Manitou digs out from flood, mud

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Eddie Zewerski, an employee of Good Karma in Manitou Springs, takes a break from filling sand bags, as he works to help the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant re-open after the Aug. 9 flash flood shut down the business, along with several others adjacent to Fountain Creek.

Eddie Zewerski, an employee of Good Karma in Manitou Springs, takes a break from filling sand bags, as he works to help the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant re-open after the Aug. 9 flash flood shut down the business, along with several others adjacent to Fountain Creek.

Tuesday should have been the pinnacle of 12 years of hard work for Manitou Springs artist Charles Rockey.

It was to have been his last day preparing a book including more than 300 pieces of his artwork — with stories to accompany them.

For more than a decade he’s been working on the book, titled “Love Songs of Middletime Echo Through Illuminations and Fable.”

“It was kind of a letdown because I was all excited about it,” Rockey said.

But the Aug. 9 flash flood wiped out the workspace of a colleague helping him publish the book.

The computers “got wiped out,” said Rockey, sitting in his 10 Cañon Ave. studio. Thankfully, he said, his colleague made a copy of the work about a month ago, so “not everything was lost. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Rockey estimates it will take two weeks to bring the project back to where it was before the flood.

“The beauty is we have a place where people care about each other.”

– Charles Rockey, Manitou Springs artist

Meanwhile, the 81-year-old Manitou icon preferred to focus on the good after the flood.

“The beauty is we have a place where people care about each other,” Rockey said. “They work their tails off.”

Some businesses remained closed temporarily this week while legions of volunteers moved muddy items and bucket after bucket of mud from the lower level of businesses backing up to Fountain Creek along Manitou and Cañon avenues. Behind those avenues, Lovers Lane remained a beehive of activity, as multiple Dumpsters were filled with muddy items and rolled away.

Volunteers, business owners and property owners worked tirelessly, many of them with mud from their heads to their work boots.

Ascent, Marathon on track

The Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon, scheduled this weekend (Aug. 17-18) are running “full speed ahead … but cautiously,” said race director Ron Ilgen.

Organizers moved related events planned for Memorial and Soda Springs parks to Memorial Hall, behind Manitou’s city hall. They did cancel the exhibitor and vendor expo, but nothing else.

The race will start at the same historic places on Manitou Avenue and finish at the junction of Ruxton and Manitou avenues, but the spaghetti dinner and speaker program will be at Memorial Hall, Ilgen said.

“We’re going for it,” said Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder, adding that some constituents expressed concern about runners’ safety and urged the city to stop the annual event from happening.

However, of the different event planners the city works with, “they are by far the best organization,” Snyder said, so city officials felt comfortable allowing the event to proceed. Event planners approached town staff to change venues because of the parks flooding, he added.

Also, the Aug. 10 Craft Lager Fest, which was postponed because of the flood, was rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Norris-Penrose Event Center and will be a fund-raiser for flood relief, Snyder said.

Restaurants and taverns

Mike Milar, owner of the Keg Lounge at 730 Manitou Ave., said his restaurant and tavern sponsors the Peak Hawks and Peak Busters runners in the Ascent and Marathon.

The flood filled the Keg’s basement knee-high in mud, but employees and other volunteers worked to clean it out. Most of the food stored in the basement was elevated on shelves, Milar said, so, “we actually didn’t lose that much.”

Milar estimated the business lost $12,000 in revenues over the weekend because it was closed.

The flood “might be scaring a lot of the people away,” said Milar of the Ascent-Marathon weekend. “I’m surprised they’re having the race anyway.”

Down the street and around the corner, at 110 Cañon Ave., property owner Merry Peniston busily was moving filled sandbags to the front of the business, Good Karma Community Lounge & Deli.

“I own the building. They are my tenants. If they’re not going to be able to continue business, I’m not going to get paid, and I will lose the building. So it’s crucial I get them up and running,” said Peniston. “My goal is to get them up and running as soon as possible.”

BluSky Cleaners was working to clean and disinfect the restaurant space before it could reopen.

The stakes are high for Peniston.

“My retirement is this building. I’m 64 and still working,” she said.

Art, dulcimers, retail too

Close by, at 102 Cañon, Julia Wright and Lou Ann Sosalla kept the doors open at the Commonwheel Arts Co-Op. The artists’ cooperative lost the contents of its basement — its computer and other business equipment, Sosalla said. After the flood, the co-op used a slide machine for processing credit cards.

“I hope our machines get fixed today,” Sosalla said.

Wright said that by midweek, the mud in the basement had subsided from knee-high to mid-shin.

“The important thing is that the businesses are open,” Wright said. “Eighty-five percent of the businesses were not affected” by the flood.

Looking ahead to the Labor Day weekend and the Commonwheel Artists Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival, Wright said she is looking for another venue for the event. In past years, it has taken place at Memorial Park, but because of the flood, this year it will move elsewhere.

At 740 Manitou Ave., the Dulcimer Shop received more than two feet of mud and water in its basement, affecting the machines used to cut wood and craft the instruments.

“Some machines my mom made by hand,” said Erin Ford, who works at the shop, which was started in 1970 by her parents, Bud and Donna Ford.

“So we’re stalled completely,” Erin Ford said. Their next step is to ask an engineer to assess damage on the machines. Meanwhile, they tossed the wood that had been submerged in water and mud.

“We had such a loss of wood,” she said of the spruce, mahogany, rosewood, lace wood and zebra wood that were soaked in the flood. “We took a major hit.”

The equipment may be recoverable, “but the wood is unsalvageable,” Ford said. She estimated the loss of the items and damage to the building she and her parents own at $200,000.

Safron of Manitou, the art-to-wear shop at 720 Manitou Ave., will be moving to another venue, said owner Safron Neusaenger. The store salvaged 95 percent of its inventory, putting much of it in storage.

“This storefront won’t work,” Neusaenger said. “Structurally, it’s just not sound. It’s an old dairy and the walls are not sealed.” Still, she said, “I’m pretty hopeful and optimistic.”

At 736 Manitou Ave., Taos Maos gift shop owner Janice Hawley expressed concern about insurance.

“Insurance doesn’t cover anything in a basement, so if they determine our lower level is a basement, it won’t cover it,” she said, adding that items stored in the lower level are “toast.”

She will remain open because she has a lease.

“I have two years after this one,” Hawley said. After that, “Who knows?

“I think a lot of places are going to close. I don’t plan on closing.”