LAKEWOOD - More than 50 years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers had an idea to build a reservoir system to catch water flowing down from the mountains. Fifty years later, Bear Creek Lake Park is suffering serious flood damage, as planned.
"They made the decision that they were going to close the dam and not release any more water to try to prevent flooding downstream," Drew Sprafke, Lakewood's regional parks supervisor, said.
With Bear Creek and Turkey Creek carrying heavy rains from the mountains down into the metro area, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to let the trails, parking lots, and picnic areas get flooded out to keep hundreds of homes safe, according to Sprafke.
"It's designed pretty much to protect Denver and downstream from significant flooding," Sprafke said.
Dave Humbargar lives in a subdivision just downstream from Bear Creek Lake Park. He is thankful the system worked.
"It was a Godsend," Humbargar said. "If it hadn't stored that water, we'd probably been at least damaged a lot."
Sprafke says the lake is normally about 110 surface acres. The flood caused the lake to swell to around 1,200 acres.
"Right now, I've got rest rooms 40 feet under water," Sprafke said.
Larisa Fesmire is one of dozens of park patrons who had to see engineering in action, first-hand.
"We knew what it was here for, but then just seeing how - it's just unbelievable," Fesmire said. "This lake used to be right here and it spread out just so much."
So, while the park looks at a preliminary estimate of about $300,000 in repairs, Sprafke says it saved much worse damage. The water would've eventually filled the South Platte River which had already caused flooding damage out east.
"It did probably save us from getting washed out down here," Humbargar said.
At Bear Creek Lake Park, the restoration will begin. Volunteers are asked to come to the park next week to help clean debris. They can also see a plan that worked.
"Overwhelmingly, a lot of people are fascinated to see it working as it was supposed to work and seeing that it actually helped," Sprafke said.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)