A fond farewell from your hometown newspaper
Last updated 12/28/2022 at 12:38am | View PDF
Over the years we have covered some of the Fountain Valley's happiest moments as well as its worst tragedies – and many things in between. Here we are highlighting some of those that stood out in our thoughts and memories.
We Made it – Y2K!!
With all the worries and concerns everyone had about computers going haywire when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, it was a great relief when the moment passed and all was fine. Residents who had been stockpiling toilet paper, groceries and other supplies realized they would be good to go on those items for quite a while. We celebrated the moment with a photo of fireworks bursting over Sunrise Ridge at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, which was printed on the front page.
Our biggest tragedies
The plane crash at Widefield Park
The worst tragedy in the history of our Fountain Valley community was the crash of United Airlines Flight 585 into Widefield Park on March 3, 1991. There were 25 people onboard the flight who died in the crash, and also on the flight was a deceased person being transported home for burial. Editor Patricia St. Louis got a call from a relative who lived near the park telling her she better get down there fast. She recalled how people were running to the park from all directions to see what happened, and emergency personnel from around the region were rushing there, too. Residents were shocked and horrified to learn it was a large passenger plane that crashed into a 15-foot hole, just across from the Widefield (Kokomo) Apartments. A memorial gazebo was later built at the site, and in it are two stone memorials bearing the names of the victims.
The biggest tragedy in recent memory is the case of Gannon Stauch, an 11-year-old boy who was reported missing from his home in Lorson Ranch in January 2020. The entire Colorado Springs community, as well as concerned people around the globe, developed an interest in the case of this boy, who at the time of his disappearance was a fifth-grader at the new Grand Mountain School in Widefield School District 3. Sadly, investigators eventually learned that Gannon had been murdered, allegedly at the hands of his stepmother, Letecia Stauch. His body was found in Florida in March 2020, and Letecia has remained in custody awaiting trial ever since.
Blizzard of '97
In October, 1997 a state of emergency was declared across the front range when a blizzard brought heavy snow burying highways, roads, cars and yards. Highways were closed from Wyoming to New Mexico and police urged residents to stay home due to the blowing snow and freezing temperatures. Travel was restricted except for emergency vehicles as the Pikes Peak region came to a standstill.
Sadly, a young couple died in their truck parked alongside Fontaine Blvd. Fifteen-foot high walls of snow lined the roadway near the intersection at Marksheffel Road and east of Powers Blvd. Sadly, the couple was less than one mile from their home but likely had no idea because of the white-out conditions.
A small group of courageous souls including Old Pueblo Road resident Ken Lacy, rescued 18 people from 10 vehicles left stranded by the blizzard using tractors to clear a path on Squirrel Creek Road after receiving a call to see if they could help find someone.
When lightning struck the hilltop east of Fountain Mesa Road very near the road's intersection with Comanche Village Drive, it caused a tire fire that quickly sent a huge smoke plume into the skies that could be seen from as far away as Monument. The fire burned for days because the hillside had been used for many years in the past as a place to dump tires and other things. Despite the best efforts of area fire departments to extinguish the fire, it just wouldn't go out. Finally, large earth movers were brought in from Fort Carson to bury the fire and cover it with dirt. It was estimated it could continue burning for some time before it would be fully extinguished.
A second tire fire took place at a later date in the field where the Lowe's store is now located, but fire fighters were able to get that one put out.
Flooding in Fountain Creek
Living along waterways like Fountain Creek and the smaller Jimmy Camp Creek has made for beautiful scenery and recreation along the creek banks in good weather. However a few times, heavy rains have turned the creeks into rivers full of raging waters.
Before any of our current News staff members were here, there was flooding that knocked out a bridge near Metcalfe Park and caused all kinds of headaches for local residents.
Many years later we witnessed the devastating power of those raging waters as they destroyed creek banks, 30 to 40 foot trees falling into the waters as they wreaked havoc as they roared downstream.
A power pole was knocked down behind the area of the Duckwood Active Use area to the east and the KOA Campground to the west, which left Fountain residents without power for a day or two. One of KOA's cabins even fell victim to the surging waters and was seen floating away downstream. A trailbridge near the Hanson Nature Park in Fountain that had been dedicated in memory of this paper's co-founder Carl Wiese had some of those 30 foot trees splintered between the rails of the bridge. The bridge was designed to break away on one side which it did. The entire area was changed, with so many enormous trees falling into the waters which carved a new waterway where the trees had once stood. Remediation work took place over several years and the bridge was relocated to a point further south.
Twice in our paper's history we featured numerous articles related to water contamination issues. First in 1995, when "PCE" was found in the Willow Springs Fishing Ponds, which are fed from underground streams. It was later determined the contamination had traveled in underground aquifers from the former Schlage Lock facility north of Security and down along the Fountain Creek's route. The ponds were closed to fishing until the waters could be reclaimed with use of "fountains" that helped to diffuse the presence of the chemicals in the water.
A few years ago, the paper received a call from a concerned reader who had read an article in the New York Times about water contamination back east that was blamed for illnesses and death in several thousand residents; which had a side bar stating some of the worst contamination was found in the waters of Fountain, Security and Widefield, CO. It was later determined the chemicals had been used in firefighting foam used for training at Peterson Air Force Base, and made their way in the underground aquifer to local wells. Quickly local utilities launched their own investigations and it was the start of complex awareness campaigns and construction of water filtration plants. Local resident Liz Rosenbaum helped to organize the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and has become a champion of water rights and this cause, including submitted columns to this paper to keep everyone up to date and education about related developments elsewhere. In a program hosted by the University of Colorado testing of local residents has taken place over the last few years. CoScope has been conducting testing this year for a study of Community Outcomes from PFAS exposure. They can be reached at 719-425-8828.
City of Fountain named America's Millenium City...
In 2000, the New York times recognized the City of Fountain as America's Millenium City, because it best represented the diverse "melting pot" that is America. Statistics, which included neighboring communities of Security and Widefield, showed that the Fountain Valley area best symbolized the overall composition of America, on a smaller scale. In addition to winning the title, residents were invited to submit items for consideration to be included in a Times Capsule to be placed at a museum in New York City. A special edition of the New York Times featured a cover photo of world-famous actor Robin Williams holding a flip-flop to his ear, with the Times Capsule behind him. Inside was a lengthy story about how Fountain was selected and included photos of local residents and youth showing items they nominated for inclusion. Things like a video-game joystick, a Pokemon card, a cell phone, floppy disk, computer game, photos of a graduating class from FFCHS, country music CDs, a piece of sod and more. Veteran Ralph Nothstine offered one of the five Purple Hearts he had received. The Fountain City Council including Mayor Ken Barela and councilmembers Dan Kerr, Mary Jo Durbin, Terrie Burke, Richard Freeman, Jim Heckman and Billy Oneyear were pictured on one of the city's fire trucks with a framed collections of their submissions, which included a Beanie Baby, dog tags, a bullet, a Christmas ornament from the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce and a copy of this newspaper, which happened to show the zucchini contest winners on the front page.
The Times Capsule was being created at the end of the 20th century to include artifacts that would give people living in the year 3000 some idea of who we were and how we lived.
Fountain named All-America City
Only two years after being named America's Millenium City, the City of Fountain was named a finalist in one of the oldest and most respected community recognition programs, the All-America City Award program hosted by the National Civic League, an 108-year-old non-profit, non-partisan organization (as of the year 2002). It was in its 53rd year of awarding the distinguished honor, given to communities that demonstrate successful resolution of community issues through collaborative efforts, including citizen involvement, effective and efficient government performance, maximized local philanthropic and volunteer resources, a strong capacity for cooperation and consensus building, community vision and pride, inter-group relations, community information sharing and inter-community cooperation. Each year 10 cities are selected for exemplifying the American spirit at work.
The competition process began with the task of compiling a lengthy application about Fountain's challenges and how the community was working together to overcome them. From here 30 finalist cities were selected and invited to go to Kansas City to give a 10-minute presentation on stage in front of the other delegations, followed by a 10-minuted question and answer session. Fountain and Boulder were the only two finalists from Colorado, and City of Fountain was thrilled to be one of the winners for 2002. A large celebration was hosted in the City Hall Plaza by the Fountain Downtown Events Association upon the delegations arrival home.
PPIR brings top names
in racing to its one-mile oval
Fountain, CO was really put on the map for sports fans when Pikes Peak International Raceway was opened at the site of a former horse-racing track south of the city off of I-25. A 43,000 seat grandstand included a box office and track store. The inaugural event in June of 1997 was the United States Auto Club Rocky Mountain Classic presented by southern Colorado Chevrolet dealers. It would soon be followed by the cars and stars of NASCAR with Winston Cup regulars Michael Waltrip and Kenny Shrader placing first and second respectively in the NASCAR 500K. Indy Racing League hosted the Samsonite 200 in July thrilling local race fans. Tony Stewart was the winner followed by Stephan Gregoire and Davey Hamilton. Also featured at the track was Midget racing, NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, AMA Superbike racing and more. A special visitor during the Craftsman Truck races in May, 2000 was Robbie Knievel who performed a no hands record setting jump, traveling a distance of 187 feet from liftoff to landing.
Perhaps our most favorite Fountain Valley tradition to feature on our pages was ever ,fall when Nick and Bambi Venetucci opened their farm to children from local schools and across the state for the annual pumpkin give-away. Little ones went there in search of the perfect pumpkin and left with the biggest smiles on their faces.
Covering World Leaders
Over the years several presidents, first ladies and other national leaders were included on our pages from their visits to Fort Carson as well as local schools. In most recent years they included First Lady Michelle Obama with Jill Biden (our current first lady now.) Also featured were President Donald Trump, President George W. Bush and George Bush Senior and his wife, Barbara, when he was a vice president.
People's lives were deeply impacted when COVID-19 came on the scene early in 2020. By March, state, county and federal governments were enacting a variety of orders declaring that certain "nonessential" businesses should close and that people should only enter stores while wearing masks. While the worst of COVID-19 seems to have passed, many people still mourn the loss of loved ones from COVID-related complications. Some businesses never survived the shutdowns. This newspaper certainly, though considered an "essential business" and permitted to remain open during the height of the pandemic, still suffered significant financial losses that, in part, contributed to our closure after this issue.
In Memory of our Founders - The Relay for Life
After losing the paper's co-founders H. Kay Larson (in 1981) and Carl H. Wiese (in 1994) to their courageous battles with cancer, it was an honor for the paper to help organize and sponsor the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in the Fountain Valley for several years, starting with the inaugural event in 2000. The Relay was an overnight event in which teams set up campsites and members walked on the tracks of whichever local school was the host of the year, raising vital funds through pledges they had received, to benefit the fight against cancer.