Letter: Glenwood Canyon and Dick Prosence

Dear Editor:

It was sad to hear of the passing of Dick Prosence;  the outstanding engineer and leader of the construction of so many highways in our area, especially I-70 in Glenwood Canyon, one of the top 10 roads in all of America. I spent many good years associated with Dick on that extraordinary project and on occasions visiting him during  his retirement in Meeker.

I first met Dick in the late 1960s. This was after a new four lane highway was constructed into the canyon from Glenwood to the first tunnels. Objections to the design of that highway began to build since it represented a considerable disruption of the river and canyon walls.   

A dramatic  solution to subdue this controversy  came from a Joint Resolution of the Colorado Senate demanding that the State Highway Commission appoint a citizen’s advisory committee to participate in the planning and design of a highway that would insure that “to the fullest possible extent, the wonders of human engineering will be tastefully blended with the wonders of Nature.”  This newly appointed committee was fired after its very first formal meeting when it said “look elsewhere,” not the canyon.

A new chief engineer for Colorado was then appointed and in essence he said “enough with a citizens committee,” we’ll proceed with absolute care to design the highway on our own. Dick was the one that ultimately stood alone telling his boss “no, the politics are so intense we absolutely must have a second committee.” Dick’s warning was accepted and a second Citizens Advisory Committee was appointed in 1976. I was fortunate to have been a member. The grand opening of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon was held on Oct. 14, 1992. 

Dick never wavered in his support of our Advisory Committee and their task to help reach a public consensus on the highway’s final design. He absolutely understood the care and respect the canyon deserved. We called him “The Father of Glenwood Canyon.” 

Floyd Diemoz

Glenwood Springs