One-year anniversary of Royal Gorge fire remembered

Park managers hoping for partial re-opening in mid-August

Royal Gorge Park Fire Remembered on One-Year Anniversary

FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. - A year ago Wednesday, a fire at the Royal Gorge Park spared the popular bridge but burned 3,000 acres and destroyed 48 of 52 buildings.

Investigators said someone ignited the fire, either by accident or intentionally.  The bridge was built in 1929 and many of the buildings were built within a few years afterward.

The park has remained closed since, except for guided tours on weekends and holidays.  Visitors also have the of viewing the park location from a scenic overlook.

Workers began a $23 million rebuilding project in January.  Workers are first constructing a new visitors center that will have an improved restaurant and better views of the gorge scenery.

Mike Bandera, the park's vice president and general manager, said the park will reopen in several phases that will be spread over the next year or two. 

"I'm happy to see things actually being completed," he said.  "Can't wait to get back to operating seven days a week."

Gail Barrier, a tourist from Missouri, is one of many visitors who said she hadn't heard about the fire and was disappointed after making her first trip to the park.

"It's pretty devastating," she said.  " I didn't know it was a year ago today, until just a while ago.  We thought that maybe the bridge would be open."

As the park reopens, it will have a distinctively different look than it had in the past.  Attractions will include a train, sky coaster, children's playground, carousel and a new zip line and aerial tram.  A new 5,000-seat outdoor amphitheater also will be part of the park.

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