City yanks plaque before thieves can finish the job

       When the John Blair Bridge plaque recently disappeared, fears arose that metal thieves had struck again.

This is how the bronze plaque near the historic Blair Bridge used to look. Photo was shot in 2006.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       In fact, they had. Except this time, they were thwarted. Sort of.
       City Parks crews themselves took out the bronze marker. It had been encased atop a short pillar of mortared stone in the parking lot off North 30th Street near Glen Eyrie, about 100 feet south of the historic bridge (which is now used for the city's Foothills Trail).
       The removal was prompted by evidence of criminals chiseling around the plaque and trying to pry it out, according to Scott Abbott, the city's supervisor for Regional Parks, Trails and Open Space (TOPS).
       “We got nervous because they were getting really close,” he said. “We removed it before they could steal it. It feels like a small victory.”
       The plaque had been placed June 1, 1980 - a gift from Al and Margaret Hill, who also donated the adjacent 37 acres (including the bridge) to City Parks.
       The original plaque is now being stored at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. The Hills' daughter, Lyda Hill - who built the center in 1995 (and gave it to the Garden of the Gods Foundation last year) - is personally donating the cost of a replacement.
       It will be a replica of the original, except it will be made of granite, explained Linda Carter of the Visitor Center, who has spoken with Hill about the plan.
       A contractor is already working on the piece, and the installation could occur as early as next week, she said.
       Carter described the granite material as “very durable. And the new plaque will have the same information. It's just not anything people would want to steal.”
       The Blair property was chronologically the first public parcel that the Palmer Foundation (now the Palmer Land Trust) played a part in preserving. “It's discouraging, to say the least,” said Palmer Trust Executive Director Scott Campbell, referring to modern-times metal thievery that has come to include historic markers. “What those plaques acknowledge is years of work by lots and lots of people that went into making these places public assets.”
       Titled “John Blair Bridge, Circa 1880,” the plaque wording summarizes the historical rationale, as well as how it got there:
       “This stone bridge, located on the original road to the Mesa reservoirs and Blair's cabin, was constructed by John Blair, landscape gardener, who had charge of the construction of grounds and stone structures in General Palmer's Glen Eyrie estate and who planned the original parks for Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.
       'This bridge and 37 acres of land were given to the City of Colorado Springs by A.G. and Margaret Hill, to be forever preserved as parks and open space.
       “Funds to carry out the provisions of this grant have been donated by the Hill Foundation and people of the community. June 1, 1980.”

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