Here’s your chance to ‘friend’ Sondermann Park

       A friends group for Sondermann Park is in the works.

The layout of Sondermann Park is shown, including its trails and contours, in proximity to the Mesa Springs neighborhood and the Caramillo Street access going into the Beidleman Center parking lot.
Courtesy of Colorado Springs Parks

       A meeting/cook-out - open to people who want to help care for the 100-acre city property - is tentatively planned for June, according to Darlene Jensen, director of the Catamount Institute, an environmental nonprofit which is coordinating the recruiting effort.
       Located just west of the Mesa Springs neighborhood, Sondermann is a mostly natural park, with some rolling hills, grass and occasional trees, a creek running through it and more than two miles of trails. The access is from Caramillo Street, off Chestnut Street. Caramillo ends at the parking lot outside the Beidleman Center, a renovated former nursery at the east edge of Sondermann that Catamount leases from the city.
       Sondermann Park gets occasional attention from City Parks, but the department lacks the staff it had in previous years, and random volunteers can only fill in some of the maintenance and clean-up gaps. The park would benefit from the consistent attention that a friends group could provide, according to Steve Schwartz, who lives next to Sondermann and describes himself now as a “kind of self-appointed trash picker-upper.”
       Sondermann, he asserted, is “a hidden gem, an urban wildlife preserve. That's hard to find in a big city. A friends group would be able to represent the park to the city, give the park a voice.”
       It was Schwartz who brought the idea to Catamount. Jensen said the idea is timely because the city's continuing budget woes mean that it is “lacking funds to maintain its parks.” As a result, friends groups for parks “are popping up across the city.”
       At Sondermann, some of the trails are getting rutted, trees need trimming, some signs are down and “it just needs basic overall upkeep,” she said.
       Schwartz also identified a a need for wildfire mitigation (which would require cutting back some dead vegetation) and a problem with ATVs. Not only do they lead to erosion, but “we occasionally get really bad ATV drivers that chase wildlife,” he said.
       Several years ago, Schwartz had been a member of a then-large volunteer organization called the Friends of the Beidleman Center. The group had formed to help out after City Parks opened the building as a public nature center in the 1980s. However, Schwartz pointed out that the Friends group never adopted Sondermann as a whole, and a while after the city closed Beidleman as a city nature center in 2002, the membership disbanded.
       In recruiting for a friends group, Jensen is getting the word out to the Mesa Springs Community Association, the Trails and Open Space Coalition (a city-wide advocacy group), as well as “the many visitors who come and go through the park who might like to get involved.”
       Current volunteer efforts at Sondermann are Boy Scout and Girl Scout projects that are restoring the historic Kathleen Marriage Garden near the Beidleman Center.
       For more information, call Catamount at 471-0910.

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