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Jun 17, 2013 8:46 PM by Sam Salzwedel

Canon City optimistic about tourism after fire

CANON CITY - The tourist town is optimistic after a wildfire closed one of its landmarks.

The Royal Gorge Fire burned 48 out of 52 buildings at the Royal Gorge Bridge theme park and the bridge is closed.

Mike Bandera is the Royal Gorge Bridge Visitor Center general manager. About 150 of his seasonal workers lost jobs. They will keep their 40 full-time employees, who will help rebuild. They want to have a new park ready by next summer. The bridge should reopen in the fall.

"The peak of the peak is mid-June to mid-August," Bandera said. "This thing hit at exactly the wrong time."

Rangers turn people around when they try to see the bridge. Brenda Knoch tried to visit on her vacation from Tennessee.

"I hate to see this for the area," she said. "Especially up in the Black Forest area also. So we'll come back and make another trip."

The Royal Gorge Fire burned the same time as the Black Forest Fire, also near Colorado Springs. Black Forest burned almost 500 homes and 2 people died.

Will Sanders flies for Royal Gorge Helitours.

"We still have our trees, and the canyon is just as gorgeous as ever," he said. "We actually have a better show than we used to have, with the fire being where it's at, now we can actually show them where it came through."

Loren Gineris was happy to spend her vacation in Canon City, rafting and checking out other sights.

"We still came, absolutely," she said. "I've never been to this part of America before. It's gorgeous. I would absolutely say to come."

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