Parks Board vote green-lights Red Rock OS

       A unanimous vote by the Colorado Springs Parks Board June 17 gave City Parks administrators the go-ahead they needed to open Red Rock Canyon Open Space to the public in September.
       The September time frame, which City Parks Development Manager Terry Putman had said was possible over a month ago, will offer a 788.1-acre park with “at least” a parking lot with restrooms at the Ridge Road acess and some new trail, Putman said at the meeting. Long-range plans call for three main access points/parking lots, several interior trailheads, 17 miles of trails (including close to a mile that is wheelchair-accessible), three rock-climbing areas, a picnic area, a “free-ride” bicycle area, a dog off-leash area, and possibly a U.S. Forest Service office (if the agency follows through on a suggested relocation) that could provide some visitor center-type functions.
       Board members, as well as several speakers from the public, praised the efficiency of the planning effort, which moved from city purchase of the ruggedly scenic property late last November to a public-meeting process this spring to the final master plan that the Parks Board voted on.
       “I'm amazed at the speed this has gone forward,” board member Larry Royal said. “Usually it takes a year and a half for people to figure out where they're going to sit in the room.”
       The public process consisted of five specially facilitated meetings between February and May that were intended to draw out citizen ideas and at the same time avert acrimony. A city-hired consultant used the public input to develop a plan with City Parks administrators that attempted to strike a balance between different outdoor interest groups and types of trail users.
       “I'm very supportive of the plan,” Board Chair Steve Harris said before the 7-0 vote.
        One of the biggest constraints in opening the park has been relocating some 30 tenants of the previous owner. However, Putman said that “all the tenants have been negotiated with” and all but five are now relocated.
        He issued a call for volunteers to help with other aspects of preparing the property, including the Aug. 28-29 trail-building project with the Denver-based Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
       In accepting the master plan, the board agreed to give future consideration to two changes in how Red Rock unfolds. One regards a possible auto or tram access to the park's interior for people lacking the moblity to get there on foot, bike or horse. By allowing access with trails only, “you have locked the door to this beautiful area,” Westside resident Russ Chapman told the board.
       Putman said that the rules govering city open space - which the interior is - disallow anything but trails. But he added that “there may be a way to get around it” and pledged, “I will look into it.”
       The other change the board will consider is naming a trail inside the park. City Parks often leaves trails unnamed; however, Westside businesswoman Corrine Toll requested at the meeting that some recognition be given in Red Rock Canyon to what she called “sacred feminity.” At a board meeting last January, she had unsuccessfully urged that the park itself be called “Garden of the Goddesses”; she indicated June 17 that it would be enough for her if a trail there was named in that spirit.
        City Parks Director Paul Butcher told the board that he and his staff would come back to the board on the subject. “We will bring you both sides of the issue,” he said, adding that “trail-naming can be a sensitive thing.”
        Another issue that City Parks administrators said they will keep the board informed on is any plans they develop for the 44 acres near to and fronting Highway 24. Because this area was not bought with open-space funds, there is more flexibility for recreational uses than in the open-space part of the property. Already slated there are the dog, picnic and bike areas and the potential USFS office.
       But the plan's uncertainty about other parts of the 44 acres is a concern for the Manitou Springs Open Space Advisory Committee, according to Jim Yount, who was representing the group. “The committee wants to know what will occur there,” he said.
       One of the ideas suggested during the spring public meetings, Yount noted, was a public swimming pool in that area. Although he did not mention it in his comments to the board, such a recreational attraction would likely compete with the public pool operated by the City of Manitou Springs.
       Other questions raised at the June 17 meeting included trail design (ensuring that mountain bikes don't get going too fast on multi- use trails), barbed wire on the property (that it needs to be removed), wildlife (respect their habitats), Indian artifacts (turn them in to City Parks, if found) and how long-term maintenance costs will be covered.
        The latter point was raised by Royal, noting that Stratton Open Space has a $180,000 endowment. Putman said basic costs should not be a problem as long as the city has its open-space tax to draw from.
        However, local tax skeptic Douglas Bruce has sued the city, contesting the authenticity of the 2003 election that voted overwhelmingly to extend the tax. A judge's ruling on the suit is anticipated sometime this year.

Westside Pioneer Article