By Stan Friedman
ESTES PARK, CO (September 16, 2013) — Covenant Heights Camp and Retreat Center sustained little damage from the historic flooding that has devastated much of this region, but the destruction of major roadways threatens to curtail its business in the near future, according to a statement issued by the facility this afternoon.
“Our camp is still, praise God, operational and well suited to run all programs, including outdoor education and guest group retreats,” the release stated. “The camp really held up well through the heavy rains and flooding. All our facilities, including sanitation and water, have been unaffected.” Several staff members’ homes did have water in them.
Although the camp is still operational, guests may not be able to reach the facility for some time. Repairs on the major routes into the camp could take months, according to officials.
The only way to access the camp is a road that winds through Black Hawk on Highway 72 through Nederland and then Highway 7. It is open only for residents of Estes Park or service vehicles. Trucks delivering food supplies to Covenant Heights have been allowed through.
Even if the back route is opened to more traffic, travel from cities such as Fort Collins, Loveland, and Boulder, which supply much of the camp’s business, will be arduous.
Covenant Heights leaders say some of their neighbors and nearby camps and retreat centers have sustained significantly more damage due to landslides and major flooding. “It has been a blessing to be able to serve them in any way we can and inspiring to see people come together in this time of need.”
The camp’s Facebook page will include updates.
Few Covenanters elsewhere in the region were displaced from their homes, but some were evacuated, and many had flooding in their basements, pastors said. Several churches altered their worship services to address the tragedy and began plans to help the community recover.
Parishioners of Crossroads Covenant Church in Greeley were able to remain in their homes, but plumbing issues forced many to shower at shelters or other emergency centers, said pastor Reid Olson.
One senior adult who attends Life House Covenant Church in Longmont was staying in a hotel because her trailer home was most likely destroyed by floodwaters. The home was located near a creek that flowed under a bridge that normally has a 20-foot clearance.
Other members brought her to church on Sunday. During the service, “The downpour started again, the sirens went off, and everyone pitched in to get stuff off the floor just in case,” said pastor Win Houwen.
Olson said he was surprised so many people were able to attend his congregation’s Sunday service given that most main roads still are impassable. The morning included an extended time of prayer.
“It was a hard Sunday,” Olson said. “People were really down. It’s a devastation that people don’t know how to handle emotionally.”
Doug White, pastor of New Day Covenant Church in Boulder, reported, “The attendance was down as many of our people are still trapped in the mountains with no access roads back to town due to mudslides, bridge breaches, and damaged roadways.” He added that power had been restored to many of those residents.
Covenant pastors all report seeing helicopters constantly flying overhead as rescuers seek to airlift at least 1,000 stranded people. The flooding has spread across an area roughly the size of Connecticut, and officials say the helicopter rescue operation is the largest in the country since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Churches are preparing to help their communities after the water goes down.
Crossroads Covenant Church in Loveland initiated its Project One leadership team, said associate pastor Dennis Anderson. The ministry helps with neighborhood projects once a year.
“We know how to mobilize 500 people quickly,” Anderson said. He is already in discussions with leaders of other area churches to develop a coordinated response.