Red Rock Open Space plans taking shape
Fall opening possible as plan goes to Parks Board; debate continues on trail types

       The shape of Red Rock Canyon Open Space - including its anticipated opening to the public this fall - came into sharper definition May 5 at the last of five public meetings on a master plan for the rugged, 788.1-acre property.
       The bulk of the public discussion focused on the issue of hiker-only trails - whether the proposed plan includes enough of them or whether all trails instead should be multiuse and courteously shared. The original draft plan, introduced at the April 14 public meeting, had shown one ¾-mile trail for hikers only; after being “bombarded on both sides of the issue,” consultant Rob Clayton revealed a revised plan May 5 with 1.26 miles of hiker-only.
       City officials are still analyzing the public inputs from the May 5 meeting to decide whether further revisions should be included in the draft plan before sending it to the Colorado Springs Parks Board.
       The board is scheduled to consider the plan June 17.
       The May 5 meeting included two unexpected news items:
       · Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS), an arm of the Colorado Springs Parks Department, is considering the purchase of Section 16, which neighbors Red Rock to the south. Section 16 is a 640-acre, state-owned parcel which has been leased by El Paso County as open space since 1972. It includes the Palmer-Red Rock Loop Trail and the Intemann Trail and links to the county's Bear Creek Park and Pike National Forest.
       TOPS would take over the cost of the lease, with the state (which wants to sell the land) allowing a “year of grace” for TOPS to work out a purchase plan, according to Terry Putman, Colorado Springs Parks' manager of design and development as well as TOPS.
       · The U.S. Forest Service is interested in moving its service center from downtown Colorado Springs to Red Rock Canyon. The move, if it occurs, would not be until 2008. The location would be on two acres near Red Rock's access point off Highway 24, an area that is not subject to the tighter development restrictions of the inner park, Putman told the group.
       “It's the type of use I think would fit,” he said, noting that suggested ideas for the center include visitor displays about Red Rock Canyon and the national forest.
       Other announcements from Clayton and Parks administrators gave a clearer idea about the park, as follows:
       · With the expectation of master-plan approval and the last of the carryover tenants on the property being relocated by the end of June, City Parks officials hope to develop a parking lot with restrooms near the Highway 24/Ridge Road entrance - possibly at the other trailheads as well - by September. This would be in conjunction with the park possibly opening to the public this fall.
       · There will be no entry fee or charge for parking. (Some public input had suggested a parking fee to help pay for park costs, but the city is concerned about people parking instead in adjacent residential areas.)
       · About 17 miles of trails in all are envisioned, consisting of 4.65 miles of “easy” trails (generally less than 5 percent slope), 9.42 miles of “intermediate” (10 percent slope) and 3 miles of “difficult” (20 percent slope). However, the majority of these trails would not be built when the park opens.
       · The trails are expected to be built chiefly with volunteers. Medicine Wheel, a bicyclists' trail-maintenance group, wants to adopt an area of the park, a spokesman for the group said. The Intemann Trail Committee has previously volunteered to build a link (shown in the master plan) between the Intemann and the Red Rock Canyon trail system. Other trail-volunteering possibilities are also being explored, according to City Parks Trails Coordinator Chris Lieber.
       · There will be an off-leash dog area, with a .63-mile trail on a mesa relatively near the Highway 24 entrance.
       · “Theme” hiking possibilities, making use of different trails, will give insights about geology and history.
       · In response to Crystal Hills neighborhood concerns about traffic, the plan designates the Bevers Place access as an unsigned connection point, not a trailhead with parking.
       · Rock climbers would be restricted to designated areas, with permits required for technical climbers and no climbing more than 10 feet high without a permit.
       · No stoplight will be installed, at least at the outset, at the park access at Ridge Road and Highway 24. At some point, years in the future, there may be an overpass at that intersection, Putman said.
       · There will be three main access points to the park - at Highway 24 and Ridge Road, at 31st Street just south of Highway 24 and off 26th Street (near the old landfill entrance). Regarding current “social” access points to the park from the neighboring Crystal Hills and Midland neighborhoods, Parks officials were ambivalent, declining to indicate them on the plan but also noting that no fence would be put around the park.
       · The house on the property that was built by the Bock family in the 1970s will neither be torn down nor made part of the plans for the property, at least for now. Plans are to “stabiliize it until further studies can be done,” Clayton said.

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