by Juanita Canzoneri
Commonwheel Member since 2004
and Marketing Manager
The back part of the Commonwheel Artists Co-op building sits directly over Fountain Creek. From my office area in the Creekside Gallery I get the opportunity to engage with customers about our noisy neighbor.
Manitou Springs is within the Fountain Creek Watershed. This watershed encompasses approximately 928 square miles with a perimeter of 160 miles.
The headwaters of Fountain Creek begin near Woodland Park on the eastern face of Pikes Peak and join with Monument Creek near downtown Colorado Springs. Monument Creek (and Fountain Creek along with it) ultimately ends up in the Arkansas River near Pueblo, Colorado.
The creek is fed by snow melt, runoff from natural springs, and rain water. Ruxton Creek (which runs along Ruxton Ave.) feeds into Fountain Creek at Soda Springs Park in Manitou Springs.
In 2013, one year after the Waldo Canyon Fire, Fountain Creek overflowed its banks on 2 occasions and flooded, among other places, the basement of Commonwheel Artists Co-op. In August 2013 water and debris entered our basement through an adjoining property. The water level came to within 6 inches of the basement ceiling.
The flood occurred on a Friday afternoon/evening. Several of us headed over to the shop on Saturday morning to see what we could do. We could see the high water mark in the stairwell to the basement and a neighbor had sent us photographs she’d taken through the broken basement window. Inside was a jumble of debris, mud, and what had been the contents of our basement. The removal work started within a couple days and lasted for weeks.
That Saturday is still a bit of a blur to me, except for 2 points. As I was walking to the store in my steel-toed boots I passed a family of 4 with bright white tennis shoes on. They were visiting from out of town and hadn’t heard about the flood. We were about a block from the mud zone at that point.
Then as I was getting in my car to go back home I noticed a guy on a Vespa driving past me. He had a shovel with him standing straight upright. He obviously came into Manitou to volunteer in the clean-up efforts like so many other people. The sheer numbers of people who came out to help clean was staggering. So much so that the Manitou Art Center (then the BAC) stepped forward to act as a clearinghouse for volunteers and supplies.
Again in September 2013 another flood left several inches of water in the basement but the high creek waters damaged some of the support struts under the back part of the building, forcing full and partial shop closure for the better part of 2 months.
Tens of millions of dollars in flood mitigation has been undertaken since 2013 by various organizations—CDOT, Manitou Springs, forest districts, and CUSP. To date these efforts have proven effective in keeping the worst of the debris out of Fountain Creek, or at least out of Manitou Springs.
Photos of the aftermath and cleanup from the August 2013 flood
Photos of Fountain Creek during the September 2013 flood