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There’s still work to be done at Columbine Memorial

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By Deborah Swearingen

The Columbine Memorial Foundation recently ticked an item off its repair wish list.

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About 5,000 square feet of buckling concrete at the entryway of the Clement Park memorial has been replaced. Rick Townsend, president of the foundation board, calls the project, which cost approximately $51,000, a big effort.

“It took a big bite out of our savings to get that done,” he added.

But Townsend notes it was necessary because the concrete created a safety hazard for visitors.

In addition to the repaving project, other work also has been done in recent months at the Columbine Memorial. The fountains were refurbished and a new donors’ plaque was added at the memorial’s entrance.

Now that several upgrades have been completed, the foundation looks to continue fund-raising to help bolster its bank account. It’s estimated that the cost to maintain, repair and provide improvements for the memorial is about $10,000 to $15,000 per year, though it can be more in years like this when the foundation takes on larger projects.

The memorial was built as a tribute to those who died on April 20, 1999, when two students entered Columbine High School and killed 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves.

The memorial runs solely on private funds, and it relies heavily on volunteers to provide maintenance.

On Saturday morning, a group of volunteers from the Columbine Kiwanis Club congregated at the memorial to weed, mow grass, plant and otherwise ensure the memorial grounds are kept up to par.

Although it’s “nothing much other than what you’d do for your own home,” the work is important, said Rod Hunley, who wears several hats when it comes to the Columbine Memorial.

Hunley is a longtime member of the Columbine Kiwanis Club and a board member and volunteer coordinator for the Columbine Memorial Foundation.

A place of reflection

For community members, the nearly 10-year-old memorial continues to serve as a place of healing and reflection.

Townsend lost his daughter, Lauren, in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, but to him, the memorial is about much more than just one child.

“It’s more than just something about my daughter,” he said. ‘It’s actually about the whole community. That’s why it was put here.”

The memorial, covered in quotes and memories from family and friends of the 13 victims, is for everyone “to come and just reflect, think about what happened and how it affected them,” Townsend added.

Hunley had similar thoughts.

“It’s a place where the community can … come together,” he said. “It was an awful thing that happened, but it hasn’t crippled the Columbine community.”

With its trickling fountain, planted flowers and scenic overlook of the foothills to the west and Columbine High School to the east, the memorial is a place of serenity for many.

Kiwanis member Michael Greunke has lived in the Columbine area since 1980, and he had three children attend Columbine High School. Greunke was an original member of the Columbine Memorial Committee, which was formed to help raise money to build the memorial.

The memorial is meant to recognize the tragedy in a positive way, Greunke said.

“It’s a place of remembrance,” he said. “We worked with the families and got their input. It was a long process.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.