New city effort to purchase Section 16

       Colorado Springs Parks is trying again to purchase Section 16 as open space.
       As in 2004, a major step in the process is a grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Letters supporting the $2 million request are being sought through Aug. 24, according to Aimee Cox, grant writer for the department and the city's TOPS (Trails, Open Space and Parks) program.
       Section 16 is an undeveloped 640-acre property just south of the city-owned 788.1-acre Red Rock Canyon Open Space and adjacent to El Paso County's Bear Creek Regional Park.
       Most of the purchase price - which is being negotiated - would be covered with money from TOPS (funded by a .1 percent sales tax).
       The city gave up its purchase quest in '04 after a legal challenge against TOPS (which eventually lost in the courts) was mounted by area tax skeptic (now county commissioner) Douglas Bruce. Instead, the city was able to secure a $200,000 GOCO grant to cover the cost of leasing the property from the State Land Board for five years (through 2010).
       The proposed purchase would take effect at the end of the lease term.
       The county or city has leased the acreage since 1972. The section is what is known as state “school land” - namely property that has a mandate to earn income for school uses.
       Section 16 is accessible from a county-maintained trailhead off Gold Camp Road. Principal trails are the volunteer-maintained Palmer/Red Rock Loop Trail and Intemann Trail. The latter also connects to Manitou Springs and Red Rock Canyon.
       A $1 million GOCO grant, combined with TOPS funds, helped the city acquire Red Rock Canyon for $12 million in 2003.
       Section 16 “shares many of the unique geological features and natural values found in Red Rock Canyon and along with Red Rock Canyon, creates a generous wildlife corridor and open space buffer between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs,” states a write-up from Cox.
       “Until the City purchases Manitou Section 16, the future of the property will remain uncertain,” she adds. “Letters from concerned citizens and groups supporting acquisition are critical to the success of our grant application.”
       For more information on writing a Section 16 grant support letter, call Cox at 385-6532.

From a press release