Farewell Salute to Mountain Shadows
Dear Mountain Shadows Residents,
Almost 18 months ago, we started together on a journey of recovery... and what a journey it has been! Friendships were established, astounding results were achieved and the Mountain Shadows neighborhood is well on its way to a new beginning.
On that fateful afternoon of June 26, 2012, the landscape of the foothills was decimated, thousands of homes were impacted by smoke and ash, many residences sustained significant damage and 347 homes were destroyed entirely. Tragically, two lives were lost.
Today, we see a community that came together with amazing tenacity to rebuild and restore most of that which was lost. The new, repaired and updated houses across the neighborhood are again the dream homes of Mountain Shadows residents. It’s a triumph of the human spirit over profound adversity, and a testament to what the residents and businesses of Colorado Springs will do to help those in need.
This degree of community collaboration and the Colorado Springs Together initiative would likely not have happened without Mayor Bach making that early morning phone call on June 28, 2012 with the vision of creating a private-sector-driven recovery team... and the rest is history!
Great teamwork and the dedication of many people have brought us so far since that June afternoon. At this point, six lots have been combined to create three bigger parcels of land, which reduces the goal of 347 replacement homes to 344. With this as our goal, we see huge progress:
- 179 (52%) homes have been completed.
- Another 66 (19%) are currently under construction.
- Only 99 (29%) to go, many of which already have plans in the works!
These impressive statistics are the result of great work by an extensive network of devoted people and committed organizations.
An estimated 30,000 cubic yards of debris were removed, burned trees and shrubs cut down, broken foundations hauled away, flood mitigation implemented and most insurance claims resolved. Neighbors helped neighbors and many families displaced by the fire have moved back to the community over the last year to build new memories in Mountain Shadows. Along the way, new people moved into the neighborhood and property values increased. So much activity and so much success in such short time... although, for those impacted by the fire, it probably felt like an eternity.
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Do you remember the map with blue dots and yellow dots showing homes lost and damaged? We are glad to say the map looks very different today.
Now it is time for the Colorado Springs Together team to say farewell. We are honored to be part of one of the most noteworthy natural disaster recoveries in the United States. As has been said many, many times, it was a team effort and we had an amazing team:
- 30dps was able to create the CST branding and develop the website in just seven days, which has acted as the foundation of our communications over the last 18 months. CST had over 540,000 e-blast "opens" and over 35,000 unique visits to the website.
- Annie and volunteers from across the city staffed The Colorado Springs Together Center, located in Mountain Shadows, which became the gathering and meeting place for groups and organizations working on the recovery. Well over 150 group meetings were held and over 2,000 different visitors came through those doors.
- AspenPointe's Colorado Spirit: Waldo Support Team provided over 500 hours of much-needed crisis counseling.
- John Putnam helped over 200 families sort through their insurance claims.
- Ron Hehr managed the CST discount card program, recruiting a long list of generous merchants to help residents replace their lost or damaged possessions. Notably, one homeowner saved almost $30,000 using this program!
So many people and organizations were involved with Colorado Springs Together that there is simply no way to thank everyone. The team was a unique combination of private-sector, public-sector, non-profits, the community of Colorado Springs and, most importantly, the Mountain Shadows neighbors.
The City of Colorado Springs Administration, Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Engineering were with us every step of the way. Colorado Springs Utilities restored utilities to the neighborhood with impressive speed and generated innovative programs to assist the recovery process. El Paso County jumped in to help sort out property records and coordinate all activities supported by county resources. Bret Waters, Commander Fletcher Howard, Brent Schubloom, Brian Olson and Gordon Brenner deserve special thanks. Lastly, Bob Croft and Henry Yankowski from Pikes Peak Regional Building Department were invaluable contributors on the CST team. Within two weeks of the fire, they had a plan for how homes could be quickly rebuilt, and we didn't look back once. Bob has since retired, but he was at almost every meeting. Not only did he keep track of all of the permits and provide dedicated service to the recovery, but he also kept the mood light with some great jokes!
Within the private-sector, the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs helped get the construction side of things off to a flying start. Renee Zentz and her team provided remarkable support from day one. The cooperation and consideration of all the construction crews working in the neighborhood (all at the same time!) has been one of the highlights of the recovery. The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado helped people avoid scams and ensured CST posted only quality service providers on our website. To initiate the debris removal process, Jim Johnson stepped up and provided extensive advice and project management including staging heavy vehicles in the neighborhood to minimize disruption to those still living in Mountain Shadows during the rebuilding process. The GE Johnson trailer in the neighborhood became a gathering place in those early days, and the staff always had the coffee pot on!
The Pikes Peak Region Long Term Recovery Group, representing a broad spectrum of non-profits and faith-based organizations, provided outstanding individual case management support, including financial assistance, for citizens affected by the fire.
And then there are the individuals who donated hundreds of hours—or more—to the effort with a selfless passion focused on one mission: the recovery and rebuilding of Mountain Shadows. John Henry, Alan Hale, John Putnam, Jeff Thomas, Mike Mallon, and the dozen or so volunteer staff at The Center deserve huge recognition and a big thank you. Similarly, the financial and legal work by Steve Hochstetter and Chantell Taylor from Stockman Kast Ryan + Co. LLP and Hogan Lovells LLP, respectively, provided the structure we needed from the outset of the recovery efforts.
This same debt of gratitude is owed to our primary sponsors without whom none of the CST story would have been possible, including several memorable community-spirit-building events along the way. Please see their logos along the right-hand side and express your gratitude if you have the opportunity! These donors made so much of our vision become a reality.
Who can forget the first anniversary concert on that perfect summer evening with the new beginning for Mountain Shadows well underway and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic playing in the park?! Roslyn Block, Nora Gledich, Myrna Candreia and their team of volunteers deserve our thanks for designing and delivering such a memorable event attended by approximately 6,000 people from across the city.
We remember the community tree planting and lighting ceremony at the Wilson United Methodist Church on that cold November evening last year. Neighbors gathered around the impressive tree, donated by Gerry and Karen Student and Gesco Nurseries. We look forward to many more holiday gatherings around that tree in the years to come, and appreciate Carla Albers and the church staff for organizing the ceremonies.
We also must recognize the artistic talent and generosity of Steve Weed, who donated his “Ashes to Art” collection of work to CST. Thanks to Steve and to Laurie Wilson, $37,000 was raised to fund the Mountain Shadows Waldo Canyon Fire Memorial. The final Memorial artist selection will be made early next year.
Now that we are saying farewell, here's what you can expect:
The CST website will remain accessible at www.ColoradoSpringsTogether.org to enable residents to continue utilizing the various resources provided there. However, at the end of this month, we will no longer actively update the site with new material. We have one more event reminder eblast that will be sent in the coming days. Following this, the Mountain Shadows Community Association will be the source of neighborhood eblast communications. The work by the Mountain Shadows Fire Memorial team will go on, a revised park renovation will move forward, and the mayor’s homecoming basket deliveries will continue. Regular CST leadership meetings will come to an end, but CST team members will continue to be available to assist, should any problems arise. Our email and contact information remains the same.
There is more building to be done, more planting to take place, and there are more challenges to overcome, but Mountain Shadows is well on its way to a full and vibrant recovery. There is no better testament to this than the renaissance of Parkside!
So, in closing, the CST team salutes the residents of Mountain Shadows and all that you achieved. We sign-off knowing that the friendships built between our team members and many people across the neighborhood will be with us for years to come. We can all be very, very proud of what has been achieved over the last 18 months.
On behalf of the CST team, may God bless each of you, and best wishes for the upcoming holidays and the New Year.
Founder and President
Colorado Springs Together
Colorado Springs Together is an independent 501(c)(3) Non-Profit:
Colorado Springs Together is a community-driven volunteer effort, and is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The team members are distinguished citizens, business professionals and dedicated public servants in the community, facilitating and coordinating a quick and effective rebuilding process for the neighborhoods devastated on June 26, 2012, by the Waldo Canyon Fire.