Park leaders tour Bock bomb shelter; preservation plea on March 13 agenda

       Colorado Springs Parks staff led members of the city's Parks Advisory Board through the old Bock bomb shelter at Red Rock Canyon Open Space March 4. The bomb shelter’s stylish fireplace.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The tour gave the board members a rare close-up look at the 1960s-era structure - which is usually locked up - before they decide whether to preserve all or part of it or tear it down.
       The City Council-appointed board is scheduled to discuss the matter at its March 13 meeting. Parks Director Paul Butcher said his staff will provide a “pro/con” presentation at that time. The meeting, open to the public, will start at 7:30 a.m. in the Parks office building, 1401 Recreation Way.
       Don Ellis, an acknowledged Red Rock historian, brought up the preservation idea in January. He believes the facility could have dual service as a interpretive center for the open space and a historic example of a Cold War bomb shelter.
       Consisting of about 1,000 square feet in three large rooms and a bathroom built into a hillside, the shelter adjoins a similar-sized garage with a sandstone façade, windows and garage doors. Located by the Red Rock Canyon Trail near a man-made lake, the garage/shelter is part of what was once a cluster of several buildings known as the “Bock Compound” - named for the family that owned the property for 60 years before the city bought it in 2003.
       The garage could be taken out, Ellis states in his written presentation, leaving just the shelter. Because this would require a new west wall for the shelter, Ellis proposes a smooth one with changing murals, possibly even having annual school competitions for the honor to paint them.
       However, Steve Snyder, another Red Rock researcher, said during the tour that removing the garage portion could compromise any possible historic status for the building, which might affect funding eligibility.
       Preserving any of the structure would require an amendment to the 2004 Red Rock Canyon Open Space Master Plan, which states only that the several Bock buildings that existed when the city bought the property - including an old block building, pole barns and a house on a nearby ridge - should receive “further evaluation and study.”
       To date, such evaluations have led to the demolition of all the buildings except the house and garage/bomb shelter. The house is slated for partial demolition, with a portion of it to be reconstructed as an open-air pavilion this year. That work is linked with the garage/bomb shelter because the staff's current plans call for its large wooden beams to be used for the pavilion.
       City plans call for extensive interpretive signage in the 788.1-acre property, but not a center-type facility, mainly because of staffing issues.
       Ellis argues in his document that Red Rock should have its own interpretive center because of the unique history and archeology of the open space.
       He said he plans to give a presentation of his own at the March 13 Parks Board meeting, including a discussion of cost alternatives.
       Features of the bomb shelter include a large fireplace with the stonework around it taking up an entire wall; four-foot thick walls on all sides except the one against the hill (note: the city plans to drill into one of those walls at some point to find out what's inside); no ceiling boards (the city removed them about two years ago because they contained asbestos); stairs that lead to nowhere, and a roof with several feet of grassy sod and nine ventilation shafts, plus a chimney.
       The normally locked building showed signs of vandalism, with all its windows broken. According to Parks staff, thieves recently even managed to find a way past the steel window bars to break in and steal all the copper from the electrical lines to the building. As a result, a portable generator had to be used to provide electrical power for the Parks Board members to see the interior.
       Butcher had also invited City Council members to attend the tour, but none came.

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