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Royal Gorge staff pushes for partial reopening on Labor Day

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Aug 06 2013 08:05:33 PM CDT

Officials planning for a partial reopening by Labor Day weekend and a full reopen with a new design next spring.

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. -

A spokeswoman for the Royal Gorge Park said plans are underway to redesign the fire-damaged attraction for a full reopen next spring, and to start a limited reopening as soon as Labor Day weekend.

Peggy Gair, the park's public relations manager, said on Tuesday that about two weeks of demolition and debris removal remain.  Forty-eight of the park's 52 buildings, she said, were destroyed in the June 11 fire.  When the cleanup is finished, she said the park may allow partial access to visitors.

"We are thinking about opening it up to vehicular traffic only, where they would start at one end of the bridge, drive across and go out the south gate," said Gair.  "People couldn't get out and walk around, but they could look around and see what the fire did as they drive through."

The bridge is safe, Gair said, after around 100 wooden deck planks burned and were replaced.

Gair said park management currently is working with an architect on a new design for the park that has existed since shortly after the bridge was build in 1929.

"It won't be the same as it was," she said of the park.  "We want to put an entirely new stamp on it."

Gair said the park's three most popular attractions are the incline railway, the tram ride across the gorge and the water clock.  She said the incline sustained little damage and should be ready for spring.  However, the tram and the clock were destroyed.

"A lot of people took their photographs (at the water clock)," said Gair.  "It brings a lot of memories back to people."

Gair said the park is asking the public to suggest new attractions for the park.  The most common request so far, she said, is for a restaurant with more windows to take full advantage of the beautiful gorge scenery.

"We didn't think of that before, because all of our buildings were right on the edge of the gorge," she said.  "Maybe we can include something like that in the new design."

Gair said other attractions, such as a children's playground, a mountain man town and and animal exhibit, could return in different or similar versions.  She said the animal exhibit may include Smoky, a white buffalo born during the fire.

The park staff has turned away as many as 200 vehicles a day since the park closed, Gair said, and the park's utilities still haven't been restored.

The park has 41 full-time employees and had 150 seasonal employees before the fire.

The bridge and the incline are on the National Register of Historic Places. 

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