When Lyons resident Mike Clark responds to questions about the damage to his home during the September flood, he starts by counting his blessings and then quickly shifts the focus to his home-away-from-home, the St. Vrain River.

Clark has been fly-fishing for more than 36 years and owns South Creek Ltd., a fly-fishing shop on Main Street that specializes in bamboo rods. The shop, the people and the river are why Clark calls Lyons home, and he has never seen them in such disarray.

If you go

What: Big Mountain Enduro Pre-Season Party

When: Saturday, group rides begin at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the benefit begins at 4 p.m.; live music starts at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Oskar Blues, 303 Main St., Lyons

More info: http://bit.ly/1i4Of1b

"Right now, the river is sick, and that makes the town sick," Clark said. "I've been working with the (Colorado Division of) Parks and Wildlife since 2008 on fish restoration in the river, and they were really flourishing, but what we see right now is all those are fish gone and we're going to have to start from scratch."

Instead of leaving it to the town's Parks and Recreation department, Clark decided to pitch in and launched a fundraiser to assist with river restoration.

An effort that started with an email soliciting donations from clients and friends brought in more than $100,000 earmarked for repairs to approximately two miles of the north and south St. Vrain creeks in Lyons.

Since the only damage to Clark's home, which is above his shop on Main Street, was a lost water heater, he has been able to turn his attention to helping the town recover.

Clark organized a film festival and silent auction on March 24 that brought in $19, 374. Oskar Blues' CAN'd Aid Foundation gave $12,500, making the town eligible for a $75,000 Fishing is Fun Grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, bringing the total to $106,874 for Lyons Parks and Recreation.

"This grant we got here didn't cost the town a dime," Clark said. "The fly-fishing community, we take care of our sport and environment."

Residents rally

Other groups of outdoor enthusiasts are also stepping up and launching fundraising campaigns to assist the Town of Lyons Parks and Recreation department with flood repairs.

Lyons resident and avid climber Lizzy Scully recently hosted a climbing film festival and auction at Oskar Blues in Lyons, seeking donations for repairs to the St. Vrain River corridor trail.

The event raised about $7,700, which Scully said will have minimal impact on the path's overall restoration.

Big Mountain Enduro, a Crested Butte-based race series, is hosting a pre-season party with Oskar Blues Saturday to raise money for the CAN'd Aid Foundation, which supports flood restoration in Lyons.

CAN'd Aid spokeswoman Diana Ralston said the event is another example of outdoor communities banning together to support repairs in the spaces they love.

The funds will help rebuild mountain biking, hiking and running trails in Lyons, Ralston said.

Mike Clark, owner of South Creek Ltd. fly-fishing shop in Lyons, planes a piece of bamboo while working on a custom fly rod Thursday.
Mike Clark, owner of South Creek Ltd. fly-fishing shop in Lyons, planes a piece of bamboo while working on a custom fly rod Thursday. (Matthew Jonas / Longmont Times-Call)

"Lyons' active communities want to restore the parks and trails they love," Ralston said. "It's important to the town's economy, and we want to support that."

Dave Cosgrove, director of the Parks and Recreation department in Lyons, said the community has offered help through donations, fundraisers and physical labor.

"People here care passionately about their parks, and that's missing right now," Cosgrove said.

A long road ahead

Despite dozens of willing volunteers, Cosgrove said, the department is not ready to start repairs yet.

"We're not quite ready for some of these efforts yet," Cosgrove said. "There are lots of issues we're working through, so it's not just about getting the equipment in there and putting everything back where it was before."

It will take several years and an estimated $20 million to get the parks back to the condition they were in before the flood, Cosgrove said.

The town will be responsible for about $2 million toward the repairs, Cosgrove said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide 75 percent of the cost with the state and Boulder County each covering another 12.5 percent, Cosgrove said.

Despite the lengthy timeline and expensive repairs, the parks will never be exactly the way they once were, he said.

Shifting flood plains will bring changes to public recreation areas, and residents and visitors will get their first look at what rebuilding could bring for Meadow Park this summer.

Meadow Park will be completed in two phases with the first phase, which is expected to be complete by June 17, covering about 40 percent of the work, according to Cosgrove. 

That phase of repairs is expected to cost about $900,000 and include parking and camping and recreational vehicle sites that will generate revenue and facilitate summer events, Cosgrove said. The multi-use field will also be included in the first phase of repairs to accommodate summer and fall sports.

"Restoration of parks are a huge priority here in Lyons," Cosgrove said. "Local government and town officials all understand how critical the system is to the economic viability of our town and have been a high priority since the start."

River restoration is not expected to start until at least the spring of 2015, Clark said. Officials are waiting to see if the river stays in the new path that was cut during the flood and the impact of spring run-off before beginning any major repairs, he said.

Clark said she realizes that the river restoration will take time, but that's not stopping him from finding ways to contribute to recovery efforts now.

"We were told we'll be eligible for the state grant again next year, so we've already started raising funds to help us get it again," Clark said. "This is what we love and we're going to do our part to protect it."

Contact Times-Call community reporter Whitney Bryen at 303-684-5274 or wbryen@times-call.com