Volunteers key for Red Rock pavilion

       With speeches, sunny skies and a scattering of signage, the recently completed Red Rock Canyon Open Space outdoor pavilion was dedicated June 13.

ABOVE: Bob Hostetler (speaking at the pavilion dedication June 13) and his wife Elly (far right) donated a $50,000 challenge grant for the pavilion construction that was matched in 2007 by a $50,000 fund-raising campaign led by Karlee Thompson (left), president of the Friends of Red Rock Canyon. Also in the photo is Scott Hume, chair of the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) working committee.
BELOW: One of the new interpretive signs at Red Rock Canyon.
Westside Pioneer photos

       The 2,100-square-foot facility, which will provide a partially covered, open-air shelter and way station for park users, overlies much of of the concrete floor that was once taken up by the Bock family house.
       About 60 people attended the half-hour dedication ceremony (hosted by Colorado Springs Parks), sitting in chairs set out for the occasion. A key speaker was area businessman and Friends of Red Rock Canyon supporter Bob Hostetler. The $50,000 donation/challenge grant from himseslf and his wife Elly was major to the $359,000 pavilion project. He said the donation was based on his and his wife's perception that “as taxpayers we are not adequately supporting our parks,” and urged citizens in general to step forward and help out more.
       Karlee Thompson, president of the Friends group, talked about the yearlong efforts (culminated at the end of 2007) involved in fundraising $50,000 to match the Hostetler grant. “It's wonderful to see this dream come true,” she said.
       City Parks paid the balance of the pavilion cost, using money from the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) tax revenues.
       Thompson added a pitch for the latest Friends fundraising campaign - $75,000 to help the city make its first payment on the neighboring 50-acre White Acres open space property (the purchase of which was approved by City Council this spring). In addition, she urged support for the $640,000 campaign by the Palmer Land Trust to help the city buy another adjacent property as open space- the undeveloped, 640-acre Section 16, which is now owned by the State Land Board and leased by the city through a grant that will expire after 2010.
       The Bock family's one-time “driveway,” located by a lake they carved out near a set of rock formations, is now the Red Rock Canyon Trail into the park's interior. The long timbers (6 by 16 inches and up to 25 feet long) and some of the back-wall rock work - key features of the pavilion - were outsourced from a garage/bomb shelter across the road/trail that had been demolished along with the old house in the project by city-contracted Paterson Construction this past fall and winter.
       The city bought Red Rock in 2003 from the Bocks, who had owned the nearly 800-acre property some 60 years and unsuccessfully sought to develop it several times. The purchase came in response to strong public advocacy against the last of the development plans, by the Zydeco group, in the early 2000s.
       City Council member Jerry Heimlicher, who had recently taken office in 2003 when council voted on the Red Rock purchase, described his “yes” decision as a “tombstone vote.” To questioning looks in the audience, he grinned that the phrase means a vote so important that the politician who cast it would like it to be on his tombstone. However, “I don't think my wife will do it,” he added with a laugh.
       Heimlicher also commented on the extensive volunteer involvement that made the pavilion possible. The city's tight budget, forcing it to rely more on citizen support, “is unfortunate,” he said, “but it is great that we live in a town with people who will do these things.”
       Another volunteer effort, revealed during the ceremony, was by the Broadmoor Garden Club, which planted shrubs in front of the pavilion and where the garage used to be.
       Jim Schwerin, chair of the city's Parks Advisory Board, said he was pleased that the interpretive signage is finally getting installed. As popular as Red Rock has been since it opened, “what's been missing was the ability of the park to speak to its visitors,” he said.
       Based on public meetings last year and internal research to develop an interpretive strategy, the city has placed about 15 such signs, explaining different aspects of Red Rock and related historical or natural features, in five park locations so far, including six at the pavilion itself. Because they are panels in metal sign frames, they can be replaced or updated in the future, according to plans.
       Subjects in the initial signs include local nature and wildlife, the Bock family, the prehistoric changes that created the sandstone rock formations, the Ute Indians who had lived here, the sandstone quarrying by early settlers, the Colorado City gold mills, and the Red Rock ecosystem and why it's “moister” than nearby Garden of the Gods.
       All the panels at this time are different, except one. The one about early quarrying can be found by the Quarry Pass Trail and at the 31st Street trailhead.
       According to Matt Mayberry, director of City Parks' Cultural Services division, there will eventually be 155 interpretive signs in all, with more Red Rock info available in printed materials, on the Internet and to users of cell phones and MP3 players.

ABOVE: The new pavilion, located on the site of the former Bock family house, is shown during the dedication June 13, with a new garden (right, donated by the Broadmoor Garden Club) where the Bocks' garage/ bomb shelter used to be.
BOTTOM: A new interpretive sign near the pavilion summarizes the history of the Ute Indians, who had called this region home before the settlers came.
Westside Pioneer photos

       Asked about the duplicate signs, Mayberry said in an e-mail, “Because there are multiple entry points into the open space, we felt that some overlap of signs wouldn't hurt. I can't say at the moment how much of that will happen over the long term, but I'd prefer to keep it to a minimum. Overall the goal is to make the signs easy to update and replace so that there is new information presented on a fairly regular basis.”

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