Heart of Lyons
In the low-lying confluence area between the North and South Saint Vrain rivers – the heart of “Old Town” Lyons – mule deer graze amid crumbling structures slated for demolition. With only a few inhabited homes, opportunistic weeds and wildlife thrive.
In September 2013, 18 inches of rain in 72 hours swelled the Saint Vrain River 10 times normal levels. Jacque Watson, Lyons economic development manager, reported that the flooding left town utilities inoperable, forcing a six-week business shutdown. Some businesses never re-opened, including the Valley Bank of Lyons. Almost two years after the flood, the community still awaits FEMA funds to complete cleanup and recovery efforts.
Like the mule deer, new retailers exploited opportunities post-flood, attracted by the town’s traffic corridor to Estes Park. In July 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia-based Red Fox Outdoor Equipment opened on Main Street, establishing a flagship retail site for the 30-store Eastern European franchise. “Red Fox wanted a mountain ‘gateway’ location in North America,” says store manager Jimi Alida. “Lyons fit the bill because of the 3 million cars that pass through town each summer.”
Family-owned Loukonen Bros. Stone, Lyons’ oldest business, celebrates its 125th birthday this year. Located on the banks of the Saint Vrain River, Loukonen provided the distinctive red sandstone used for the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus buildings.
Flooding buried the stoneyard in thousands of tons of mud and muck. Losses tallied around $4.2 million. “The flood carried away six acres of riverbank along with 2,000 tons of inventory,” says General Manager Mike Loukonen. He added that every piece of company equipment, from forklifts and stonecutters to office computers, was destroyed.
The stone yard – closed for six months post-flood — is operational, but still digging out from the mud and muck that buried pallets of cut stone. “We have another 20 acres of inventory to excavate,” Loukonen says. He added that the business did not receive any form of disaster aid.
Spirit Hound Distillery took a hard hit to inventory and equipment. After opening in December 2012, partner and head distiller Craig Engelhorn was aging his inventory of straight American whisky in oak barrels to be ready for bottling in 2014. With 18 inches of water in the distillery, Spirit Hound not only lost equipment and stock to the tune of $250,000, it also lost time – the essential ingredient in the distilling process. “We didn’t get back up to full production for a year,” he says. Spirit Hound is back on track, but Engelhorn will let the high-water mark on distillery’s garage doors stay in memory of the historic flood. cb
By the Numbers: Post-flood Lyons
$50 million – Current total loss estimate
20% – Housing lost including 211 residential structures damaged or destroyed. Final housing damage figures unknown
10% – Decline in local
$30 million – Road, bridge and stream bank stabilization costs
$9 million – Park and public space cleanup/restoration
$7 million – Waste water system repairs
$3 million – Utilities repairs including water and electric
$3.5 million – Loss of commercial sales during initial post-flood period
30 % – Expected decline in sales tax for 2014
70 % – Decline in park and recreation fund revenues
Source: Lyons 2013 Flood Fact Sheet