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Flying W Ranch expresses rebuilding hopes

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jul 18 2012 12:12:49 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2012 12:58:09 AM CDT

Local attraction hopes to reopen by summer of 2014.

The Flying W Ranch staff reflected on its future Tuesday, three weeks after the 60-year-old facility was virtually destroyed by the Waldo Canyon wildfire.

Aaron Winter, director of marketing and public relations, took KRDO NewsChannel 13 on a tour of the grounds.  Most of what used to be buildings are piles of rubble.  Nearly everything else is charred, broken or melted.

"One of my favorite buildings was the Steak House," he said, referring to the former Ute Theater that was purchased by ranch founder Russ Wolfe and relocated from the city during the 1960s.  "It's kind of hard to talk about.  It just captured you when you walked into it."

Winter said an ideal schedule would be for the ranch to spend a year cleaning up and a year rebuilding, hopefully returning for business by the summer of 2014.

Winter said Wolfe intends to rebuild, but there are erosion and cleanup issues to address first.  Sediment, Winter said, already has been flowing through the ranch after rains, and the rubble may be contaminated with asbestos or lead paint.

"It's only a matter of time before we get one of those ten-year rains when a lot of sediment is going to come flooding straight down here," said Winter.  "That's obviously a huge issue when it comes to hauling out the debris."

Winter said he hopes federal funds will be available to deal with present and future erosion concerns.

Among other problems, the fire put 100 ranch employees -- including Winter -- out of work.  The ranch also has to refund nearly $100,000 for weddings and other special events canceled by the fire.

There are some positives, however.  The ranch train is intact, and Marian's Cooking Library with 2,000 cookbooks was undamaged. 

Winter said the staff wants to strike a balance between building anew and restoring what few attractions can be salvaged.

"We don't necessarily want to bring bulldozers in and just rip everything out," he said.  "You can't put a price on history."

Winter said the ranch will seek volunteers to help in the cleanup and removal process.  Offers already are coming in, he said.

"A group of Amish folk always come here every summer," said Winter.  "They're willing to come out and help us rebuild the church.  So it's incredible."

The just-formed Flying W Ranch Foundation seeks to raise money to cover cleanup and rebuilding costs not covered by insurance, and to help the employees who are out of work. 

For more information, visit http://www.flyingw.com/DonationForm.aspx.

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