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Possible record crowd at GoG Visitor Center's 10th annual Bighorn Day

Inside the first-floor entrance to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, informational tables were set up in front of temporary tarps for the well-attended Bighorn Day Feb. 14. The tarps provided a buffer from continuing construction on the center's new first-floor theater.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Warm weather, Valentine's Day and perhaps curiosity about ongoing upgrades at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center combined to attract a large crowd at the 10th annual Bighorn Day Feb. 14.
       It might even have been a record. Turnouts of more than 3,000 people have been typical on nice days in the event's 10-year history, but “this is the first time we've had to use the Rock Ledge Ranch parking lot,” pointed out Bret Tennis, the center's lead interpreter. Addendum, per a Feb. 24 Tennis e-mail: It was a record, with a counted total of 3,660.
       (The historic site is catty-corner from the center at 30th Street and Gateway Road; free shuttle buses brought people back and forth.)
       The bighorns did their part for the event, with several from the
Aided by free shuttle buses running regularly to the Mesa Road overlook from the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center during Bighorn Day Feb. 14, scores of people took advantage of telescopes provided at that vantage point to get zoomed-in views of the animals along nearby slopes.
Westside Pioneer photo
roughly 70-head Rampart Range herd strolling down close enough to be viewable - at least from the telescopes set up for the event on the nearby overlook off Mesa Road. Assisting people there were volunteers from the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department, which works with City Parks, the Visitor Center and Garden volunteers in putting on Bighorn Day.
       Early in the day was the best for viewing, according to Haydee Ullrich of Colorado Parks. Interviewed around noon, she said “10 to 12” bighorns had been grazing before most were spooked by hikers. One previous time (not on a Bighorn Day), she recalled seeing at least 30 head in the Garden of the Gods's north parking lot.
       Outdoor specialists created Bighorn Day at the Visitor Center in 2006 to celebrate - and provide education about - the official state mammal, as well as other types of wildlife in the area.
       In keeping with the established format, the five-hour event also included touch tables, presentations, guided walks, outdoor-related games, craft opportunites and some small, live animals that were
Signs on display at Bighorn Day offered visitors glimpses of the future Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, after the current construction is over.
Westside Pioneer photo
brought down by staff from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
       Over the past year, the nearly 20-year-old Visitor Center - owned by a private foundation that contributes a share of its earnings to the Garden - has undergone major renovations, but stayed open most of the time. Key among the completed improvements are a wider interior stairway between the first and second floors and a new second-floor gift shop (consolidated from one on each floor previously).
       Contracted work continues on the new first-floor theater and a second-floor addition for exhibits, center spokesperson Dolores Davis said. The plan is for all the work to be complete by mid-May, in time for a 20-year commemoration.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 2/14/15, updated 3/2/15; Outdoors: Garden of the Gods)

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