Lake Pueblo State Park suffered significant damage from a storm that struck the region overnight, prompting Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials on Friday to ask the public to stay away as damage is assessed and cleanup begins.
The most severe impact was reported at the Northshore Marina where docks were overturned and smashed. At least one private boat was sunk and others damaged.
In addition, Lathrop State Park near Walsenburg in Huerfano County was closed Friday due to downed power lines and wind damage. By afternoon the park had reopened but power remained out.
But the worst damage was at Lake Pueblo where Park Manager Monique Mullis urged the public to avoid the area. She said it would be days before boat owners would be allowed into the 1,200-slip Northshore Marina. As of Friday evening the docks were too unstable and water was too rough to allow staff to get inside for detailed analysis.
"There are many areas that are not safe for the public," Mullis said. "It's important people do not try to reach the North Marina at this time."
She noted the Northshore Marina is a privately-owned concession with its own management, but CPW park staff "is working closely with them to mitigate the situation."
In addition to the marina closure, the North Ramp is closed indefinitely while the damage is assessed and the docks are repaired. Also, the South Marina ramp was to be closed Saturday, meaning Lake Pueblo would be closed to boating for the day.
High winds late Thursday night, with gusts estimated near 70 mph, ripped up docks and smashed them into surrounding boats. One boat was listing heavily and officials fear others have sunk or may sink.
Besides the danger posed by heavily damaged docks, the risk to the public was compounded by possibly unstable floating fuel tanks in the marina.
Less damage was reported at the lake's Southshore Marina. The Marina's infrastructure is OK and there are some boats with damage.
Damage was not confined to the marina. Nearby in the Northern Plains Campground, 55 shelters were damaged. More shelters were blown away in the South Picnic area.
Also, several park signs were blown down or damaged and park staff is still assessing downed trees and hazards in the Rock Canyon Day-Use Area, which is currently closed to public access.
The incident occurs as Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff has been preparing Lake Pueblo for its busy spring and summer season. Lake Pueblo is one of the most popular recreation destinations in Colorado, typically attracting 1.8 million visitors each year to sail, motor-boat, water ski, river tube and fish on its 5,400 surface acres of water and along its 60 miles of shoreline.
"Lake Pueblo has the agency's full support as staff works to repair damaged areas and make sure the park is safe for public use," Broscheid said. Agency leadership will continue to closely monitor the situation.
Southeast Regional Manager Dan Prenzlow called the storm damage a "serious issue" for the region.
"Lake Pueblo staff and our Northshore Marina concession managers are working diligently to ensure the public's safety," Prenzlow said. "We are asking the people to be patient as we assess the damage and form plans for the cleanup."
The park also offers 400 camping sites to go with its two full-service marinas, miles of trails, bird watching, a visitor's center and fish hatchery.
Lake Pueblo State Park also is an important economic engine to the region as its visitors spend about $67 million annually at local businesses, according to Corona Research, which conducted a marketing assessment in 2008-09.
Mullis said the private company that operates the Northshore Marina will be contacting each of the affected boat owners. Those seeking information on their boats docked in the Northshore Marina can call 719-251-3949.
Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Damaged boat at Lake Pueblo State Park.