Updated Bear Creek master plan goes to Parks Board
County will need to scrounge for project funds

       After taking comments from a few dozen citizens at an April 1 open house, a proposed master plan update for Bear Creek Regional Park will go before the El Paso County Parks Board Tuesday, April. 8. The public meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the county commissioners chambers of the county building at 27 E. Vermijo St. A County Parks map from the April 1 open house shows the anticipated locations of future upgrades or new 
features. Part of the Skyway subdivision is at lower left and Crown Hill Mesa at the top.
El Paso County Parks map; Westside Pioneer photo
       The plan calls for a little over $1 million in new and upgraded features in the 575-acre park, especially in the currently developed 24 acres west and east of 21st Street (known respectively as Bear Creek Terrace and Bear Creek East). However, nothing new is foreseen right away, and all work - with the exception of a $320,000 Terrace restroom upgrade (which is already under construction) - would be phased in as funding sources become available, County Parks staffers explained.
       Based on the draft list, here are the amenities that people can expect to see phased in during the years to come:
       Phase 1 - renovations to the tennis courts (south of Argus Boulevard),
       Improved trail signage and general trail repairs.
       Phase 2 - Improved parking areas/gutters, new pavilion roofs, a trail connection to the Crown Hill Mesa neighborhood, better landscaping near the tennis courts, additional Bear Creek Nature Center exhibits and upgrades to the archery range (south of Argus Boulevard). Note: County Parks Director Tim Wolken said the latter item was added to the list in response to a request from an archery instructor at the open house.
       Phase 3 - a seasonal outdoor ice rink (possibly in Bear Creek Terrace), a trail from the Dog Park (off 21st Street) to the Bear Creek Nature Center (off 26th Street and Lower Gold Camp Road), a trailhead at Eighth Street (using the current rear entrance to the Norris-Penrose Event Center), new railroad tie retaining walls in Bear Creek Terrace and a fishing habitat east of the Nature Center in Bear Creek.
       The list reflects not only comments at the open house but also, to a large extent, feedback to a survey by County Parks last year, to which 530 people responded.
       The survey results indicated that the four most popular features in the park are its trail system, open space, Dog Park and Nature Center. In the survey, people had been asked to prioritize from staff-provided lists of options for new features or improvements to existing features, or to offer ideas of their own.
       Those who filled out the survey may wonder what happened to the sledding hill option, which had received the second highest survey support among possible new amenities (behind the Dog Park-to-Nature Center trail and ahead of the ice rink and fishing habitat). According to Wolken, the sledding hill had to be left out because staffers were unable to craft a viable plan for the suggested location in front of a a couple of small hills at the south end of the Bear Creak East area. Issues include parking and access (there are no adjacent roads), getting help in an emergency (also an access issue), maintenance of the site and the question of how many times a year the run would have sufficient snow.
       Wolken said staff is currently leaning toward putting a sled run at Fox Run Regional Park near Black Forest, in part because that area gets more snow. In the meantime, at Bear Creek Terrace, sledders often use an unofficial, fairly easy slope from the parking lot to the soccer field, he pointed out.
       Among those at the open house was County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a Westside resident whose District 3 includes Bear Creek Park. She said she was pleased at County Parks' staff efforts to find out people's wishes and get them into the master plan.
       As for funding, “we have to look at the budget and see what we can logically accomplish,” she said. In that regard, she noted that County Parks only has $1.7 million a year for its general-fund budget. Dollars for park features would have to be leveraged through grants, lottery funds and other sources, she said.

Westside Pioneer article