was within a few yards of Prince Harry.

    I was standing amid men and women who have served, sacrificed and suffered so much for us.

    Here they were, working, sweating and competing at a high level despite disabilities I can’t fathom.

    Don’t get me wrong. These weren’t tears of pity.

    I was in awe.

    It was a powerful sight, these men and women in their uniforms of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations and British Armed Forces.

    It’s rare any sports event stirs such emotion in me. (Not even my beloved KU Jayhawks can deeply move me.)

    But I challenge anyone to walk among these wounded warriors and not be chilled by their skill, intensity and commitment to excellence.

    I was so impressed I’m going to catch a few more events before the games end Thursday. (Heck, the events are free. So why not?)

    My introduction to the games came Saturday, when I volunteered at the Olympic Training Center shooting range prior to the opening ceremonies. On Sunday, my wife, Cary, and I took our son, Ben, to the Air Force Academy to watch the bicycle races.

    I admit it was a bit shocking at first, to see so many folks in wheelchairs or on crutches with prosthetic limbs and obvious scars of battle wounds.

    But that faded quickly and all we saw were great athletes.

    Like all athletes, they talked smack to each other. And they took their competition seriously.

    I tried to imagine the burn in their biceps, backs and guts as riders with no legs pedaled with their arms.

    It was incredibly inspiring to see these athletes, many of them recently injured, straining to complete their races, their faces covered with sweat, fans cheering wildly and waving “warrior” towels. I was among them.

    Unlike most sports events, we cheered for everyone.

    If you haven’t caught any of the action yet, please turn off the reality show, log out of Facebook and get yourself down to the U.S. Olympic Training Center or out to the Air Force Academy.

    On Tuesday, the schedule is packed. From 8 a.m.-4 p.m., watch track and field at the academy’s outdoor track stadium.

    Wheelchair basketball is scheduled at 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at the academy’s Clune Arena. Sitting volleyball is scheduled 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at the arena.

    On Wednesday, Clune Arena hosts archery at 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m., then bronze-medal basketball at 4:30 p.m. and medal games in volleyball beginning at 6:30 p.m. Finally, the gold medal basketball game begins at 8:30 p.m.

    Warrior swimmers will take to the academy pool on Thursday, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.

    (You can see details of the schedule at http://www.teamusa.org/warriorgames)

    There’s something for everyone.

    Go out. Cheer for them. Encourage them. Thank them.

    You won’t be disappointed.

    And if you are like me, you may need your warrior towel when the event is over . . . to wipe away your tears.

    The Olympic Training Center shooting range was packed Monday for Wounded Warrior competition. Photo by Cary Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Olympic Training Center shooting range was packed Monday for Wounded Warrior competition. Photo by Cary Vogrin / The Gazette

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  • SIDE STREETS READERS TEACH BOYS ABOUT COLORADO, GENEROSITY

    Sat, April 20, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    John-Michael List of Carson City, Nev., displays the books, photos, postcards and souvenirs sent him by Side Streets readers after they asked for help researching a paper on Colorado. Courtesy Mary-Margaret Madden.

    John-Michael List of Carson City, Nev., displays the books, photos, postcards and souvenirs sent him by Side Streets readers after they asked for help researching a paper on Colorado. Courtesy Mary-Margaret Madden.

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    Side Streets readers did it again!

    Recently, I told you of requests we received from school boys in California and Nevada seeking information about Colorado to help them write research papers.

    First came a note from Diego Lopez, a fifth-grade student at the Napa Valley Language Academy in Napa, Calif.

    Then came an email from John-Michael List, a fourth-grader from Carson City, Nev. Both asked for pamphlets, postcards and souvenirs to provide background for their reports about Colorado — our history, economy, famous residents and more.

    This was a no-brainer for me. (And “no-brainer” pretty much describes me, don’t ya think?)

    I published their requests, betting Gazette readers would gladly educate the boys.

    I was right.

    John-Michael’s mother, Mary-Margaret Madden, said they sent their email to The Gazette and nine other newspapers in Colorado. The only response outside of Colorado Springs was a box of Celestial Seasonings tea from Boulder.

    “Everything came from Colorado Springs,” she said. “Everyone was so gracious.”

    She detailed the windfall John-Michael received from the Springs. (Diego received similar donations.)

    Marlene LeFever sent photos of Colorado bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and antelope. In addition, she sent photos of aspen trees, whitewater rafting, the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine in Cripple Creek, scenic mountain photos and what Mary-Margaret described as “remnants of the Colorado Springs (Waldo Canyon) fire with some personal stories.”

    Shirley Bozung sent postcards of Glen Eyrie castle, the Royal Gorge, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame with its bronze sculpture of the rodeo cowboy called “The Champ.”

    Donald Toncray, who identified himself as a Springs native, wrote a letter highlighting the area’s attractions such as the Pioneers Museum and the Money Museum at the American Numismatic Association.

    • Two books, “Cripple Creek Days” and “Pioneer Women,” came courtesy Michael Mlynarczyk.

    • And the Air Force Academy sent each boy boxes of stuff.

    “We sent them each an Academy coin, pen, info folder they could put their report in that has USAFA information, a school catalogue, several falcon cards (information on our mascot the falcon), a pennant, brochures and pamphlets about USAFA and a nice note wishing them luck with their report,” said David Cannon, academy communications director.

    UPDATE: On Saturday, I received this note from Mary-Margaret:

    “John Michael got the most interesting mail yesterday.  It’s letters from ALL OF THE STUDENTS at Mr. Valente’s 4th Grade Class at the Academy Endeavour Elementary School.  One child wrote about symbols; one wrote about animals; another about Colorado’s ancient peoples, weather, the State’s dance, ie, square.”

     

    Diego Lopez of Napa, Calif., displays a book he received from Side Streets readers after he asked for help researching a paper on Colorado. Courtesy Nadia Torres.

    Diego Lopez of Napa, Calif., displays a book he received from Side Streets readers after he asked for help researching a paper on Colorado. Courtesy Nadia Torres.

    Both boys were impressed by the outpouring from Colorado Springs.

    “I got a whole bunch of stuff from the U.S. Air Force Academy,” John-Micheal told me, clearly impressed by the package. He also was interested to learn about Cripple Creek.

    “I probably like the gold rush the best,” he said of what he learned.

    Diego said he learned a lot from the response.

    “Colorado has a lot of mountains,” he told me Thursday. “It also has a lot of canyons. And it snows a lot over there.”

    Perhaps the best thing he learned is that he wants to visit Colorado someday.

    “I’d like to come a lot,” Diego said.

    His teacher, Nadia Torres, said only two other students received more from their states: Wyoming and Nevada.

    “It’s a project we do every year,” she said. “Diego received a lot of responses.”

    I was surprised to learn from Mary-Margaret that one of Diego’s classmates had inspired John-Michael’s note to The Gazette.

    “We saw a letter in our paper from another student at the Napa Valley Academy seeking information about Nevada,” she said. “I told John-Michael we should do this. So we copied his letter. It made his project a lot more fun.”

    It was no accident that they chose Colorado. Mary-Margaret is a native of Boulder.

    And she is proud of her home state.

    “I was totally surprised,” she said. “As stuff trickled in, John-Michael would come home every day and ask if he got something new. It was a big success. Thank you.”

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  • THIS IS A PUBLIC TRAIL, SOLDIER. BUTT OUT!

    Wed, June 1, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 9 comments

    Joyce Cheney and her dog, Poodles

    Joyce Cheney, seen here with her dog, Poodles, loves to hike.

    She especially enjoys the Mount Manitou Incline and Barr Trail in Manitou Springs, as well as Section 16 and Waldo Canyon.

    Of course, those are four of the most popular trails in the region.

    Cheney wishes they got a little less use from members of the military who regularly go on training runs on those same trails.

    Cheney said she regularly sees soldiers from Fort Carson and Air Force Academy cadets on the trails.

    It bugs her.

    Why, she asks, can’t they train on the thousands of acres set aside for them?

    “I wish they’d train somewhere else,” she said. “These are public recreational trails. They have thousands of acres of base land available to train on.”

    Isn’t it bad enough we have to share them with every Texan who wanders into town? (OK, the Texan crack is my smart-mouth remark, not Cheney’s words.)

    And something else really bugs her. Some of the military smoke. And, she said, they drop cigarette butts on the trails. Even lit butts!

    Dropping cigarette butts on trails is not cool. Doesn’t matter who you are, military or civilian. It’s like letting your dog drop something on the trail. It’s just wrong.

    And lit butts are dangerous. Stupid and dangerous.

    I was shocked at the idea soldiers and cadets are puffing and dropping butts after a 10-mile jaunt up Barr Trail. So I called a trails expert, Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, to see how bad the situation really is.

    She said it’s true our friends in the military, when they aren’t risking their lives for us halfway around the world, do like to run our trails.

    “But so what?” Davies said.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Davies added that the military doesn’t just run the trails, they volunteer regularly to perform trail building and maintenance.

    Here’s proof: Air Force cadets with picks and shovels building trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space and collecting trash along the Pikes Peak Greenway downtown Colorado Springs.

    Air Force Academy cadets perform trail maintenance in Red Rock Canyon Open Space on April 2, 2011. Photo courtesy the Trails and Open Space Coalition

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    Air Force Academy cadets perform trail maintenance in Red Rock Canyon on April 2, 2011. Photo courtesy the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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    An Air Force Academy cadets bends over to pick up trash along the Pikes Peak Greenway during a cleanup day in March 2011. Photo courtesy the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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  • IS IT A HOME OR A HOTEL?

    Wed, July 21, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

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    Folks across Colorado Springs are complaining that properties in their neighborhoods are hotels masquerading as single-family homes.

    I’ve heard the complaints from upscale areas like the Broadmoor and the Old North End to gated communities including  Cedar Heights and Kissing Camels.

    And the complaints echo from more modest neighborhoods, too, like the Westside and Mountain Shadows.

    They all ask the same question: how can it be legal to convert a single-family home  into a hotel?

    Specifically they are talking about folks who rent their properties as vacation rental homes.

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    Turns out dozens of people have discovered they can make serious cash — upwards of $4,000 a week at peak weeks — by renting their houses to vacationers.

    Experts estimate there are 60 to 80 vacation home rental properties in the Springs. Cruise the web sites created to put renters in homes and you might think the number is far higher.

    Vacation Rentals By Owner is a popular one. Another is VacationRentals.com. Folks can advertise their places and search for a house to rent on these sites and others.

    Prices, according to a casual survey, seem to run in the $200 per day range.

    Prices peak during Air Force Academy graduation week each spring and during popular summer months. In addition, owners can ask a premium when the Springs is host to big youth sports tournaments and festivals.

    A city Vacation Home Rental Task Force was convened in the fall of 2009 but it produced nothing in terms of new rules to govern the practice as many other cities do.

     Manitou Springs, for example, requires folks who want to rent their homes on a daily or weekly basis to vacationers to apply for a conditional use permit. It goes through the planning commission and City Council. If approved, they must get a business license and pay sales and lodging taxes. Leases of 30 days or longer are exempt.

    The task force did discover that many homeowners are not registered with the city or paying sales taxes, as required.

    And many appear to be in violation of a city code that prohibits more than five unrelated adults from living in the same home.

    Dick Anderwald, the chief city planner, said he may reconvene the task force if enough complaints surface. His planner, Larry Larsen, is researching the issue and taking complaints at llarsen@springsgov.com.

    The only formal complaint this summer came from Cedar Heights where the Community Association president Lani Henneman asked about city codes. She said neighbors are upset about a house owned by Joanne Pearring being used exclusively as a vacation rental property.

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    Henneman said Pearring advertises the house as “Manitou Villa” and it is available to groups of 18-20 for $400 to $500 a night or $2,000 to $3,300 a week.

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     She recently rented the house to a baseball team in town for a tournament, Henneman said.

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    Pearring hung up on me when I tried to ask her about her house and business. Here’s a look from www.GoogleEarth.com.

    Henneman said neighbors have complained about loud, late parties at the house. It has been blamed for traffic problems at the security gate. Guests have been seen feeding wildlife. And throwing rocks at deer.

    She said Pearring, who lives in nearby Crystal Park and owns several other vacational rental houses, has “destroyed the whole purpose of a gated community” by introducing streams of strangers.

     But the homeowners association can’t do anything about it because covenants governing life in Cedar Heights never contamplated the issue.

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  • LIFE’S A VACATION, unless you live near a rental

    Sun, November 1, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Colorado Springs has appointed a task force to determine whether it should license, regulate and tax vacation rental homes.

    Turns out there are 60-80 homes sprinkled around the city that are advertised around the world in Web sites as vacation rental properties.

    vacationrentalwebsite

    They are favored by parents of Air Force Academy cadets when they come for parents’ weekend or graduation.

    Many families looking for a reunion site prefer vacation homes over hotels or bed-and-breakfast inns.

    Folks with special needs, like sterilized kitchens or quiet places for elderly or children, often choose vacation rental homes over hotels.vacationrentalwebpage1

     

    Problem is, they bring a parade of strangers into neighborhoods. Strangers who soak up parking spaces and sometimes hold late parties. A few people living near vacation rental houses have begun complaining to the city about the situation.

    So Dick Anderwald, the city’s land use and planning chief, created the Vacation Home Rental Task Force Committee to study the issue. He appointed neighborhood activists, vacation rental home owners and city planning staff to the task force.

    Here’s the agenda for the initial meeting in September:  vacationrentals. Please note that the roster of task force members changed after this was printed. Michael Clark and Autumn Hyser dropped out.

    One of the task force members, Jackie Ayers, owns the “Old Colorado Springs” 1902 Downtown House W/ Private Hot Tub - Colorado Springs  Here’s a look at her house from the Web site:

    1902downtownhouse

    She also manages a vacation rental for another owner. Ayers said the task force is an over-reaction to the complaints of a few people, including two task force members who live near vacation rental homes — one on the Westside and one in the Broadmoor.

    Anderwald apparently agreees. He said the issue appears to be confined to a small area of the city and the task force likely won’t produce new rules and regulations.

    However, owners of vacation rental homes likely will start getting tax bills from the city for sales taxes they have not been paying.

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  • LIKE A ROLLING STONE! Life below Pikeview Quarry

    Wed, September 23, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    pikeviewscar1

      Most people look out their back windows and, beyond the fence, can see into their neighbor’s kitchen or family room or bedrooms.

     Not true for folks in Oak Valley Ranch, a neighborhood tucked in the foothills between Mountain Shadows and Peregrine on Colorado Springs‘ northwest edge.

     Especially for families living on Front Royal, Coldwater and Hollandale drives.

     They back up to Castle Concrete Co.’s  Pikeview Quarry. Above is a 2001 photo of the quarry from The Gazette’s archives.

    flintstonequarry05

     We’re not talking Fred Flintstone here, either. This is the real thing, visible for miles along Interstate 25, just south of the Air Force Academy.

    Lately, Oak Valley Ranch residents have had front-row seats for dramatic landslides that have sent upwards of 2 million tons of limestone cascading down the mountainside.

    pikeviewneighborhood

     The first slide occured Dec. 2, 2008, and dumped and estimated 1.5 million tons of limestone into the pit at the base of the cliff. The slide is obvious in the photo, above, taken the same day by The Gazette’s Carol Lawrence.

     But the mountain wasn’t done rockin’ and rollin’ yet. It let loose again Sept. 13 with a blast that sounded like thunder to neighbors who ran from their homes and ate dinner on their patios, watching as boulders the size of locomotives plunged down the cliff, dropping another 250,000 tons before it was done. 

    Here’s a look at the two slides.

    pikeviewclose

     Reader Chris Dorry posted on YouTube video of the slide that you can watch it on this link. At about the two minute mark, you’ll actually see landslide activity as rock breaks off and rolls. My friends at KOAA TV NewsFirst 5 also got some nice footage you can view here.

    Here’s another cool video clip  that gives a great view of the landslide.

    Here’s a photo of the action captured by neighbor Rob Hellem, who heard what he described as “rolling thunder” during dinner around 6 p.m. and looked out to see all heck breaking loose.

    pikeviewhellem2

    Experts say they expect further movement in the quarry.

    M.L. “Mac” Shafer is vice president of Transit Mix Aggregates, which owns Castle Concrete and the Pikeview Quarry - a complex of about 100-mineable acres on a 190-acre tract.

     Transit Mix owned the Queens Quarry above the Garden of the Gods, which operated from about 1955 to 1989 and now has been reclaimed. The company also operates the Black Canyon Quarry behind Cedar Heights. And it has a sand mine along South Academy Boulevard.

    Castle Concrete bought the Pikeview in 1969. It was operated for years by Peter Kiewit and Sons, Shafer said. It’s now known as Kiewit Western Corp.

    Shafer said geologists agree that more landslides will occur. He said the limestone on the surface of the mountain sits on a layer of clay attached to the decomposed granite base that makes up Pikes Peak and much of the Front Range.

    A year of steady snow and rain has saturated the limestone, coupled with the freeze-thaw cycle, caused it to slide, Shafer said.

    On Feb. 12, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials issued five citations to Transit Mix and fined the company $2,564 for safety violations in connection with the slide. Shafer said the officials accused the company of mining too much of the base of the mountain, causing it to become unstable.

    Since then, the company has been limited to removing its stockpiles of crushed limestone. The mine became more of a classroom for geologists and other scientists from around the world who have come to study the landslide.

    After the Sept. 13 landslide, the mine has been shut down. Most of the stockpiles are exhausted. The conveyors of the rock crushers are sunning beds for bobcats. Deer and other wildlife are the only thing moving about in the mine.

    Sophisticated laser sensors watch the mountainside, measuring it every few hours for any movement. Shafer said the company is developing a plan it hopes to present next June for possibly reopening the mine and finishing reclamation efforts.

    Neighbors, meanwhile, are wondering if there’s any danger in rocks rolling into their backyards. Look at these bad boys hanging from the top of the latest slide. Shafer estimates the larger boulder on the right weighs at 20,000 tons! Like a locomotive perched on the mountainside.

    pikeviewboulder

    Shafer said such a disaster is not likely. Below is a look at the mine, prior to the landslides, from GoogleEarth. It shows the pit.

    pikeviewgoogle2

    For now, things are calm again. But, eventually, experts expect the mine to break loose again. They are especially watching a fault at the apex of the mine above the most recent slide. On a recent hike with a geologist, Shafer said he was able to actually look into the fault and see the spot where the limestone, clay and granite meet.

    For now, the landslide have not destroyed all the reclamation efforts done over the past decade on the southern rim of the mine. More than 2,000 trees have been planted on the ledges of the mine by volunteers with the Colorado Mountain Reclamation Foundation.

    pikeviewwide