Catamount signs on for Beidleman Center
April date set for first programs

       The Catamount Institute has signed a lease agreement with the City of Colorado Springs for the Beidleman Environmental Center, the Westside Pioneer has learned.
       The agreement, which has been in the works since last fall, opens the way for programs to resume at the city-owned nature center in Sondermann Park after more than a year of virtual closure due to city budget cuts.
        “We're really, really excited,” said Melissa Walker, education director for Catamount, a Colorado Springs non-profit environmental educational organization. “The public will be happy to know the programs are continuing.”
        She said the first program, a school-related session about water conservation, is scheduled for “the first Tuesday in April” (April 6). Catamount has been working out of office space in downtown Colorado Springs, coordinating the Young Environmental Stewards (YES) after-school programs in Colorado Springs in conjunction with the Urban League and assisting with programs at the institute's former Y-camp property south of Woodland Park.
       “This gives us the option to have office space and do our programs at Sondermann Park,” Walker said. “We'll able to do some programs here in town we haven't been able to do before.”
       Started in 1997, the institute receives much of its funding through grants. Last year, the YES program won a statewide El Pomar Foundation excellence award, earning Catamount $15,000, she said.
       Catamount's six to eight employees will be sharing space at the center with the Friends of Beidleman Foundation, a 100-member non-profit group that has volunteered assistance to programs at the center since it opened in the late 1980s.
        Ann Sanger, current president of the Friends group, echoed Walker's enthusiasm. “I'm very, very optimistic,” she said. “Catamount is a good fit for us because they teach environmental programs, which fits right along with our goals.”
        In the meantime, both Catamount and the Friends will be preparing the interior for office space and programs. It is not known how soon the Beidleman phone number will have a live voice at the end; however, an open house for the public will be scheduled in March or early April, Sanger said.
       Matt Mayberry, cultural services manager for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the lease is for $1 a year. There is no cost to the city except continuing to provide utility services.
       Walker said that by April Catamount should have a schedule listing programs through October. One of these is likely to have information about bats, in part to memorialize the late Georgiana Wunderli, a Friends board member who used to specialize in bat programs.
       Another program she hopes to line up will be one by the center's namesake - former Colorado College ecology professor Richard Beidleman - when he visits this summer from his home in California.
        “We will be contacting him about that,” she said. “He knows there have been difficulties (with the center) and that people have been working on solutions.”
       Other than occasional programs by Colorado Springs Utilities, the center has been essentially closed to the public since the end of 2002. Previously, the Parks Department had overseen the operation - Walker herself was a Beidleman Center employee a few years ago - and school buses pulling up was a constant sight.
       City Council's decision to cut back Beidleman, starting in 2003, stemmed from the city's “budget crisis,” and was not a reflection on the center's operation or popularity, Parks Director Paul Butcher has previously told the Pioneer (see issue of Jan. 22).
       The center is accessible from Caramillo Street, off Chestnut Street in the Mesa Springs neighborhood.

Westside Pioneer Article