- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

DRAKE, Colo. (AP) - With a cold wind whistling down the Big Thompson Canyon and traffic roaring past, Lynda Wright stood at the side of the highway Monday and watched a piece of her family’s history come apart.

The demolition process began the previous week on a flood-damaged cabin on the property of her late husband’s family about a mile above Drake.

Even as she watched workers cut and pry off pieces of her cabin, Wright, a resident of California, said she felt lucky that this wasn’t her primary home.

“My heart goes out to all those people who lost their homes and their businesses,” she said.

The cabin, named Roughin’ It Wright, was undercut by the Big Thompson River in the September 2013 flood, and its exposed floor has been hanging over the river ever since.

Last spring, Larimer County set out to demolish 13 buildings that had been heavily damaged by the flood and were judged to be in imminent danger of washing away with the spring runoff.

They started with Roughin’ It Wright on May 6.

The cabin on U.S. 34 sits on the far side of the river, and the pedestrian bridge to the property washed away at the height of the flooding. So the county’s contractor had driven an excavator into the middle of the river with the idea of reaching across and pulling the cabin apart.

But a quickly rising river forced the county to abandon that plan and move on to other cabins in the area.

This time, the demolition is proceeding slowly and carefully, by hand.

Since she arrived last week from her home in California, Wright has watched the crew from Baldwin Demolition in Colorado Springs build a temporary wooden footbridge across the river, remove her furniture and pledge to try to salvage the 100-year-old stone fireplace and chimney.

“They’ve been so wonderful,” she said. “They’re trying to be as delicate as they can.”

The workers are cutting and tearing the cabin into pieces small enough to be trundled across the bridge in a handcart to a roll off Dumpster that will be parked at the side of U.S. 34 later this week.

The slow process will triple the price of the demolition to roughly $60,000, according to Eric Fried, the county’s chief building official. Under a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal, state and county governments will pick up most of the tab, with Wright covering the rest.

Fried said he’ll be happy to get the cabin removed because it has been such a visible reminder of the flood’s devastation, inspiring tourists to slow or stop in the middle of the highway on a blind corner to take pictures.

“If we can get it done, that will symbolize to people that we’re moving forward … that we’ve turned the corner,” he said.

Although the memories sometimes brought her to tears, Wright said she feels blessed to have been able to enjoy the cabins and the beauty of the canyon.

“As dumb as it sounds, I’m enjoying every moment that I’m here,” she said, “because it’s beautiful, and I’m so lucky to be here.

“Look at this place,” she said, gesturing to the forested canyon walls around her. “It’s just incredible.”

Two other cabins will remain on the property. The oldest, named Linger Longer, was built in 1912 by Loveland doctor Samuel A. Wright, Lynda Wright’s husband’s great-grandfather.

The front yard has disappeared from that cabin, and a corner was undermined, but it probably can be repaired, she said.

Roughin’ It Wright, which was built in the 1950s on the site of a much older cabin, came into the family in 1988 but wasn’t remodeled until 2003, she said. The third cabin, called Our House, sits farther up the hillside and escaped any damage.

Linger Longer is the cabin where Wright had been building memories with her family since 1968.

“I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to share it again,” she said.

___

Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, http://www.reporterherald.com/

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