Volunteers help each other across fast-moving water on Elkhorn Ave. on Thursday evening. Residents got together to help sandbag businesses downtown and
Volunteers help each other across fast-moving water on Elkhorn Ave. on Thursday evening. Residents got together to help sandbag businesses downtown and keep each other as safe as possible. (Walt Hester / Trail-Gazette)

Even as Estes Park residents and business owners struggle with issues like water, sewage, washed out roads, barricades, and more, the town's recovery effort from last week's devastating, multi-day, flash flood event is well underway.

The problem, however, is that very little will be a quick fix. Some things will take months to fix. Others will take longer.

"It will take years of construction to put everything back together," said Estes Park Public Works Director Scott Zurn last Sunday.

Speaking in front of more than 100 people during a daily briefing at town hall and to a much large audience on cable channel 12 and the town's website, Zurn asked the public to be understanding as his crews begin to fix things.

"We have limited resources in the valley so please don't call me crazy for using little pieces of pipe to replace big pieces of pipe," Zurn said. "Don't say that's 'silly engineering and silly road building.' We're using everything we have to fix everything we can. We're trying to do as much as possible before the winter."

While Zurn and his public works staff focus on the town's critical infrastructure, Estes Park Town Administrator Frank Lancaster and town staff are busy prioritizing the town's most serious needs and getting the town up and running for business.

"We want to get Elkhorn (Avenue in downtown) up and running by noon tomorrow (Tuesday)," Lancaster said on Monday evening. "We're close to getting it cleaned up. We hope to run a street sweeper over it Wednesday."


Lancaster said that most of the businesses along Elkhorn are in pretty good shape. He said there are a couple questionable ones like Dairy Queen which has an electrical issue in a flooded basement.

"But, I think that can be fixed pretty soon," Lancaster said.

Lancaster said the health department has been in town and "has done a great job to get them (restaurants and businesses) ready to open up."

The town administrator added that he'd like to see as many restaurants and businesses reopen as soon as possible. When they do, he said they will only be open on the Elkhorn Ave. side. No business will be allowed to open up on the riverwalk side because that area is not safe yet.

Another priority for Lancaster in the town's recovery is to find a way to house Town of Estes Park employees.

"Right now we're dealing with our employees," Lancaster said. "They are critical for us as we try to help the public. But, 27 percent of them commute here from somewhere else. We can't have them driving 3-4 hours to get here. We need to find temporary housing for them so they can stay here. We're working on that."

But the really big issues he's dealing with are access to Fish Creek Road residents on the east side of Fish Creek, the No Flush zone on the west side of Fish Creek, and getting a road open for traffic in and out of town.

He said plans are under discussion on how to access the eastside Fish Creek residents who are cut off from the town because Fish Creek Road washed out. He said several options are being studied and a plan should be announced soon.

Lancaster said efforts are being made to fix the sewer problems on the west side of Fish Creek and putting in a temporary sewage line for the schools. He said the town might be able to bring in a temporary treatment plant and portable potties to help.

"But, the main thing is access (to the town)," Lancaster said. "First thing and long term, we need to have a road open to get to Estes Park."

He said Colo. Highway 7 is open for essential deliveries and workers but said work still needs to be done to make it safer.

When asked to comment about a published report that Estes Park was "closed for business," Lancaster bristled.

"No, it's not," he said matter-of-factly. "It's going to be open to guests this fall."

Lancaster, who is no stranger to natural disasters and brings a lot of experience to his job in this area, remains as perplexed and humbled by last week's events as anyone.

"I think when it's all said and done, this will be the worst natural disaster ever for the state," he said.

Contact David Persons at 970-586-3356 or dpersons@eptrail.com