Section 16 purchase supported
       I appreciated your coverage of the Section 16 purchase in the Sept. 16 Westside Pioneer. This important piece of property will finally be the bridge that permanently connects our many Westside open spaces-Red Rock Canyon, White Acres, Stratton Open Space, and Bear Creek Park, among them. These are precious commodities for our Westside and Manitou Springs neighborhoods as well as the entire region to enjoy. As a native Coloradan, longtime resident of Manitou Springs, tourism business owner and candidate for Statehouse District 18, I believe that our parks and open spaces are critical to our quality of life and our economic base.
       The partnerships that have been established to make this long awaited purchase a reality deserve appropriate credit. We should give a special thank you to those who fought before us, including Marcy Morrison, who supported purchase of this property years ago when she was our county commissioner. The perseverance of open space advocates, City, County and State elected officials, City and County Parks' boards and staff, the Trails and Open Space (TOPS) Working Committee, and non-profits such as the Palmer Land Trust, the Trails and Open Space Coalition and so many others, pushed this forward to a triumph for today.
       Interestingly, the recently released Quality of Life Indicators included a component for Recreation Presence which states, “Parks and open space are a key element of what makes Colorado Springs unique and attractive to both residents and visitors.” However, as a caveat to that statement, the study goes on to say, “Due to the recession, both the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County face significant challenges to fund the acquisition, development and maintenance of parks and open space.” We know that only through innovative partnerships, demonstrated through projects like Section 16, will we find long-term funding solutions and preservation of our most precious open spaces. Community collaboration and a continued effort to increase our economic vitality will be the key to setting the stage for additional park land purchases. I look forward to participating in a community solution.

Karen Cullen