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Guest column: Invest in our parks - vote yes on 1A

By Sallie Clark

       As a member of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners and your District 3 commissioner, I know how important parks, trails and open space are for the Westside. As you consider your vote on the upcoming ballot, I want to share with you that the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a question that asks you, the voters, to allow the county to retain approximately $2 million in excess 2013 revenue and invest in critical maintenance and improvements for our regional parks, trails, open space, nature centers and fairgrounds.
       We have great county parks. El Paso County has developed an awarding-winning regional park system consisting of over 6,000 acres of parks and open space, 100

miles of trails, two nature centers, dog parks and numerous recreation and cultural programs. People use our parks. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists each year, run/bicycle/ride their horses on our trails and enjoy our parks and open space.
       Over the past decade, the commissioners have supported efforts to effectively maintain our El Paso County park system, even during challenging economic times, fires and floods and other critical priorities. This has led to a backlog of needed improvements, all while our county's growing areas need parks, trails and open space facilities to preserve our quality of life here in the Pikes Peak region.
       The list of projects that will be supported is spread throughout the county and will importantly include the Westside in several projects. The projects include “taking care of what we have” by funding a variety of needed maintenance projects at our regional parks, Bear Creek Nature Center, Rainbow Falls and the county-wide trail system. The funds could also be used for preservation and improvements related to the Jones Park acquisition, should City Council dedicate this land currently owned by Colorado Springs Utilities to El Paso County.
       Parks 1A will also support the completion of the Ute Pass Regional Trail and help with the continued restoration of Rainbow Falls, especially needed in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire and subsequent flash-flood damage. The complete project list can be found at voteyesforparks.com.
       El Paso County Parks has an excellent track record of leveraging existing funds through grants and donations. By approving the ballot question, we will be able to leverage those one-time dollars to expand in size and scope, the investment in our parks system.
       Supporting 1A will benefit us by improving access to healthy activities by encouraging an active lifestyle, providing additional community recreation opportunities, enhancing tourism, promoting economic development, providing multi-modal transportation opportunities, enhancing our neighborhoods, and providing positive alternatives for our free time.
       The 1A initiative will defer a one-time $8.41 credit on 2014 property tax statements. This small credit amount will be the best $8 community investment you can make this year. Join me in supporting the Parks 1A initiative. A vote for 1A is a small community investment for an important future.

       Editor's note: Sallie Clark is the El Paso County commissioner for District 3, which includes the Colorado Springs Westside.

(Posted 10/20/14; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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