BOULDER - For the first time since the flooding problems started, officials with the City of Boulder allowed 9NEWS to survey the damage caused to some of their most treasured natural gems. The early estimates of the damage total more than $17.6 million.
"The damage to the trails has been a big impact to the community in Boulder," Steve Mertz, outreach coordinator for Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks Department.
Mertz showed us parts of Chautauqua Park devastated by the flood.
"It was taking huge boulders and just driving them down stream like they weighed nothing," Mertz said.
Trails have washed away. Mudslides have taken down entire hillsides. Roads have buckled under the tremendous force of the water. Mertz shows us a 25-foot canyon where the water came rushing down from the Flatirons.
"Two weeks ago, this did not exist," Mertz said. "This drainage was carved out in one night starting at about 10:30."
Brigid Sanner is amongst a group of volunteers undergoing training to be hike leaders in Chautauqua Park. She is an avid park patron.
"It's just incredible the power of what's happened here," Sanner said.
Sanner said the landscape is now entirely different.
"One of things I do as a volunteer is work with kids," Sanner said. "There's one of my favorite places and I actually tell stories there with the kids. It's gone."
But, what may be more important is not what was damaged. It's what was saved.
"I think they're referring to this as a hero bridge," Sanner said.
An old stone bridge along Bluebird Creek just may have saved the neighborhoods below it.
"A lot of these boulders came off the hillside from a long ways up the hill and they were moving very quickly," Mertz said. "They stopped when they got to the bridge."
Mertz says some of the rocks that were stopped weighed more than 10,000 pounds.
"We believe that this bridge probably saved a lot of property damage, if not lives," Mertz said. "It's not why the bridge was put in, but it certainly acted as a barrier for some of the large boulders to keep moving downhill."
Despite the damage, about one-third of the trails within the Open Space and Mountain Parks system have been re-opened. Mertz says people should be very careful because some the land is still unstable. Next week, several volunteer drives will begin to start to restore some of the damaged trails.
"The whole eco-system out here, everything is still in a dynamic state," Mertz said. "We're still having things come down. We're still getting erosion."
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)