FULTON – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Heritage Canyon, which is a far cry from how it looked earlier this year.
Unrelenting rain sent water coursing into the 12-acre nature trail in July, forcing it close down while crews did some serious cleanup, removing mud and muck from the former limestone quarry and repairing buildings damaged in the flood.
At the time, members of Early American Crafters – a nonprofit group of volunteers that tends to the canyon – weren’t even sure it would be able to open in time for the city’s Fall Festival in September.
But it did open in time for the festival, even though it took a little doing, and a lot of hard work. “Fall Festival had us scrambling,” Early American Crafters secretary Carol Fritz, 57, said.
Talk about turning the tide.
That yuletide turnaround has been due in large part to the efforts of volunteers who’ve helped with cleanup and repair, and getting the canyon ready for Christmas.
Decorations dot the same landscape that just months ago was covered in sludge, more than a foot in some places. Water lines are still visible on some of the buildings.
While the holiday decorations survived the flood because they were stored on the second floor of the park’s General Store building, other trademark trail trimmings weren’t so lucky.
“We lost probably half of our lanterns,” the group’s chairwoman, Liz Keller, 59, said. “There is muddy water all through them and you can’t get them clean enough to burn again.”
Despite nearly 50 lanterns being snuffed out by floodwaters, volunteers still managed to shed some light on the trails.
“We put lanterns up everywhere” Keller said, “The canyon is beautiful when the sun goes down,” and once the greenery starts growing back next spring, the canyon will look even better, she said.
Keller said the group plans to eventually trench out a pond area closer to the canyon wall to detour future deluges away from the park.
Despite having to deal with a flood of problems, Keller said the group still has a goal of completing a project on one building a year. This year, that meant the church.
They’re replacing windows, refurbishing the interior, stripping the wood pews, and possibly replacing an old stove to provide more heat to the building.
Keller said a lot of the money came out of Early American Crafters’ pockets, funded by donations. She said all the money the group raises – including from public events throughout the year – goes back into the canyon.
The group is always looking for volunteers, and they don’t even have to dress up, like those who re-enact Early American life during public events. Volunteers can help with advertising and promotional work, or they can chip in and do a little yard work.
Boy Scout Troop 117 as well as members from Girl Scout Troops 5091, 554, 1333, 1325 and 520 helped set up decorations and rake leaves.
Hauling out mud, putting up decorations, raking leaves, big and small, there’s always plenty to do for someone who wants to help preserve the heritage of this river town’s history.
Fulton Chamber of Commerce will hold the 13th annual all-ages Illuminated Run/Walk on Dec. 1 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the streets by de Immigrant Windmill, at 10th Avenue and First Street. Registration is at 5:30 at Manny’s Too, with the race beginning at 6:30. Registration, at shawurl.com/36ts, is $18 through Wednesday. Race-day registration is $25.
The event also will feature free music and more throughout the night, including performances by Morrison High School’s Dodeca, a live nativity, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The fun continues the next day, beginning with Breakfast With Santa at the Fulton Fire Station, 1802 16th Ave., from 7 to 10 a.m., followed – from noon to 7 p.m. at Heritage Canyon – by demonstrations from the Early American Crafters at Heritage Canyon, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, hot beverages, cookies, popcorn, and carolers.
Early American Crafters – Find them on Facebook at call 563-212-5741 for more information.