You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone
Colorado’s September floods are old news now to most of the country, but the after effects continue to reverberate in the flood zone.
I had heard, for example, that Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park would be closed through 2014. Not until today, however, did I come across the National Park Service’s December 9 report on the road, which included this photo. Little more needs to be said. The old one-lane one-way dirt road that huffs, puffs, and claws its way up the steep south slope of Mount Chapin obviously needs extensive repairs.
It’s amazing how deprived I feel, considering I’ve driven that road only three times in the last 40 years. But now that I see how damaged it is, now that I know it’s closed … now I feel a great loss. Now I feel that surely if the road were open next summer, I’d be up there every couple of weeks.
I feel reasonably confident that the road, with all the history behind it, will be rebuilt. But you never quite know what the park service will ultimately decide is a “natural occurrence” that should be respected as nature at work and thus left alone. Certainly it would be a lot cheaper to just put up a sign saying “Remnants of Old Fall River Road, destroyed by the historic floods of 2013” than to rebuild the road.
After all, it’s happened before. When the Lawn Lake Dam broke in 1982 and washed tons of debris down into RMNP’s Horseshoe Park, the park service didn’t bring in heavy equipment to clear away the mess. They just put up signs telling how the alluvial fan was formed and rerouted the road through it. And that wasn’t even a natural disaster. That was the failure of a poorly maintained manmade dam.
So I find myself wondering if the old road should actually be restored. Would one less road in the backcountry be a loss … or a gain?