Beauty from ashes: GingerSnap Rescue Ranch
Last updated 7/14/2021 at 12:12pm
In the last year, many readers have shared stories of crushed projects and dreams, but also stories of opportunities that arose from their losses. Sometimes tragedy provides a chance for new directions.
Even before the pandemic, Eryn and Benjamin Maggard were learning this in an unexpected way. In 2015, they started GingerSnap Rescue Ranch in the Hanover area. The animal rescue shelter provides a home for older, disabled or injured animals, and sometimes takes in young animals so they can be relocated. Initially, the Maggards planned GingerSnap to be a side project.
"I kind of just started it as a hobby and it snowballed a little bit," Eryn said. "I was doing a goat milking farm, so I was just doing the rescue as a hobby."
After three years, the Maggards reached the point where the goat milk farm was ready.
"We had spent two years breeding our goats, keeping the girls and switching out the boys, and we were just to the point where I had just started milking everyone," Eryn said. "I also had started making lotions a few weeks before the fire."
The 117 Fire (named for the fact it started near I-25's mile marker 117) started April 17, 2018, in the Hanover area. By the time authorities contained the fire two days later, it had destroyed 42,795 acres and 23 homes, plus various farm buildings. At the time, it was the fifth-largest fire in the state's history.
"We lost everything but the house," Eryn remembered. "We lost the barn, the feed sheds, all the animal homes and then we lost almost 40 animals. Everything else was hurt or burned that was left behind."
The animals killed in the fire included 30 of the Maggards' goats. With most of their goat herd gone, they had to rethink things.
"When the fire came through, it killed a good majority of our goats and pigs, so I couldn't do the goat milking anymore," Eryn said. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to do the rescue anymore, but we kept on getting more calls about animals. So I just went to straight rescuing."
Today, GingerSnap takes in a variety of animals. Younger ones that can be re-homed as pets or farm animals get adopted out. The main focus is caring for animals that are injured, older or have disabilities.
The local community came forward to help. People donated supplies and feed, and a friend started a GoFundMe page for reconstruction costs (gofundme.com/f/gingersnap-rescue-ranch-rebuild). With time and patience, the Maggards have gotten GingerSnap up and running again, although there's still work to be done.
"We are still rebuilding," Eryn said. "The first year we spent cleaning up the farm because there was so much debris from the fire. The last two years we have put up four more buildings, and we're getting ready to start a new barn before winter."
GingerSnap became a registered nonprofit in April 2020.The ranch takes in a variety of animals (it currently has a contest to name the newest cow: checkout.square.site/buy/5ZQ7URU2G2P7X3L3W5ZG7PBN). People can also come by Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to enjoy the petting zoo. The address is 16555 DeGroot Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80928, about 17 miles southeast of downtown Fountain.
"We've got all kinds of birds," Eryn said. "We've got chickens and roosters. We have an emu, turkeys, ducks and then we have rabbits, we have goats, lambs and sheep. We've got many horses, ponies, we've got cows and llamas."
The petting zoo started in February 2020, but then COVID-19 restrictions caused it to close down until May 2020. After that, GingerSnap operated it on a limited basis (appointment only, one visitor at a time) for two months before returning to full capacity. Despite these setbacks, the petting zoo did well in the pandemic.
"I think it helped us more than anything, because people really wanted to get out at that point," Eryn said. "We're still getting people now who are like, 'we haven't been out in a year, this is our first outing.'"
There are plans for new attractions that will hopefully be ready by August.
"We just bought another tractor, so we're looking for a trailer to convert it so we can do hay rides," Eryn said. "We're working on our horses right now, so we can start pony rides soon. I'm hoping that will start up again in the next month."
It's clear that GingerSnap has lots to offer, but perhaps the greatest benefit is seeing how animals bond with people.
"Each and every one of them has their own little personality," Eryn reflected. "They're super friendly with people – they come out and they're usually shy of people, but within a few weeks we get them used to people. They all go up to everyone, and every one [of them is] so pet-able."
To contact GingerSnap about taking new animals, visit gingersnaprescue.org or facebook.com/GingersnapRescueRanch. Facebook or phone (719-683-9899) is the best way to learn about the petting zoo, which costs $5 per person plus $2 for feed bags.
To donate, use GoFundMe or mail a check to: 16555 DeGroot Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80928. Animal lovers may also enjoy GingerSnap's TikTok page (@gingersnapranch), which has videos of the animals.