The former Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons plant was declared cleaned up — or as close as it was going to get — ten years ago this week, more than fifty years after the facility sixteen miles upwind of Denver started producing plutonium triggers for hydrogen bombs. In 2017, 5,000 acres of the property are slated to open as the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, under the supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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Beyond the nonstop fences and occasional No Trespassing signs, there’s no suggestion of the area’s former mission, no hint that such lovely land was once used to create such lethal weapons. Whatever information will be given to refuge visitors is still a matter of debate — and some critics of the cleanup believe the land should never be opened to the public at all. They’ll be out in force on Sunday, October 18, for the dedication of “Cold War Horse,” a sculpture by Jeff Gipe, who grew up in Arvada, four miles from Rocky Flats; his father worked at the plant for two decades. In making the memorial — a full-sized horse in a hazmat suit and respirator — Gipe says he wanted to create a symbol that not only acknowledged the workers’ sacrifices but also let nearby residents know of the deadly history of Rocky Flats.
“Cold War Horse” had its first public outing late this summer, installed on property owned by Bruce and Janice Roberts just off Colorado Highway 72, near Indiana Street. But the sculpture was vandalized over Labor Day, and Gipe has been taking donations for the repair job at coldwarhorse.com. Gipe reports that he finished fixing the piece yesterday — just in time to reinstall it this coming weekend.
Speakers at the 3 p.m. dedication on October 18 include Jon Lipsky, the former FBI agent who led the June 6, 1989, raid on Rocky Flats, which ultimately resulted in the plant shutting down operations; Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats; and Leroy Moore, longtime activist and a founder of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.