COBWEB CORNERS: Fire in 1840s took most of area’s trees

By Mel McFarland

       This is one of my favorite subjects, combined with one of my least favorite. As I left Manitou Springs on the first day of the Waldo Canyon Fire, I was glad I knew some back streets! I watched others go up streets and hoped they knew they were heading for a dead end!
       After I drop off columns at the Westside Pioneer office, I often go to some familiar Westside spot to look around. At Fairview Cemetery, I like to wander about, looking at the familiar names, stopping now and then to perhaps think of stories about this or that person. Near one of my old friends' headstones is a great view of the area. Recently it has been where some have watched the fire.
       Years ago it was easier to see the mountains from backyards in this area. Over the years more trees have grown up. Above Manitou and all along US 24 the forest will take a long time to regrow. The sight has happened before, but none of us were here! It was back in the 1840s! A fire burned from Manitou Park to this side of Pikes Peak, south to the Royal Gorge area and back. It finally burned out near Palmer Lake. The fire lasted 13 months! When the early settlers arrived, this area had mostly just young trees. An exception was some cottonwoods along Fountain Creek, a few of which were used to build homes in early Colorado City. To develop Colorado Springs, General Palmer had to ship in trees from the Arkansas Valley! The first parks started with no trees too. When people built homes in the area, putting in trees was a big selling point. An oldtimer might not believe the variety of trees and bushes we have now.
       After the current fire is cleaned up, new trees will return. Some trees need fires to spread seeds. The fire has cleared out the brush, but it will not be a pretty scene for a few years. But every now and then, even in the Hayman burn area, you see things that survived. Odd how fires spare some plants and houses! It was all too frustrating this week to have our view blocked by the smoke of varied colors and to wonder what was burning. I think about the trees up on the old quarry scar that are just getting going.