Remember the Midland Corridor Plan?
Nearly 20 years ago, after a lengthy public process, the Midland/ Fountain Creek Parkway Corridor Plan got sign-offs from Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, El
Paso County, the Colorado Division of Highways and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Similar in many respects to the current ”greenway” proposal, the Midland
Corridor plan was full of recommendations to upgrade the Westside/ Manitou Springs highway/ creek corridor, which was reportedly “degraded by billboards,
power lines, and disheveled properties.”
The first of these improvements, in 1989, was at the northwest corner of Highway 24 and 21st Street, where a $158,000 project rerouted Naegele Road farther north of the intersection, easing traffic conflicts and allowing the creation of a parking area and a grassy knoll. This was to be the start of a new “Arrival Park” - including a “recreation of the original Midland Railway Depot with narrow-gauge rolling stock and other artifacts on display” - that would take in all four corners of 21st and 24.
Officials cautioned then that implementation of the rest of the plan could take up to 20 years; however, as things turned out, the Naegele project was one of the few Midland Corridor Plan proposals that ever made it from paper to reality. Others from that short list are the Midland Trail (following the old Denver & Rio Grande rail line) and a park (now called America the Beautiful) at the confluence of Monument and Fountain creeks.
The hoped-for public-private partnerships never materialized for the other plan proposals, such as the rest of the Arrival Park; highway landscaping; a trolley line from downtown to Old Colorado City; pedestrian crossings over or under the expressway; the “sidewalk cafes, plazas and market stalls overlooking Fountain Creek in commercial areas”; or the corridor becoming “a place for special events such as festivals, races, fairs and live performances (or) interpretive education and environmental awareness.”
Asked what went wrong, long-time Westside civic leader Dave Hughes replied, “Money - it's that simple. Plans are plans, but money's another thing.” At the time, he pointed out, the millions in city funding that had helped revitalize Old Colorado City had slowed to a trickle. In addition, there were no local “champions” to move the plan forward; he noted that the idea had not emanated from the Westside, but from the above-mentioned governments and, even at the city level, the key people who had helped fix Old Town were no longer there.
The Prospector statue, the crowning touch for Naegele's grassy knoll, was largely the result of one man's dream - that of George Fisher, a Colorado Springs resident and a prospector himself - which eventually resulted in the statue by Cloyd Barnes that has adorned the site since 1999.
According to an article in the now-defunct Pikes Peak Journal (on July 28, 1989), one of the early funding setbacks resulted from the Corps of Engineers' decision not to proceed with flood-control work along Fountain Creek between 33rd Street and Monument Creek. City officials had hoped to leverage its corridor enhancements by tying them in with Corps upgrades. “The determination was based on recent studies indicating that the cost benefit of flood structures would be less than the estimated $18 million cost of building them, the Corps told city officials,” the Journal story stated.
Ironically, should the Westside Highway 24 expansion go through as proposed by the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT), the Midland Corridor Plan improvements at 21st and 24 would be eliminated. A full interchange at 21st would cause there to be highway lanes where Naegele and the knoll are now.
A new home for the statue has yet to be determined. However, because CDOT would be buying out all the land in that area north to Fountain Creek, park opportunities there would present themselves, members of CDOT's expansion study team have said.
Such opportunities are being folded into the expansion-accompanying greenway element, which focuses on the same area as the Midland Corridor Plan and includes many of the same environmental sentiments.
The Midland Corridor Plan has been studied by CDOT's Highway 24 study team in working up its greenway concepts. The 1989 plan is an “excellent and relevant starting point for concept planning for this EA [Environmental Assessment],” according to Dirk Draper of CH2M HILL (CDOT's lead consultant in the current study).
One key difference between the older and newer plans is that the current CDOT effort calls for property condemnation to obtain expansion/environmental land while the older one did not. For example, although calling for a third traffic lane each way between the interstate and 21st Street, the Midland Corridor Plan - which was prepared with the help of the Colorado Division of Highways (predecessor to CDOT) - did not insist on the removal of any homes or businesses. “New, attractive, small-office buildings and cottage industry and craft 'lofts' should be encouraged,” the Midland Corridor Plan stated. It also asked that “landscape screening should be provided along the expressway to blend industrial activities on the north side. Property owners should be encouraged to paint metal buildings and fences in earth tones.”
Westside Pioneer article