Manitou Springs kicked off a long-awaited downtown revitalization project this month in the city's trademark fashion: restoring a natural spring.
For more than 50 years, Shoshone Spring and its distinctive hut on Manitou Avenue have been placed off limits behind a metal fence.
Last week the fence came down, and work began on restoring the spring and the sidewalk around it -- the first stage of a five-year, $6 million construction project that will widen sidewalks and bury telephone lines. The city west of Colorado Springs also plans to plant more trees and add rustic streetlamps to the cityscape.
"You get to see something come out of the ground and see real change happen," said Manitou Springs Mayor Marcy Morrison, who helped push the $1.6 million voter-approved bond in 2003 to begin financing the project. Additional costs will be paid with federal highway grants, local fundraising and gifts from the El Pomar Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado.
"We need this revitalization to keep this town alive and prosperous," she said, adding that Manitou Springs must do everything it can to compete with other mountain cities, such as Breckenridge, for tourist dollars.
The sulfur-laced and slightly radioactive (but harmless) waters of Shoshone Spring bubbled out of the earth even before the city's founding in the 1870s. And it was a major attraction for tuberculosis patients who flocked to the area for the mineral-rich waters and clean mountain air. The initial spring renovation project will be completed by the end of May and the fountain will be reopened to the public shortly thereafter.
"It's for the true water aficionado," said Deborah Harrison, a local historian who has studied the city's springs. She said Shoshone's strong-tasting water was popular among TB patients because it's "very purging."
-- Dan Wilcock