HistoriCorps partnership helps preserve Colorado history

Manitou Pavilion under construction

Photo courtesy of Steve Harris. 

Imagine the beautiful view of Manitou Lake from a rustic picnic shelter nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. One can almost hear aquatic birds in the distance, water gently lapping on the shores of the reservoir and the crunching of potato chips.

For nearly a century, generations of picnic-goers have enjoyed outings at the Manitou Lake Pavilion, near Woodland Park, Colorado. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration in 1935. While visitors still enjoyed the shelter’s lovely surroundings, the structure itself had seen better days…until recently.

Damaged by hail and time, and lack of funding for maintenance, the historic haven’s rotting logs and deteriorating shingles needed repair. Fortunately, a great partnership between the Pike-San Isabel National Forests & Cimmaron and Comanche National Grasslands and HistoriCorps made the restoration possible.

Starting in July 2022, and for approximately five weeks, HistoriCorps volunteers replaced logs, patched and repaired the sealant used between the logs—also known as chinking—and replaced the roof with hail resistant shingles. The shelter’s historic character was maintained throughout all the improvements.

“This partnership did not start with the restoration, it began much earlier,” said Sue Miller, Pikes Peak Ranger District recreation special use permit administrator. “Collaboration with HistoriCorps has been invaluable. They evaluated the work needed, provided a project cost estimate and expertise for the restoration effort. They also recruited volunteers to complete the work.”

Five separate volunteer groups, including a Southwest Conservation Corps crew, each worked five days on the project. “The USDA Forest Service is so grateful,” said Miller. “This partnership extended our capacity and allowed us to complete the much-needed restoration work.”

Volunteers honed their building skills with hands-on labor. Education is a core component of all HistoriCorps projects, so field staff instructed, coached and inspired unskilled and semi-skilled volunteers in a safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment. Funded jointly by the Great American Outdoors Act and HistoriCorps, this project will help preserve the Manitou Pavilion’s structural components, prevent further deterioration, address deferred maintenance needs and provide continued enjoyment at the Manitou Park Recreation Area.

Anyone can get involved with restoring historic buildings. HistoriCorps recruits volunteers from all over the United States to work on restoration projects and encourages project inquiries from public land managers for all types of preservation tasks.

If a stint working with HistoriCorps is a little more than you are ready for right now, you can always come to the Manitou Lake Pavilion and reserve it for a group or family picnic. Enjoy the sun, the birds, the sound of waves and maybe even a few potato chips.