Colorado Springs Parks officials respond to ATV problem at Sondermann Park

       Colorado Springs Parks is looking into reports of off-road vehicles cutting into Sondermann Park from the Mesa Road area west of it.
       The main access for the roughly 50-acre park is on its east side, through the Beidleman Center (occupied by the Catamount Institute) off Caramillo Street in the Mesa Springs area. The park chiefly consists of open space and a network of hiking trails.
       City Parks officials Jeff Haley and Scott Abbott visited the site this week with Steve Schwartz, vice-president of the Mesa Springs Community Association. One clear two-lane track could be seen coming over a hill from the west, and Schwartz described an older area with “wheelie” markings.
       Schwartz, who lives near the park, said he has seen off-road vehicles (also known as all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs) driving in occasionally and getting near hikers. “One of them almost ran somebody down,” he commented.
       Haley and Abbott said they would use recent aerial photos to try to pinpoint ATV routes into the park and possibly hold a neighborhood meeting on the issue.
       The main thrust of such efforts would be to educate people about city ordinances that ban motorized vehicles from parks and open spaces.
       Abbott noted that many people might not even know Sondermann is a park. There are no signs for it on or near Mesa Road, so people might be unaware of the difference between that open land and, for example, the open land north of it, off Fillmore Street, that is privately owned and often used by ATVs.
       He advised off-road users to call the city if they are not sure the use is allowed in any open area.
       Once an ATV track has been established, such as the one at Sondermann, it is very difficult to restore the hillside to its former state, Haley pointed out. With the loss of vegetation, further hillside erosion can occur. Meanwhile, compounding the problem, other people might gravitate to it as a social trail.
       “This is a problem all across our parks system,” said Abbott, who is the ranger at Red Rock Canyon Open Space. “We get calls all the time.”
       Schwartz had contacted City Parks about the issue and informed members of the association in a recent newsletter.

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