Westside Earth Day popularity grows

       Another year, another record turnout for Westside Earth Day activities. Bren Triplett and his 4-year-old daughter Caroline, who is in pre-Kindergarten at Howbert Elementary, help plant 
four new Toba Hawthorn trees in a grove at the southeast end of Rock Ledge Ranch as part of Earth Day activities April 19. Howbert School and Howbert Brownie 
Troop #476 each donated a Toba tree.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The Garden of the Gods Visitor Center (about 4,000 last year and 4,400 this year), Rock Ledge Ranch (900 and 1,300) and Colorado Springs Utilities' Conservation & Environmental Center (400 and 800) all reported new highs for attendees at their annual activities April 19.
       The attractions varied. The Visitor Center's Bonnie Frum said the Mr. Science and Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center presentations were particularly popular, drawing 140 at a time. They had given each two time slots this year, and Mr. Science may need a third next year, said Frum, the center's director of operations.
       Rock Ledge once again featured tree-planting opportunities, which drew a few dozen volunteers to put in four donated Toba Hawthorns by the chapel and 12 apple and 6 cherry trees near the Rock Ledge House. One of the Tobas was donated by Howbert Elementary, with another by Howbert Brownie Troop #476, so there was plenty of youthful energy in the planting process. Principal David Morris, who also joined in, said “the neat thing” about the students helping is “they can remember the trees they bought, and they'll be here when the kids are as old as us.”
       Taking advantage of a free day at the city-owned, 1880s-style working ranch, other visitors got peeks at the mostly finalized Orchard House third-floor restoration and the newly working sprinkler wagon, according to ranch lead interpreter Beth Harmon.
       It was the third year of directly coordinated Earth Day efforts by the Visitor Center and Rock Ledge, which are essentially on opposite sides of 30th Street. Parking for both was directed to the larger Rock Ledge area, while the center ran a shuttle bus back and forth. Ryan Kerns of the Air Force Academy lets young Kevin Rowe pet Destiny, a gyrfalcon, during a presentation at the 
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
Westside Pioneer photo
       At the Conservation Center on Mesa Road, about 170 of the attendees joined free classes/ demonstrations on xeriscaping, wildlife, and energy and water efficiency. Others strolled through the center's xeriscape garden or examined the 15-some interactive exhibits. “We try to improve it and do better each year,” said Utilities spokesperson Natilia Sibert.

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