‘Summer Celebration’ offers events, seeks Garden of Gods help
Decade-old foundation hopes to attain $1 million donation mark

       Bonnie Frum remembers how things used to be at the Garden of the Gods. Working at the former visitors center - a converted house up a long set of steps from Juniper Way Loop - “We had to put buckets out when it rained and cover our books with plastic,” she said. “And the one bathroom overflowed on a regular basis.”
       Meanwhile, out in the free-admission, city-owned park, about 2 million annual visitors were allowed to tramp about almost anywhere, and problems were mounting with erosion and overuse.
       Change came in 1995, when property owner/philanthropist Lyda Hill led the creation of a large, new, privately operated Garden of the Gods Visitor Center across the street from the park on 30th Street at Gateway Road. At the same time, in conjunction, with a then-newly formed Garden of the Gods Foundation, the center began implementing a plan to donate an annual share of its proceeds - $75,000 was the starting figure - for park upkeep.
       Frum, who has been the Visitor Center's director of operations since 1997, and foundation volunteers are hoping to leverage the center's contributions in a big way this year. The upcoming warm months have been dubbed the “Summer of Celebration,” as a special foundation steering committee will sponsor eight new events (plus “tagging along” with three existing events), as part of an overall goal to reach the $1 million mark in money raised by the Garden of the Gods Foundation during its 10 years of existence.
       With the annual proceeds from the center now at nearly $98,000 (the stipend goes up 3 percent each year), the total contributed by the foundation to City Parks in 10 years stands at nearly $790,000, Frum said. So just over $210,000 would need to be raised to make the $1 million target.
       The events will begin April 18 at Colorado College, with the first of three free “Decade of Discovery” symposiums about the Garden of the Gods, respectively featuring an anthropologist, paleontologist and biologist. A complete list of Summer of Celebration events appears in a separate article on this page.
       A key idea in the fund-raising campaign is to involve the local community. “We're trying to get across a vision that it's everyone's park, a gem of Colorado Springs, and how many of us have ever had the chance to give anything to it?” Frum said.
       She noted that the estimated 2 million park visitors a year is “greater than all the state parks' visitation put together. It's amazing that Colorado Springs can maintain a park with such heavy usage and and still have it user-friendly.”
       By contrast, she pointed to Roxboro State Park, near Denver, which disallows climbing, dogs and picnicking.
       Asked how the added donations would be spent, Frum said she trusts City Parks. “I think they do a great job,” she said. “They'll know what to do with it.”
       Paul Butcher, director of City Parks, told the Westside Pioneer he envisions two main uses for the 'Celebration' funds: implementing what he termed a “modest forestry management plan” and hiring staff to help enhance visitors' experience in the Garden.
       Butcher is especially concerned that the Garden's trees are aging and overgrown in places, leaving them susceptible to disease or fire if remedial management steps are not taken.
       He also welcomes the input of the foundation as to the use of the funds. “If there are other issues they'd like us to address, such as trail building or revegation, we will be happy to comply with such direction,” he said.
       Staff, maintenance, materials and revegetation have been City Parks' main uses of foundation funds over the years, according to a list provided by Butcher. The money has also been allocated at times for interpretive signs, a parking lot, a restroom, exhibits, tools and supplies, according to the list.
       “It's all private and we pay taxes,” Frum said of the center, which includes two gift shops, a theater (showing a movie about the park), a cafeteria, various exhibits, a large parking lot and a deck overlooking the Gateway rocks and Pikes Peak. “It's the best thing the city could ever have happen.”
       It also appears that the city's need for funding help will not cease anytime soon. A report five years ago claimed the Garden needed more than $4 million in restoration work. “We all have to start caring about this park,” Frum said.

Westside Pioneer article