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During Bighorn Sheep Day Feb. 15... LEFT: John Demmon (center, in hat), a volunteer with the Friends of Garden of the Gods (FOGG), explains the items on the exhibit table he's manning. One visitor was impressed (foreground), possibly with a cougar skin and head display. RIGHT: Judy Schlei (left), a docent with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, answers questions about two prairie dogs she'd brought from the zoo (inside the glass case).
Westside Pioneer photos


Bighorns show up for their 'day' (people too) despite imperfect conditions


A bighorn provides a profile above a rock in the Garden of the Gods area earlier in February.
Dolores Davis photo - used with permission
       Gusting winds and a renovation project did not deter the event's featured animals - or people hoping to see them - from showing up Feb. 15 for the ninth annual Bighorn Sheep Day at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
       “We had over 2,000 visitors, despite a blustery day,” said center spokesperson Dolores Davis. The number is close to the average attendance at the event.
       Also, with the help of telescopes, “the bighorns were visible from the terrace through the morning [in the valley near Glen Eyrie],” she said “In the afternoon they moved up onto the scar.”
      

Parents as well as children got into the craft activities during Bighorn Sheep Day inside the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center Feb. 15.
Westside Pioneer photo
The gathering featured presentations, exhibits and activities inside the two-story facility at 1805 N. 30th St, along with guided hikes into the Garden. In addition to the center's terrace, as in past years, a remote viewing locale with a telescope was available at the overlook on Mesa Road. The center, which is owned by a non-profit foundation that donates revenues to the Garden's preservation, provided shuttle buses to the overlook, as well as to the overflow parking at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site parking lot on the other side of 30th Street.
       Among the event contributors were the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Division of Wildlife and the Friends of Garden of the Gods (FOGG), Davis said.
       At least some bighorns (members of the roughly 70-head Rampart Range herd living in the public lands north of Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie) have followed the script almost every year since the event started in 2006. But there had been uncertainty about any of them making it this year. For several days before Bighorn Day, there had been no sightings from the Visitor Center, although earlier in February, “they'd been down for a week and a half straight,” Davis said.
      

Renovation work inside the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center prevented access from the building's first floor for Bighorn Sheep Day Feb. 15. On the second-floor terrace, visitors look for bighorns through the provided telescopes.
Westside Pioneer photo
The current renovation, the start of upgrades pointing to the center's 20-year anniversary in May 2015, involves replacing the original stairwell through the central part of the building. As a result, the downstairs (used for Bighorn Day in the past) had to be closed off completely, and space was also tight on the second floor. But construction crews sealed off the work area with floor-to-ceiling temporary walls, which allowed access (albeit narrow) from the north and south entrances. And center staff and volunteers moved several of the exhibit and activities areas into the cafeteria.
       “It took a little forethought and it was cozier than usual, but it worked out well,” Davis said. “There was a good flow of traffic.”
       Regarding the project, she said the current work - which will result in the stairwell widened from 4 ˝ to 7 feet - is now expected to be completed April 24.
       The work has forced the center to be closed Mondays to Thursdays since January. The normal seven- day-week schedule will resume April 25, Davis said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 2/20/14)

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