District 1 Report: Being best city takes work

By City Councilman Scott Hente

       It's summer time, so I'll lay off of some of the heavy political stuff and focus, instead, on a unique aspect of our city.
       Colorado Springs was recently named the best city, with a population over 300,000 in the United States, to live in. Colorado Springs has also fared very well in national surveys in terms of overall public fitness and health. And Colorado Springs enjoys an abundance of public parks, open spaces and hiking and biking trails. These three distinctions are not merely coincidences but are closely tied together.
       We often take for granted the many natural venues we have here in our local area. With the country's most famous mountain in our backyard and one of the outstanding municipal parks in the world - the Garden of the Gods - in our own neighborhood, it's easy to forget that we are indeed blessed with many areas for hiking, biking, and recreation. And do they get used! Just take a look at the filled parking lots for Ute Valley Park or Barr Trail, or the number of hikers in Red Rock Open Space, and you get the real sense that our residents take their pursuit of healthy outdoor activities very seriously.
       But the many outdoor activities and sites we have available to us come at a cost. Most of our popular areas have devoted volunteers who contribute many hours to their upkeep. The Friends of the Peak, the Garden of the Gods Foundation, and the Friends of Red Rock, not to mention the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, are all examples of volunteer groups dedicated to preserving and enhancing outdoor recreational activities. And, in addition to contributions from the city's general fund towards parks and open spaces, there is a voter-approved .1 percent sales tax that goes directly towards trails, open spaces and parks. By their personal volunteer work and approval of tax financing, our city residents have told us that they consider our outdoor recreational sites a "must have" in this community.
       So what has this gotten us? It seems to me that our many recreational options have helped keep us more physically fit, which boosts our overall health, and a healthy city is a great city to live in. New York may have many great museums, but we have the Pikes Peak Marathon; Los Angeles may have Hollywood, but we have the Starlight Spectacular Bike Ride; Washington, D.C. may have some great monuments, but we have the Garden of the Gods 10 mile Run. In many ways, our outdoor activities help define Colorado Springs and set the tone for what is truly "the best city to live in."
       So what are you doing sitting there reading this column?! Get out there and take advantage of the many and varied outdoor recreational areas we have available to us. And if you happen to see a slightly overweight, 50ish hiker huffing and puffing up Barr Trail, give me a "high five" and lie to me and tell me I'm looking good!

Scott Hente is the City Council member for District 1, which includes Pleasant Valley and Westside areas north of Uintah Street. His column appears in the Westside Pioneer about every six weeks. Hente’s phone at City Hall is 385-5467 and his e-mail is shente@springsgov.com.