Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rainbow Falls cleaning up its act

Posted by on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM

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For years, I didn't know that the waterfall to the west of Manitou Springs had a name other than "Graffiti Falls."

I guess I never doubted the validity of the title because it was just so darn fitting.

Turns out the place I knew for neon paint, broken glass and drug paraphernalia actually has an official name: "Rainbow Falls." And no, "Rainbow" neither refers to the bright paint, nor the colorful language it spells out. I guess before a bridge blocked off the sunlight, Rainbow Falls used to catch the beams in its mist, creating real rainbows. It was so magical, in fact, that it was a top tourist attraction.

Who knew?

Well, a few Manitou locals did, actually. And they've put in the time and effort to get the falls restored, and make it a place you'd actually want to take your kids. The plan was recently approved by the county, and the funding is in place. Rainbow is already significantly prettier than it was when I first saw it, thanks to a lot of volunteers.

So, it shouldn't be long before Rainbow Falls is once again a favorite spots for picnics and camera-toting tourists.

El Paso County Commissioners Approve Rainbow Falls Master Plan
Collaborative Plan Details Management, Maintenance, Improvements and Funding of the Falls


El Paso County, April 14, 2011 — During the April 12 meeting of the El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), Commissioners received and approved a comprehensive plan dedicated to the restoration and future preservation of historic Rainbow Falls, located on the outskirts of Manitou Springs. Community Services Department Director Tim Wolken gave a presentation to the BoCC highlighting past and future initiatives to clean up the Falls and re-instate it as a treasured landmark and featured attraction for both County residents and visitors to the region. Some of the more immediate renovations and enhancements to the Falls include the addition of trailheads, public pathways showcasing natural vegetation, picnic sites, expanded parking, historic markers, an information kiosk and additional security measures. Other effort will be dedicated to environmental restoration and infrastructure improvements — including erosion control along US Highway 24, and bank and creek stabilization. Total estimated costs to complete all phases of the Rainbow Falls Restoration Master Plan range between $350 and $600 thousand.

Commissioner Sallie Clark, who serves as BoCC Vice Chair, Park Advisory Board Liaison and Resident Commissioner of the Rainbow Falls property, expressed her appreciation for County and community-wide efforts — ranging from fundraisers to clean-up campaigns to engaged citizen discussions — culminating in the completion and adoption of the Fall’s Master Plan. “It's with appreciation to the public-private partnerships of the many agencies and organizations that our restoration efforts have been realized,” said Clark. "Thanks to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO/State Lottery) proceeds, in addition to fundraisers and inter-agency collaborations, this once local gem will shine once again."

Background on Rainbow Falls
In April 2010, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners obtained ownership of the 4.9 acre Rainbow Falls property — complete with beautiful waterfalls and other scenic landscape along Fountain Creek. In the late 1800's, Rainbow Falls was a popular picnic stop for travelers along the historic wagon trail through Ute Pass. In recent years, the property has been plagued with graffiti in addition to erosion and environmental issues.

Rainbow Falls’ restoration efforts are a true public-private collaborative involving a number of agencies, community partners and citizens at-large; including: El Paso County; Manitou Springs; Manitou Environmental Citizens Action (M.E.C.A.); Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce; Trails and Open Space Coalition; Fountain Creek Restoration Committee; Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District; and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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