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A draft map shows the three potential zones that would be created by a conservation easement, with zones indicating the different types of park-use development that the county could implement.
Courtesy of El Paso County Community Services

County commissioners to get update on Bear Creek Park easement plan

       El Paso County Community Services is expected to present a favorable update to the Board of County Commissioners Jan. 21 on the proposed conservation easement for Bear Creek Regional Park.
       The presentation is listed under “Department and Committee Reports” on the agenda and as such does not require any action from the board. But Commissioner Sallie Clark, one of the leaders in the easement effort (with the park in her district), hopes to get positive feedback from her colleagues. “What I will be asking for is support from the board to move forward with fundraising efforts to assist with the cost of the conservation easement through the Palmer Land Trust,” she said. “Prior to moving forward, as the resident commissioner, I felt the board should be informed of the process and community support for the easement."
       A conservation easement is a permanent legal agreement that restricts the use of a property. In the case of Bear Creek Regional Park, which consists of recreational and open space, it would ensure that the land could never be sold for commercial uses such as oil drilling or housing development.
       The Land Trust, a nonprofit, has told the county it will set up the easement for $17,500.
       Easement plan supporters have not proposed using taxpayer funds to cover that cost.
       According to Community Services Director Tim Wolken, surveys taken at two community meetings (in June 2012 and January 2013) each showed 93 percent support for the easement concept and more than 90 percent who were willing to donate for it.
       A list from the surveys shows that supporters back the idea because of the preservation of open space and wildlife habitat and the fact that the protection would be “forever.”
       The minority concerns included the potential for increased bureaucracy and restricting future decisions.
       The easement would control park-use development within the 573-acre property off South 21st Street through an internal zoning process - Zone 1 (passive), Zone 2 (mixed) and Zone 3 (active). In addition, “Proposed improvements within the respective zone must align with the updated master plan for Bear Creek Regional Park,” Wolken said.
       The incentive for an easement dates back to 2007, when El Paso County faced a budget crunch and the sale of Bear Creek Regional Park was considered.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 1/17/14)

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