Fort Carson streets paved with history
January 9, 2014
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross recipients, battle names and locations, unit mottos -- the street names on Fort Carson reflect a long history, but what happens when no one remembers the history?
If there isn't signage on the road, figuring out what roads are named or where the names came from can be a challenge.
"We have some unique ones," said Rick Orphan, Directorate of Public Works Traffic Engineering and Planning. "For example, some of the roads out at the ammunition supply point: Ammo 1, Rocket, Shrapnel were not marked for the longest time.
"So we've been trying to clean things up and get everything marked properly. We would run into these names in the real property records and (say), 'Wait a minute, where is Rocket Road?' In some cases, depending on how old the records are, they may or may not note a specific location."
In addition to the real property records, Orphan relies on an old map that he estimates dates from the 1960s to help him identify streets.
"This is a great reference because it goes so far back and actually shows the old mule barn area … so, if there's a question about some of the old road names, a lot of times, we can find them on this map, and then go out (to see) if they still exist or not," he said.
But sometimes, the records are scarce, and no one remembers a street ever existed until they try to use the name again.
"Down in Camp Red Devil, there was a Recondo Road. Recondo was a Vietnam era reconnaissance commando program. The road was not signed, and as time went on, the name was kind of forgotten."
When they drew up a list of possible road names to use in the future, someone suggested Recondo.
"As we were researching it … we came across a reference to Recondo Road. (We) looked at all the maps and couldn't figure out where in the heck this thing was. Finally, after researching it quite a bit more, we discovered that the name had previously been utilized at Red Devil, so we got that one back on the books."
Sometimes it's not clear what a street is named after. Before the reconstruction of Titus Boulevard and Butts Road, Brown Road connected the two. After reconstruction, Orphan wanted to remove the name Brown, but needed to know who it had been named after.
If a street is named after an individual, there's a formal memorialization, and renaming or removing the street can be complicated.
"(Memorialization) goes all the way up to (Department of the Army) for approval," he said. "(If) the road is taken out of service and removed, we actually make an attempt to contact the Family so that they can come in and be part of a ceremony where we will actually offer them a sign with the old name on it."
In researching the history of Brown Road, Orphan discovered that it had been named after a person, but not in a formal memorialization.
"It was actually a nickname that the road had picked up," he said. "It used to be a dirt road connecting two primary paved roads."
Cars along the road would kick up clouds of dust that were blowing into senior officer housing. The commanding general tasked Col. Henry T. Brown, the director of Engineering and Housing at the time, with solving the problem.
"Well, Col. Brown took that to heart, and it became a very important project," Orphan said. "Everyone was referring to it as Col. Brown's Road because he was really pushing to get this done.
Over time, it became Brown's Road, and then Brown Road … it was not something that would have qualified as a formal memorialization."
Other times, street names are listed in the real property records, and Orphan is tasked with trying to locate them.
"I've had the real property folks come down (saying), 'Rick, we were going through our records, and I've got this road. Where is this? Is this still around?' Well, let me pull out the parchment map and I'll find out," he said. "We actually had a road (listed in the records) called Alley 1. They came down, 'OK, where's Alley 1?' I don't know, near Alley 2?"
Alley 1 was eventually identified as a tiny road that has since been torn out for barracks construction.
The history of Fort Carson roads is a rich subject for Orphan.
"It's a colorful topic … we have roads named after other military bases, a town in Germany, major campaigns, an island in the Aleutians, a guy from the Civil War and guys that were fighting the (Native Americans) in the 1860s," he said. "Historical names that we pass by every day."