Volunteers adopt Prospector ‘entryway’

       Maybe, somewhere beneath his steady bronze visage, the Prospector is smiling.

Volunteers spruce up the 21st Street Entryway, which includes the Prospector statue, June 19 during the first workday there by its adopters (the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District and Historic District Merchants of Old Colorado City). At far right, district employee David Porter (also a volunteer that day) carries up more flowers. The small park is at the northwest corner of 21st Street and Highway 24.
Westside Pioneer photo

       This could have been assumed in years past, when the small hill at the northwest corner of Highway 24 and 21st Street - on which the nearly 10-foot-tall statue stands with a proportionally large and equally bronzed burro - had been surrounded with green grass and tidy landscaping. But this spring, with the city short on money for parks, the hill was looking raggedy, with dead grass and weeds.
       That's when the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District and the Historic District Merchants (HDM) of Old Colorado City stepped in. At the urging of its president, Judy Kasten, the district board arranged with the city this month to adopt what's officially called the 21st Street Entryway, and about 20 representatives and family members from both entities turned out for a workday the morning of June 19. They raked, edged, pulled out dead growth, planted flowers, pulled weeds and spread fertilizer.
       “Here we are, we who don't have time for our own yards,” laughed one of the volunteers, Lynda Dunne, then added seriously, “This shows the heart of people in general. When government can't do it, we rally.”

The 21st Street Entryway and Prospector statue are seen from the vantage point of westbound traffic on Highway 24. The photo was taken June 19, while volunteers improved the appearance of the small park.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Using taxes from property owners within its boundaries, the Maintenance District is legally charged to look after public improvements in the area around Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th streets. The Entryway is outside those boundaries, but displays an “Old Colorado City” sign and serves as an attractor to highway motorists. As a result, Kasten was displeased that it had come to look so “pitiful,” to use her description in an e-mail appeal for support from other board members. “I think even though it is not in our immediate three-block area, we and the entire community are suffering the embarrassment.”
       A majority of the board agreed, and as a result the district will spend some of its funds this summer to keep the site looking nice. Plans include mowing more frequently than the city's every-two-weeks schedule and probably some weed control, Kasten said.
       The HDM, consisting of several Old Colorado City retail shops, decided to support the cause as well. “It looked horrible,” said HDM board member Nancy Stovall.
       In the changing reality of city finances this year, the Entryway's plight is not quite as desperate as it was when Kasten and the board first started considering the adoption two weeks ago. At the time, City Parks was not watering most of its parks and medians at all. Since then, after hearing criticism from the community - such as those from the Maintenance District and the HDM - the city now plans to put 11 to 15 inches of water on all those locations. Money to do so, acting City Parks director Kurt Schroeder explained this week, came out of savings from the recent unexpected resignations of department employees (including former executives Paul Butcher and Chris Lieber).
       Schroeder expects to keep the 21st Street Entryway watered until about the end of September, when the temperatures should be cooler. “We'll play it by ear,” he said. “The amount depends on how much rain Mother Nature gives us.”
       However, there still isn't enough money to provide the full level of maintenance that all parks and medians used to get (with the exception of 13 parks, including Bancroft, that have an especially high amount of public use). As a result, Schroeder said the department welcomes the adoption of the 21st Street Entryway, with the added attention that means.
       David Porter, the sole Maintenance District employee, was one of the volunteers at the workday June 19. Even though he does such work for a living, he said he was happy to step forward out of continuing appreciation for merchant support he received last December after nearly being laid off because of the city budget cutbacks.

Westside Pioneer article