COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Flying W Ranch on Thursday laid out its plans to reopen on a limited basis after recovering from last summer's Waldo Canyon wildfire.
Marketing manager Aaron Winter said management wants the popular tourist attraction to open three days a week this summer, with the grand reopening to occur between Memorial Day weekend and the fire's anniversary in late June.
To meet that goal, Winter said the ranch needs to have a temporary outdoor pavilion built. He said that possibility is being considered.
"That's where we'll continue to have our chuckwagon supper and our western stage show," he said. "People will be able to walk around for about an hour prior to dinner, and hopefully look at old-time photography of the ranch as it was."
Winter said he has visited conferences for the National Tourism Association and the American Bus Association to promote the ranch's intended reopening.
"We're just telling them we're going to be open," he said. "We don't know in what capacity just yet. But as soon as we get final word, we're going to contact (them) to start bringing those groups back."
All but one of the ranch's buildings was destroyed in the fire. Winter said staff and volunteers have worked hard to facilitate reopening by removing debris and reducing the threat of erosion and flash flooding.
Winter said the the ranch's capacity before the fire was 1,200 people, and he's not certain what the new capacity will be. He also said the fire's aftermath may be an added attraction for visitors.
"Many people haven't been here since the fire," said Winter. "They're still going to see burned trees and piles of rubble because we're not going to be able to clean all of it up."
Winter said management hopes the ranch will resume operating on a normal basis in the summer of 2014, provided that many of the buildings lost are rebuilt.
On Thursday, an Illinois family that only recently learned of fire, came to town for Spring Break hoping to visit the ranch. However, Nealy Wubker, her husband and six of their seven children were disappointed to find the ranch closed.
"I came here probably 20 years ago with my parents on a vacation in high school," said Wubker. "I want to bring my kids back."
The ranch continues to seek financial donations, as well as donations of western memorabilia. If you'd like to help, contact the ranch at 719-598-4000.
This summer marks the ranch's 60th anniversary since its founding by Russ Wolfe in 1953.