Manitou will hear all views on greenway to No Man’s Land

       Although intrigued by the possibilities, Manitou Springs City Council members were not in total agreement July 24 about redeveloping the town's eastern corridor as part of greenway plans proposed by Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) consultants.
       Council member Donna Ford was concerned that the result could mean chain stores and the effect on Manitou would be “asking people to give up their quirky individuality.”
       The hope is that a stronger commercial segment near Manitou's border with western Colorado Springs will help “create economic stability” so that the town does not have to rely so much on summer tourism, council member Eric Drummond said.
       In response to a question from council member Shannon Solomon, Bill Koerner, former Manitou Springs mayor and a citizen member of CDOT's greenway planning committee, emphasized that no changes would occur without an extensive public process.
       The meeting also touched on a couple of discussion points that could arise during such a process - potential Manitou annexation of unincorporated areas around the avenue east of its city limits and a trade-off in which CDOT would help implement Manitou Avenue improvements in exchange for the town taking over maintenance of the road.
       Also at the meeting, Mary Jo Vobejda, CDOT's head consultant on the project, clarified how the greenway's open-space/ redevelopment plans will relate to the Environmental Assess-ment (EA) for the Westside Highway 24 expansion (which is still set for federal submission in early 2009). She said those plans will be described in the EA, but not in “final detail.” Such fine-tuning would be up to “stakeholder” governments, whose representatives are welcome to use CDOT's presence for consultation or to facilitate the necessary grants and loans. Examples of such agencies are the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Corps of Engineers, both of which are interested in the greenway effort, she said.
       CDOT's thinking is that greenway improvements could actually get started sooner than the highway expansion, which currently has no funding except $8.5 million for the expansion planning effort that added the greenway element last winter.
       Meeting at a work session July 24, Manitou council members saw four concepts - the same ones CDOT showed at a public open house at Bancroft Park last month - which suggest greenway/revedevelopment possibilities for Fountain Creek and Manitou/Colorado Avenue west of Ridge Road. They range in scope from keeping the creek where it is now, with narrow, walled channels in places to address potential flooding; giving the creek a more natural flood plain with open space/recreational areas; and even relocating the creek and/or avenue by up to 200 feet. Such relocations would help solve a current problem on the north side of the avenue, in which the distance from the avenue to the creek is as little as 50 feet in places - too shallow for modern redevelopment projects, according to Kevin Shanks, a CDOT consultant who has led the greenway planning.
       The Ridge-to-Manitou area is part of an avenue segment sometimes called “No Man's Land,” in part because of the mixed government jurisdictions (city in one place, county in another) and in part because of its older appearance and dearth of public amenities such as sidewalks and curbs.
       An “avenue” task force - consisting of Manitou, Colorado Springs and El Paso County representatives - had been meeting on No Man's Land ideas before the greenway concepts came out, but that group was not mentioned July 24.
       One point that CDOT representatives at the meeting emphasized was that the avenue west of Ridge Road is outside the required flood-plain purview of the rest of the Westside Highway 24 planning effort. Between I-25 and Ridge, CDOT's expansion plans have to account for flood plain impacts - and, according to Vobejda, will remove 78 percent of the properties there from it. But in Manitou, any greenway improvements would be at the discretion of the town.
       There is clearly interest, though. Manitou, which created an urban renewal authority this year because of blight concerns for its eastern corridor, had requested this spring that CDOT extend its greenway study west of 31st Street/ Ridge Road.
       “These are only concepts,” Shanks told the Manitou council. “We just wanted to show the full range of what could be done. CDOT is not looking at purchasing all these properties. But it may be a real opportunity for Manitou Springs that hasn't come along till now.”

Westside Pioneer article