On the right path?
Red Rock Canyon trail issues arise

       A debate on trail plans for Red Rock Canyon may ensue at the last of five public meetings on a master plan for the new city open space Wednesday, May 5.
       The meeting will be at 5 p.m. in the West Intergenerational Center, 25 N. 20th St.
       Two issues have been simmering since the fourth meeting April 14: the number/length of hiker-only trails in the draft master plan and what will happen if the park opens later this year (as anticipated) with many of the master-planned trails still unbuilt.
       The former issue surfaced as a concern by several citizen subgroups at the April 14 meeting.
       Since then, the Red Rock Canyon Foundation (RRCF) has been mulling an appeal, to be delivered May 5, asking that several miles of trails be designated hiker-only - not just the single, ¾-mile footpath that was shown in the draft master plan. In all, the draft plan recommended about 15 miles of trail, mostly multi-use.
       According to foundation members, a greater emphasis on pedestrian uses in the park would serve the large hiker community and cause less wear and tear on the park.
       The RRCF includes people who were part of the four-year “save Red Rock Canyon” campaign that led to the purchase of the 788.1-acre open-space parcel late last year. The effort involved wrangling with a would-be housing developer and convincing the city of Colorado Springs to buy the property with $12.5 million of open space funds.
       The unbuilt-trail issue came up at a meeting of the Manitou Springs Open Space Advisory Committee meeting Monday, April 26. Because the city plans to use volunteers to build the trails in Red Rock Canyon, apprehension was expressed by committee and audience members that it will take years to build them all, especially in steep, rocky areas where construction and maintenance will be difficult.
       In the meantime, members said, park users could create - by hiking, biking or horseback riding along and between existing roads, trails and drainages - potentially unsafe social trails.
       At the May 5 meeting, a revised master plan reflecting citizen comments at the April 14 meeting is scheduled to be presented by Rob Layton of the Lafayette consulting firm of Design Concepts.
       Other potentially controversial aspects of the plan include the proximity of a proposed picnic area to a Crystal Hills neighborhood, the extent and location of rock-climbing sites, a “free-ride” area for daring bicycle riders and a designated area where dogs would be allowed to roam without leashes.
       The four preceding meetings, which began in February, have routinely attracted more than 100 people.
       In an attempt to harness participant productivity, meeting facilitators have used a format in which people break up into ad hoc subgroups and form a consensus of ideas and opinions, which a subgroup member then presents to the group as a whole.

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