As if losing their homes, properties, and -- in many cases -- virtually everything they owned to the raging flood waters in September wasn't demoralizing enough, residents and landowners in the Big Thompson Canyon now have to process what must seem like an endless river of paperwork: engineering assessments, damage estimates, insurance claims, multiagency building permits, grant requests and God-only-knows-what-all before they can even begin to recover their losses or rebuild their homes, or if, in fact, they'll even be allowed to.
It all seems so overwhelming.
Asking canyon residents to help fund the restoration of the river itself, its dynamic fishery and related scenic wildlife habitat in light of their already bewildering personal challenges would be unthinkable. And yet the work must be done.
But thanks to financial assistance from concerned anglers, volunteers, conservation groups, local service clubs, businesses, foundations and government agencies, those canyon residents can focus on their immediate problems.
In particular, grants from the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, New Belgium Brewing Co., Rotary Clubs and the fundraising efforts of businesses like the Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel Shop have already made it possible for the Big Thompson River Recovery Coalition (BTRRC) to move forward with River Restoration Master Planning this winter.
The only thing asked of the 115 (and growing list of residential and business stakeholders that live along the river) is that they try to participate in critical input meetings to shape the river restoration efforts on their specific reach of the river.
To that end, the BTRRC will be sending mailed requests advising canyon residents and stakeholders of meeting dates and encouraging their participation.
Fundraising, river damage assessment, stream hydrology, planning and restoration projects, as well as supplying volunteers and manual labor is being coordinated through the services and expertise of the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (wlrv.org), which played a significant role in coordinating and restoring the Cache la Poudre River and bordering lands following the havoc caused by the High Park and Hewlett Gulch fires of 2012.
Also joining the BTRRC efforts are Serve 6.8 and NoCo Rebuiilding Network. (check their websites -- http://serve6.8.org and nocorebuilding.org -- to see how these outstanding volunteers are pitching in to helping Big T flood victims.
And it's not just clubs and service organizations that are rallying to the cause. Two weeks ago local angler and rod builder Fred San Martin donated one of his prized, hand-planed, custom-made bamboo rods to be raffled off at Elkhorn Rod & Reel. Loveland fly fisher Dave Justus was the lucky winner, but then so were the BTRRC and the residents of the Big Thompson Canyon. The raffle raised $1,000 to add to their river recovery project fund.
Please visit the above listed websites and their associated Facebook pages to see how you can help. Our neighbors need you.
Dennis Smith is a Loveland outdoors writer and photographer, and his freelance work is published nationally. Smith's Home Waters column appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. He can be reached at Dsmith7136@msn.com.