Big Elk Meadows: The Road Home
For almost two months, very little was known about the status of this picturesque little community. The September flood had swept away huge sections of Highway 47 and isolated 32 homeowners who opted to stay. Only recently have all road restrictions been lifted and the stories are now being shared. Full-time residents Donna Compton, Carole Renouf and Greg Overton reflected on those initial weeks and months. After evacuating 108 people, the remaining people began assessing the resources available to them. Due to the generosity of most of the residents, food, gas, generators, and ATVs were donated to help the community in any way possible. Work crews were organized and sent out from the fire station to check on homes, tear out carpeting, collect trash, etc. Everyone pitched in. “It was a group effort,” Carole said. “We consolidated our food and some of us worked together to provide three meals a day at the firehouse for everyone.”
The main challenge was trying to get the main road repaired. Fortunately, there were a few construction machines in the area that could start working, and the rest was done manually. Culverts were recovered and rolled or pulled to areas needed. With community volunteers poised at Big Elk and others at Cabin Creek, they began working towards each other to establish a passable road. During that time, power and water were not available, so gasoline was conserved. ATVs and generators proved invaluable in working on projects and providing electricity when needed, because it was almost two months before power was finally restored on November 8.
Now more than three months after the flood, the roads are generally passable; but life is far from normal. Residents are busy installing temporary water tanks, eliminating mold, tearing out drywall, collecting trash from in and around the homes, and repairing damage. The Big Elk Meadows Association is active in addressing the many issues that affect this community. They have appointed Glenn Christensen the Recovery Project Manager to oversee the reconstruction of their many dams, replacement of their water processing and distribution, and repair of individual roads. Grants and loans are currently being pursued to provide needed funding. The road home will take time, but everyone is committed to do their part.
As weeks turn into months, disaster fatigue can become a reality; but the folks in Big Elk have a remedy. Donna Compton says, “There is a cheerful attitude here. We have a sense of humor and a pioneer spirit that keeps us going.” Greg Overton stated, “This disaster has brought the community together and great friendships have resulted. Personally, I find relief from stress every time I help someone else.”
This community, like others in the area, is pulling together to build “the road home;” but some outside assistance like plumbers to help hook up temporary water tanks and able-bodied people to help get rid of slash and trash would be appreciated. If you feel called to help, please contact Greg Overton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Big Elk fire station at 303-823-5717.
Emergency Fund Help For Big Elk Meadows
The Emergency Flood Relief Fund is managed by Crossroads Ministry with case workers assigned to assess the needs of individuals. In Big Elk Meadows, the major need has been for water; because when the dams were washed away, all water was lost. Temporary water storage tanks and hook-ups are essential for the full-time residents to be able to stay in their homes until the dams can be rebuilt. As this need became apparent, case managers at Crossroads have expended over $3,800 to help several families purchase those precious water tanks and fittings. When asked if the emergency relief fund is helping in the Big Elk community, Glenn Christensen states emphatically, “It’s reached us! Crossroads has been fantastic!”
As of Friday, December 20 The Emergency Flood Relief Fund has designated funding for 176 assists totaling $138,446. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this fund. There is not enough funding to solve all of the needs in the Estes Valley, but with diligence, compassion, and wisdom, Crossroads is maximizing the impact of the assists to help as many people as possible restore some normality to their lives.