Home Page

Fundraising campaign in fall to bolster Ballot Issue 1A allotment for Bear Creek Nature Center exhibits

       When voters approved Ballot Issue 1A in November 2014, El Paso County's Bear Creek Regional Park was a major recipient, with $225,000 earmarked for improvements.
       But park users may have to wait until 2016 before they see any results.
       Community Services Director Tim Wolken, whose job scope includes the county's park system, said in a recent interview that the approved money isn't enough by itself, and donations will be sought from the public.
       Bear Creek Park projects were among several county-wide that were publicized to voters for Ballot Issue 1A. The issue's passage allowed the county to keep just over $2 million in “excess revenue” from the
The vita course (part of which is shown here) is in Bear Creek Regional Park near the archery area on the south side of Argus Boulevard. The structures are solid but are showing signs of wear and lack of paint.
Westside Pioneer photo
previous year's tax collections. A vote was necessary because the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) in the state constitution requires governments to refund such money unless voters say otherwise.
       For Bear Creek Park, most of the $225,000 will be designated for exhibits at the Bear Creek Nature Center. The facility at 245 Bear Creek Road near 26th Street and Lower Gold Camp Road is free and open to the public Wednesdays to Saturdays and also provides special programs (some free, some requiring fees).
       “The center's current exhibits are about 15 years old,” Wolken pointed out, and in need of some work. However, the designated amount from 1A ($150,000) “won't be enough to do it all.”
       According to Todd Marts, director of both the Bear Creek and Fountain nature centers, the intent with the exhibits is to “reinvigorate” the offerings. Although a detailed proposal is still a few months away - timed for the fundraising campaign - it's likely that a new live-animal exhibit showing fish or reptiles will be designed. The current live beehive is “always popular” and will be retained, he said.
       Also, in keeping with the namesake of both the park and the Bear Creek Nature center, the large bear exhibit will be kept, but will be enhanced with “a better example of vegetation,” Marts said.
       A fundraising campaign, aided by the volunteer Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers, will seek to augment the $150,000 from 1A with about $50,000 in donations.
       Wolken could only speculate on how long it will take to reach that goal. “I wouldn't rule out launching anything [starting construction] in 2015, but we're probably looking at 2016,” he said.
       With the remaining $75,000 (from the $225,000 in 1A), County Parks plans to invest in Bear Creek Park's tennis courts off Argus and 21st (repairing the last two of the eight courts), the nearby vita (exercise) course and off-street parking (resurfacing as well as adding more spaces).
       Donations will also be needed for these projects, Wolken said, adding that for example, “I could spend the entire amount [the $225,000] on parking lots alone.”
       There is historical precedent for the county's strategy - both with TABOR and with fundraising to help the Bear Creek Nature Center. After the original center was destroyed by fire in 2000, voters approved a TABOR override to build a new facility. And after that, a fundraising campaign succeeded in developing the exhibits that are displayed in the building now.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/26/15; Outdoors: Bear Creek Nature Center )

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)