Another year has come and gone, bringing us another cascade of surprises mixed with shocks, more of both than hardly any city and metro area of our size should expect in any given 12 months.
Who could have dreamed we would be struck by another deadly fire for the second consecutive June, this one causing even more damage than the Waldo Canyon blaze of 2012? Who could have envisioned that the Black Forest fire would destroy nearly 500 homes in northern El Paso County, at the same time that another sudden wildfire about 60 miles away was striking one of the region’s most iconic tourist attractions, nearly destroying the Royal Gorge Bridge?
We actually had some warning, in light of the fires, ahead of the rash of severe summer floods from July to September. They caused more damage in the multi-millions, shut down roads and impacted businesses from Cascade and Green Mountain Falls to Manitou Springs and Cheyenne Cañon.
And finally, who would have expected that thousands of area employees in the military and defense industry would have to endure one-day-a-week furloughs and then the two-week federal government shutdown in October? During that ordeal, national media including the Washington Post branded Colorado Springs as the shutdown’s most-affected city in America.
But we noticed something else about the Pikes Peak region in 2013, which probably can be traced directly to the Waldo Canyon fire and its aftermath a year earlier.
After going through that first tragic disaster, we absorbed every body blow that Mother Nature and the outside world could throw at us this past year. Granted, some businesses didn’t make it, and many more families were paralyzed by the staggering financial and emotional blow of losing their homes.
We’re moving on, though, and not wallowing in the pain. Also, amid all that bad news, we’ve had plenty of positive developments. The fire and drainage mitigation work in the burn-scar areas has been substantial, and it already was making a difference before the end of the year.
[pullquote]National media including the Washington Post branded Colorado Springs as the shutdown’s most-affected city in America.[/pullquote]
Many thousands of north-county residents are beginning to appreciate the widening of Interstate 25, which truly does affect their quality of life each day. The area economy has been on the upswing, and with gas prices down, tourism did begin to salvage some of what was lost the past two summers.
Now, too, we have the initial go-ahead for City for Champions. It certainly doesn’t solve every problem, and much still remains to be done before groundbreaking can commence. But it’s nice to have a positive gesture from state government that, properly carried out, could help boost Colorado Springs into an era of new prosperity.
Looking ahead, we can expect another murky and divisive year in politics with the 2014 elections. But that won’t come as a stunner.
Actually, our only wish for 2014 would be simply for Colorado Springs to be spared any more major natural disasters. We’ve had enough of those for a while.
What we need now is simply a calm, productive year for business in the Pikes Peak region. Give us that, with no more major fires or floods, and let’s see what happens.