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Garden of the Gods Visitor Center Director Linda Carter stands with volunteer Curt Stearns on the upper (main) floor of the center, in an area that the new, wider stairway will use. The sheetrock behind Carter covers up the area where the former stairway came up.
Westside Pioneer photo

Stairwell widening begins GoG Visitor Center renovations

       Work started this month to upgrade and widen the interior stairwell at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
       The work occurs Monday to Thursday, so the Visitor Center - normally open daily - is closed those days (open Friday to Sunday). Center Director Linda Carter said this schedule will continue through February. The hope is to have the new stairwell finished by March because that's when the number of visitors traditionally starts going up.
       The project is the first of numerous renovations, most of them still in the planning stages, leading up to the 20-year anniversary of the facility at 30th Street and Gateway Road in May 2015, Carter explained.
       The center is owned and operated by the Garden of the Gods Foundation, which donates a large percentage of its customer revenues to upkeep of the free, adjacent, 1,300-acre city park. The anniversary improvements are being funded through a private donation, she said.
       When the stairwell work is done, it will be seven feet wide. The current, curving steps are only 4 ˝ feet wide, which can lead to bottlenecks for people, expecially during big events, and, Carter fears, “might even make some people not want to come back.”
       A smaller (but also visible) current project involves improvements to the information kiosk on the upper (main) floor, which is manned by center volunteers.
       While stairwell work continues, the only ways into the center are through the south and north doors, which have ramps leading up from the parking lot. The elevator between the upper and lower floors is also not operational now.
       The decision was made to schedule the stairwell work on Mondays to Thursdays because those typically are slower days, especially this time of year. The facility needs to be closed to the public then because of the dust and noise, Carter said.
       But the center's staff still comes in to work. “We put on headphones and listen to Pandora [an Internet music offering],” she laughed.
       Located by the eastern access to the Garden, the center was built in 1995 by long-time area land owner and philanthropist Lyda Hill as a place where people could learn about the park and shop for gifts. She established the foundation to manage its park contributions and two years ago she donated the facility to the foundation.
       Other improvements are being planned by the foundation board and staff and will be announced at a later date. Most of the work will probably be basic upgrades that are needed as a result of the building being 20 years old, Carter said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 1/17/14)

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