Windsor’s top five: Significant events in Windsor over the past 10 years | MyWindsorNow.com

Windsor’s top five: Significant events in Windsor over the past 10 years

Emily Wenger
ewenger@mywindsornow.com

As Windsor Now celebrates 10 years in the Windsor community, 10 community leaders were asked to list the biggest events, trends, construction projects or any other occurrence in the past 10 years that have had a significant impact on Windsor.

Their responses were tallied and ranked, and the following are the top five answers:

  1. The 2008 tornado that hit Windsor and brought the community together.

Most community leaders and residents put the May 22, 2008, tornado toward the top of the list.

The EF3 tornado, with winds in excess of 165 mph, left a 39-mile-long path of destruction in Weld County.

Nearly 800 homes were damaged in the tornado, and one person was killed near Missile Silo Park.

But the destruction was not the main reason it was listed. Most respondents focused on the community response and rebuilding efforts during the aftermath.

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"It was amazing how everybody just — within minutes — everybody just banded together, whether it was the fire department, police department, school district or just people on the streets," said Tom Fasano, director of marketing and communications at United Way.

Fasano was the editor of Windsor Now when the tornado hit, and he remembers looking out the office window and seeing chairs flying through the air.

"It was like 'The Wizard of Oz,' " he said.

The tornado — later determined to be the largest ever to hit Colorado — left a path of destruction Fasano said was hard to process.

"The streets were full of trees. People were helping each other get through the trees," he said. "It was surreal — some type of movie that you would watch, and we were actually experiencing it."

More than 370 trees were destroyed across Windsor, but many more trees were planted in their place.

Branches were strewn everywhere, Fasano said, but as early as 7 a.m. he heard chainsaws across from his Windsor home as people were already beginning to clear trees and stumps from yards.

Not only was the community response a positive side of the storm's aftermath, even the timing of the tornado — it hit Windsor around noon — was serendipitous, Fasano said.

"It was the last day of school, and if it would have happened the next day with kids out playing, who knows how many fatalities we could have had," he said.

After the community cleanup began, Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross and other entities also came to Windsor to help with relief efforts.

A total of $634,000 of donations in tornado relief funds started pouring in six days after the tornado hit, and came from school fundraisers and large donations of more than $100,000. Residents and community leaders at the time said they were shocked by the amount of funds donated.

Funds went to tornado victims in the form of grocery gift cards, medical bills and other needs.

"It was special to see everybody coming together," Fasano said.

In the following months, 4,242 building permits were issued for roof repairs to complete rebuilds, and the rebuilding efforts are continuing today as the Windsor Mill, which was damaged in the tornado, is being transformed into restaurants, a brewery and office space.

2. The Windsor Community Recreation Center expansion and other Windsor Parks, Recreation and Culture Department programming and parks.

Some Windsor residents used to go elsewhere for fitness classes and indoor swimming, but Tara Fotsch, recreation manager with the Windsor Parks, Recreation and Culture Department, said the Windsor Community Recreation Center expansion has played a role in keeping residents in Windsor.

The October 2016 opening of the CRC expansion was attended by hundreds of Windsor residents, most of whom Fotsch said were surprised by the extent of improvements, as the construction had largely been kept under wraps.

"It was fun to see that on their faces," she said.

The original phase of the CRC was built in 2004, Fotsch said, and was expanded 12 years later, with the addition of 40,000 square feet of a pool, wellness center and other areas.

Keeping the CRC open during the construction process was not without its challenges, Fotsch said, so staff members were also thrilled at the opening celebration to be able to share their hard work with the community.

Discussions were ongoing for years before the expansion was put on the ballot, Fotsch said, and when it was approved in 2014, the construction was kicked into high gear.

The community desire for the CRC expansion is still clear, Fotsch said, and each month up to 70 people are still on wait lists for programming.

"We had heard a lot, and especially through the survey, that families wanted a place to go. And definitely that demand that we heard verbally and through surveys has come through," she said.

Community leaders and residents also say other amenities offered by the parks department, including Boardwalk and Eastman parks and the Windsor Art and Heritage Center, have given the community a variety of options for spending time in Windsor.

"I think overall, the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department has shaped Windsor because of the citizens' love and passion in regards to being healthy, leading healthy lives and getting out and being active," said Eric Lucas, director of the department.

The development of Boardwalk Park, Eastman Park and other areas has also played a role in providing activities for community members, Lucas said. The parks and other outdoor facilities like the town's trails, he said, have been embraced by the community.

"We're providing them offerings that get them out of the house and get them active," he said.

3. Windsor- Severance Re-4 School District projects.

In the past 10 years, the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District has been hit with the same rapid growth that has been part of town discussions for years.

The town approved a bond issue this past year allowing the district to construct a new high school in Severance and renovate Windsor High School, which community leaders say will be a large improvement in the community.

Windsor High School's improvements will include a new Innovation Center and updates to other classrooms in the school throughout the next year, with construction set to go full-swing next summer.

About 10 percent of the project is slated for completion by the time school starts Aug. 9, and an extended summer next year will allow for a longer construction season to work on the new high school northeast of Severance Middle School. The approval of the bond issue, many community leaders said, was a launching point for district improvements.

Before the bond issue was approved for improvements to the high school, district officials said the last bond issue was approved in 2007, for an addition to Grandview Elementary School, the building of Range View Elementary School in Severance and the building of Severance Middle School.

4. Growth.

 Although growth comes in at No. 4, when attending town board, school board, library district or fire protection district meetings — and especially when the entities get together — the topic almost always comes up.

At a recent joint meeting, the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District said it may need more buildings sooner than expected, and the Windsor Severance Fire Protection District said it has also been doing some internal restructuring to accommodate growth.

"This fire district has experienced the most impactful cumulative 10 year period in its history," said Fire Chief Herb Brady in an email.

According to the Colorado State Demographer's Office, Windsor's population in 2010 was 18,771, and is now nearing 25,000.

Cindy DeGroen, a demographer with the state office, says the growth has averaged 5 percent per year over the past decade.

The North Front Range, DeGroen said in an email, is projected to continue as the fastest-growing area in the state, at more than 3 percent per year.

5. Housing and development in Windsor.

As growth has continued in Windsor, area businesses and the town have worked to adjust and prepare for that growth to continue.

Community leaders feel the addition of housing, like Windsor Meadows Apartment Homes, and other developments like Water Valley South have contributed to the development boom in the area, and 2016 was a record-breaking year for building permits.

The town's Great Western Industrial Park has also grown, creating more jobs for Windsor and area residents. Vestas Blades America Inc. also brought recognition for Windsor, said Windsor Chamber of Commerce Director Michal Connors.

"This gave Windsor not only national recognition but also international recognition," she said in an email.

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