Red Rock Canyon master plan approved; lead project will reroute first half-mile from Sec. 16 Trailhead, eliminate steps

       With the final approval of a master plan for the expanded Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs Parks has begun planning its implementation.
       High on the list - perhaps as early as this spring, according to City Parks Planner Chris Lieber - is a rework of roughly the first half-mile of the Palmer/Red Rock Loop Trail from the Section 16 Trailhead off Gold Camp Road. A city/volunteer project there in 2011 upset mountain bikers as well as horseback riders because it added a number of steps they thought unnecessary. The new project, in keeping with the master plan, will reroute much of that segment in a way that will not require any steps, he said.
       Another top priority from the master plan is refilling the central Red Rock area's pond (built by the Bock family that owned the property some 80 years before the city bought it in 2003). The goal is to build a pipe to it from the Colorado Springs Utilities line along Highway 24. The plan also calls for improvements to the lower pond and the spillway between them. But before such work can happen, private “save the pond” fundraising would be necessary to cover most of the costs. The funding goal is still being worked out with the city, but could be around $175,000, according to Karl Klepfer, president of the Friends group.
       The previous master plan, approved in a similar manner in 2004, had covered only the original, 790-acre Red Rock property, whose main entrance is off Highway 24 at Ridge Road. The city decided a new, expanded plan was needed after purchasing in recent years the Section 16 (640 acres) and White Acres (45 acres) open-space parcels, which neighbor the original Red Rock to the south and are more mountainous and remote.
       Another master-plan project that's planned this summer is to formalize, improve and reroute (as needed) a long-time social trail in White Acres so it can connect with the existing Palmer/Red Rock Loop Trail through Section 16, Lieber said.
       As expected, approval of the new Red Rock master plan was given by the Colorado Springs Parks Advisory Board Jan. 10. City staff had produced a draft for board review with the aid of private consultants, and citizens had been allowed to offer comments at several public meetings in 2011 and 2012.
       Parks Board members asked some questions but in the end the draft of the 276-page document - officially titled the Red Rock Canyon Open Space Master and Management Plan - passed without changes, Lieber said.
       Large portions of the newer mountain acreage, mainly in Section 16, have been specifically made off-limits to trails because of concerns about fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Questions were raised during the public process about whether too much land was being set aside - for instance, during the plan- creation process a publicly supported new-trail plan was rejected and part of a popular existing trail was scheduled for a future reroute - but Lieber said the Parks Board members' main concern was that too much usage might occur. The thinking was that as open space it should be largely left alone, unlike a regional park that is meant to be developed for designated uses, he said.

Westside Pioneer article