Aug 31, 2014 7:55 PM by Lena Howland

Royal Gorge Bridge welcomes thousands for opening weekend

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is officially back open following a 14 month closure.

It had been closed for demolition and construction of new structures in the park after the Royal Gorge Fire tore through last summer.

"Walking across the bridge and seeing the view through the Arkansas Valley there, it's my favorite thing, so at least that's still preserved," Kurt Mihm, a Colorado Springs resident said.

It's been 14 months.

"We went through seven months of demolition and now seven months of construction to get to this stage and we're very, very happy to see hundreds of people on the bridge finally," Mike Bandera, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park General Manager said.

14 months ago, a devastating fire ripped through the canyon, destroying 48 out of 52 buildings at the Royal Gorge.

"It burned them down to ashes," Bandera said.

Before the fire, the Royal Gorge averaged about 300,000 guests per year.

"So it gets hard to get used to seeing no people per day," he said.

But the park is now back open for business, just in time for Labor Day. They're expecting upward of 10,000 people to come through this weekend alone.

"It's not what we would have done when we were fully open and so on but it's a great reopening and a great start," he said.

Curiosity brought in the regulars..

"I just wanted to see what changes were made since the fire, actually to see what damages it caused and where they're at in the rebuild process," Mihm said.

And the regulars were the first to notice what was missing.

"The trolley that goes down into the valley, that was kind of a nice little attraction that's no longer here," he said.

"I can't believe that they've rebuilt already and how impressive it is," Kristine Nissen, an Oklahoma City resident said. "You know, that it was so damaged and so that's a lot of work and I really applaud everybody who put their time and effort into that."

In the next few months, the Royal Gorge will be putting in a brand new aerial tram, a glass gondola and a zip line stretching all the way across the gorge.

"Next May is, sort of, we will be very close to what the park was prior to the fire," Bandera said.

The Royal Gorge will be closed again Tuesday through Friday for more construction, but will officially reopen again next Saturday, September 6 year-round.


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