Small rivers run where hikers once walked, and massive debris fields now block major trails. The conditions on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks are "horrendous" after five days of flooding, Open Space Director Mike Patton said Monday.
Patton said he saw devastation everywhere he went, starting Thursday morning. The road into Gregory Canyon is now a creek, which needed to be immediately diverted because it ran into the adjacent neighborhood. The McClintock fire road at Chautauqua Park is blocked by a debris field 20 to 30 feet high and twice as long. A brand-new trailhead at Thomas Lane for the South Boulder Creek Trail is wiped out. Numerous other trailheads are still underwater or severely damaged.
"Every trail that you can think of is in horrendous shape," he said.
Open space has formed 10 teams of three people each and divided the city's open space properties into 20 sections. Those teams are walking every trail as far as possible documenting the debris in detail. Where are bridges missing? Where have creeks rerouted? Where do gaping holes or flood debris block trails?
That information will be used to develop a plan for rebuilding the trail system, starting with repairing and opening the trails that can be most quickly restored in each quadrant of the city, Patton said.
"We recognize that people need the emotional relief of open space," he said. "We want to create places for them to go."
The initial review should be done by the end of the day today, a summary of which will be presented at tonight's Boulder City Council meeting.
Patton asked that the public respect open space closures while rangers work to assess the damage.
Monday morning, Rocky Mountain Rescue had to respond to a man who broke his ankle climbing over debris on the closed McClintock fire road. That injury was unnecessary and diverted resources away from others who need help, Patton said.
Restoring the trail system could take months and even years.
"Because of the extent of the damage, it's going to take time," Patton said.
It took more than a year after the Flagstaff Fire to reopen the Bear Creek West Ridge and Shadow Canyon trails.
And just as blackened trees remain after a fire, the flood-altered landscape along trails will remain as a reminder of the power of nature for years to come.
"Nature will take care of that," Patton said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.