GUERNSEY – According to the sign erected at Register Cliff, the site is “one of the most prominent of the many places along the Oregon Trail where emigrants would carve their names into the soft rock; more than 700 names can still be seen on this cliff and on other rock outcroppings nearby. It is a memorial to the emigrants who felt a need to leave their mark on the significant journey of their lives in which they left behind the world they were born into and traveled for months to a new one.”
The newest name that is to be inscribed at the site of the weary travelers is the name of a young sojourner who ended her journey in this world all too soon. Madison Cook who was brutally murdered in Torrington, April 20 will be memorialized as the new launch/evac beach will be named in her honor.
A plaque will be erected under a hand-fashioned metal sunflower sculpture that was created because it was Cook’s favorite flower and reminded so many people of her countenance of happiness and radiance that emanated from her spirit.
The beach itself is phase two of a community project that was started May 18, 2020.
Last year’s Guernsey landing has allowed many people who launch their tubes and kayaks a soft launching site and an easy access to the river.
“The sand was brought in privately,” said Councilman Kellie Augustyn. “We paid for it out of donations. We have been taking up donations down at Kelley’s Bar.”
Brad Cook, who owns Cook Construction in Guernsey was overseeing the project and his son, Nate Cook, ran the skid loader to relocate the sand from piles so it would be easier to rake down to a smooth surface. They are also planning to put a retaining wall behind the sand.
“We float the river here every year,” Augustyn said. “And there’s a lot of people who float this river. It’s a great little float down here, about a 45 minute to an hour trip.”
The tubers that will ultimately put in at this location will float all the way down to Register Cliff where they will pull out.
“We’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “We needed to come in and clean up the area and the city paid for that. A few of us got together, we were having a beer and said, ‘let’s just put a beach in.’ Esthetically, it will just look better. Many people who come into town will see it.”
The site has been unofficially called Guernsey Beach.
With phase one completed in 2020, the launch of tubes and kayaks and other seaworthy craft was not only easy and enjoyable, but also esthetically pleasing. That being completed, however, the evac point was still a challenge.
Those in charge of phase one began talking about a phase two to enhance the ease of evacuation from the Platte River at Register Cliff. The property, however, was not city owned and in fact was owned by local retired ranchers and entrepreneurs, the Frederick family.
Chuck and Doug Frederick talked it over with their family and decided to let the evac point be an egress point for tubers and kayakers. They were approached by Augustyn and after several conversations, the Frederick family agreed to allowing improvements to the beach area.
The land will remain the property of the Frederick family who has generously agreed to let the land be used as an egress and improved upon under the name of Madison Beach.
Just a year after the first phase, volunteers began descending May 22 on the Register Cliff location with skid loaders, backhoes, brushhoggers, weed whackers and dump trucks loaded with rock and sand.
“This was pretty much a big mud hole that was overgrown with brush and weeds, and was not easily accessible,” Augustyn said. “We came in and started by trimming and cutting back the trees. After the Frederick family had seen the first beach, they told us that if we wanted to improve the second beach, they told us to go for it.”
The big thing is not the use of the property, but that people who use it maintain it. Volunteers who had come in not only improved the beach area but will maintain it with mowing and trash clean-up with the help of TDS who donated a dumpster to the site.
Although there is a private push for donations to help defray the cost of improvements, to date, there has been almost half of the estimated $3,000 it will take to refurbish the area. Kirk and Coral Hansen came in and began the work by brushhogging the area. Then, according to Augustyn, Nate and Stacy Cook came in with their skid steer, along with Lee Hashman and his skid steer, and began to push and level tons of rock donated by Mart Marietta at Guernsey Quarry. Dave and Winnie Prewitt donated all the sand and Dave Cole from Cole Lumber & Construction Co. transported materials to the site.
“Because it is all full of mud, we had to put in tons of ballast,” Augustyn said. “Then we have the metal sunflower sculpture created by Dan McCabe for Madison, who was a huge fan of sunflowers. We would like to put in a small memorial plaque signifying this is Madison Beach in honor of her. It was very emotional with Madison’s parents Nate and Stacy here working on the beach. The sunflower meant a lot because there hasn’t been a lot of happiness in that family, as of late.
This coming fall, both beach sites will be reevaluated as to what maintenance and improvements would still be needed. The current addition to Guernsey Beach is a hand painted sign that will show a map of the river.
The tubes, kayaks and other seaworthy craft that launches from Guernsey Beach can use Madison Beach as an evac beach or it can also be used as a launching beach for those who want to travel the river down to Wayland which would be a 2.5-hour float. The float time from Guernsey Beach to Madison Beach is between 45 minutes and an hour.
The beach has undergone some finishing touches this last weekend and should be ready to go as the first tubers come out of the water and on to the beach. There will be a memorial float July 10 aptly named the Madison Memorial Float and at that time the beach will be officially dedicated.
Tubes this year can be rented at Floyds Floats and can be rented across the street from Guernsey Beach.