Garden of Gods Foundation tops $1M

       Donations during this year's “Summer of Celebration” allowed the Garden of the Gods Foundation to exceed its announced goal of raising a total of $1 million over a 10-year span.
       “We were thrilled,” said Foundation founder Lyda Hill in a recent interview. “There aren't that many public city parks in the country that get that kind of support.”
       “Celebration” consisted of a series of events, some organized by the Foundation and some by other groups, with the specific goal of boosting Garden of the Gods fund-raising efforts.
       The public generosity - more than $150,000 was donated at “Celebration” events - is a strong indication that “people feel it's their park, not somebody else's,” Hill said. “They don't just think it's a park the city should take care of. They want to support it.”
       Going into the Summer of Celebration, according to Foundation figures, the total raised since 1995 stood at about $858,000 - the bulk of that coming from an annual stipend from the privately operated Garden of the Gods Visitor Center, which Hill built 10 years ago in conjunction with the Foundation.
       The center is set up so that its contribution, which comes out of sales, increases 3 percent each year. This year's share was about $98,000, according to Bonnie Frum, Visitor Center director of operations. This, combined with the public's Summer of Celebration donations, put the total for the summer at nearly $250,000 and the 10-year total at about $1.1 million, she said.
       The Foundation-organized events included a speaking symposium, a Garden of the Gods Club gala, a Visitor Center open house, a golf tournament and a tour of private gardens in the Kissing Camels neighborhood. Shared events were the Garden Run & Walk, the Trails & Open Space Coalition (TOSC) Starlight Spectacular Bike Ride and the TOSC Gala in the Garden.
       The donated money will go to City Parks, which earmarks it for continuing maintenance and restoration. Expenditures typically cover staff, materials, supplies and signs.
       This year, some of the funding is paying for the rocks that volunteers with the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) have been making into check dams along gouged-out drainages in the Scotsman and Spring Canyon areas of the park. These efforts are part of an estimated $2.5 million needs list that still remains from a plan for Garden remediation that RMFI wrote several years ago, according to Liz Nichol, outreach coordinator and office manager for RMFI.
       Workdays are continuing this fall on weekends - Nov. 19-20, Dec. 3-4 and 10-11. (Call 471-7736 for more information.)
       “Ten years ago, the park was being loved to death,” Hill said. “The city was cutting back funding of all parks. It seemed there ought to be folks helping out. So we created the Foundation and the Visitor Center to assist City Parks in maintaining the Garden of the Gods.”
       The new Visitor Center was bigger and more accessible than its predecessor off Juniper Way Loop inside the park. But it took a while before tourists and locals got used to shopping regularly at its gift shops. Not until its third year was the Visitor Center earning enough to afford the pre-established Foundation stipend (which started at $75,000 a year). In the meantime, Hill paid the difference from her own pocket. “When I say I'm going to do something, I do it,” she explained.
       Lyda Hill is the daughter of Al Hill, a Coloradan who was active in Colorado Springs for many years. The Hill family has owned - and is in the process of developing much of - 1,293 master-planned acres that go to 30th Street on the west, nearly to Garden of the Gods Road on the north, east of Centennial Boulevard on the east and mostly south of Fillmore Street on the south. It was a portion of that land that became the Visitor Center at 30th Street and Gateway Road, adjacent to the Garden of the Gods.

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