Westside's stories of the year:
Coronado football title hard to beat
Although the rankings are informal and subjective, certain criteria go into deciding the Westside Pioneer's 20 Stories of the Year. How broad of an impact was there on the Westside? Have people's lives been bettered as a result, or will they be? And was it a good story, on its own merits?
Among eight strong candidates, the last point was the clincher in giving #1 to the Coronado football team's Cinderella rise to the Division 3A state championship. Also in the running were the announcements of long-awaited construction funding for the Cimarron and Fillmore interchanges at I-25, the flooding last summer and the potential for more in years to come, the controversial Kum & Go station/store plan next to Old Colorado City, the year-long Fillmore/Chestnut transportation project and the formation of the Old Colorado City Foundation.
But no one foresaw the 2013 season, when the team lost just one game overall, made the playoffs and earned the nickname “Comeback Cougars” by wiping out early deficits in each playoff contest. In the championship Nov. 30, Coronado was down 17 points to defending title-holder Silver Creek, which was playing on its home field in Longmont. Yet by the end of the final quarter, the Westside school had battled back to a 28-24 victory and the first state football trophy in its 43-year history.
The squad was led by fourth-year coach Bobby Lizarraga, who credited hard work and a team-first attitude for the success.
Here is the roster:
Nike Sumler, Junior York, Sam Smith, Joah Smith, Antwan Outlaw, Devon Baker, Dyman Rice, Myles Williams, Isaac Jones, Sean Fischer, Brian Torres, Jeff Gius, Mason Telander, Colt Nixon, Evhan Griego, Micahi Hughes, Brandon Schwab, Corbin Bender, Austin Micci, Chandler Fulks, Isaah Duvall, Zeb Foster, Sean Crossno, Jose Perez, Aaron Medellin, Gabriel Portillo, Morgan Burrows, Melvin Hardy, Spencer Coleman, Ryan Strabala, Evan Kay, Joseph Hunt, Zach Merrill, Arthur Knudson, Alec Abercrombie, Nick Anderson, Beau Beattie, Julien Fouche, Lotoni Afuhaamago, Jordan Aikens, Anthony Lopez, Kameron Hartle, Halat Gozeh, Aaron Shoemaker, Gabe Lobato, Brent Maestas, Wesley Edmund.
2. Cimarron/I-25 - It's the interchange that people take to head for the Westside or into the mountains on Highway 24. But for years it's been better known to locals as a traffic-clogger and a safety hazard. That reality is supposed to change July 1, 2017 - the date that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has set as its goal for the opening of a new interchange.
With an estimated price tag of $95 million (which includes new ramps and straightening the curve half a mile to the south), construction funding has been hard to come by - even though a new Cimarron interchange has been high on the regional wish list for a decade or more. It finally took a combination of sources, including pledges of $5 million from the city, $1 million from the county and (this fall) $24 million from a state-competitive CDOT grant program.
Under the recently announced CDOT timetable, Cimarron will be a design-build project - like the COSMIX project that widened I-25 through central Colorado Springs in 2005-07 - and the necessary paperwork is already being prepared. According to CDOT, a contractor is to be hired in the winter of 2014-15, with work to start in 2015.
3. Flooding - The massive Waldo Canyon Fire of summer 2012 had scarcely been doused before local government officials began voicing concerns about flooding as a result of lost vegetation in the hills where local drainages start. These worries proved well-founded last summer, as unusually heavy rains swelled the main creeks through the Westside - Fountain, Camp and North and South Douglas. Although damage this side of Manitou Springs was not severe, the high waters added urgency to fixing problems in Westside stormwater systems.
One sigh of relief resulted from Glen Eyrie having funded the lion's share of $600,000 metal “nets” to catch large debris washing down Camp Creek, upstream from the Garden - the two were installed early in 2013 and proved effective in the summer storms.
4. Fillmore/I-25 - Like Cimarron, the Fillmore/I-25 interchange has long been identified as having an obsolete design. Also similarly, Fillmore finally got its needed construction funding this fall, with the necessary $11 million coming from the same CDOT Responsible Acceleration of Mainten-ance and Partnerships (RAMP) program that will fund a portion of Cimarron.
Of the two interchanges, Fillmore will be built first. With its design nearly complete, plans call for a contractor to be hired in early 2014. Construction is expected to take 14 to 16 months, during which traffic over the interstate will not be cut off, according to CDOT.
The project planning has involved uniqueness and complexity. The uniquness stems from the “diverging diamond” design, in which traffic will be directed to the left (via stoplights at either end of the bridge) instead of staying on the right. Invented in the last decade and built so far only in a handful of locations, the design won favor from CDOT because it eliminates the need for left-turn signals at the on/off-ramps.
The complexity is a result of the interchange work piggybacking on the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority project just west of the interchange, which has realigned Chestnut Street and widened part of Fillmore Street (see Story #6).
5. Kum & Go/Goodwill - For two and a half months this summer, the Westside was in an uproar over a proposed Kum & Go next to Old Colorado City. Under preliminary plans, the national company would have bought a two-acre site in the 2300 block of West Colorado Avenue - now owned by Goodwill Industries - torn down its existing buildings and built in their place a 24-hour, 5,000-square-foot convenience store and 10-pump gas station.
An initial public meeting June 27 drew a mostly negative response from citizens concerned about potential impacts on Old Colorado City and the surrounding residential neighborhood. In the weeks that followed, a petition drive in opposition gathered well over 1,000 signatures. About 50 people even joined a street protest a month later, when Kum & Go and the city held an invitation-only meeting with community and business leaders to discuss possible design changes to make the development more compatible with the area.
Also getting criticism was Goodwill, which had contracted to sell to Kum & Go without ever marketing the south side as a stand-alone property (only offering it with the north side of the block). Also, Westside residents had asked Goodwill at an informal meeting a year earlier to seek uses that were low-key in nature.
At the end of August, Kum & Go announced it was giving up on the site. The announcement led to speculation that Goodwill would start considering alternative offers from interested local developers, but instead the nonprofit began “reevaluating” the property (which it currently uses for donations, processing and storage), and that continues to be the case, spokesperson Bradd Hafer said this month.
According to city traffic engineers, the realignment aids light synchronization for Fillmore by having two “four-leg” lights now instead of the one “six leg.”
The work also included widening Fillmore from I-25 to Sage Street; an easing of the grade between the interchange and the new Chestnut; and sidewalks, curb and gutter. Also accomplished was the demolition of the Shell and Conoco stations and construction of a stormwater detention pond around where the Shell had been. Both station properties had been bought by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in conjunction with its plans to replace the Fillmore/I-25 interchange (see Story #4).
The Chestnut/Filllmore project followed numerous meetings with residents and businesses and an agreement with Crestone Development, which plans a commercial center on 13 acres of vacant land north of Fillmore, straddling the new Chestnut.
Adding to the construction impact was a water-line extension started in September by Colorado Springs Utilities that tied into a pipe installed as part of Fillmore/ Chestnut. Utilities connected at the west and north sides of that project. The intent is to bring more raw water to the Mesa treatment plant.
7. District 11's Westside changes - School District 11 implemented two major changes on the Westside last spring. One was expected, the other not.
The former was the school board vote Feb. 27 to approve expanded boundaries - and thus higher enrollment - for Coronado High and Jackson Elementary. In keeping with a year-long district focus on underutilized school buildings, the action followed numerous meetings and was made necessary by a vote earlier in February to close Wasson High and Lincoln and Bates elementaries (on the east side).
For Coronado, the new boundaries greatly expand its attendance area east of I-25 and helped raise its student numbers 10 percent this year to about 1,500. Jackson became the first Westside elementary to take in students east of I-25. Its enrollment went up 25 percent, to about 400.
The D-11 action that came unexpectedly was the district's reassignment of three principals - David Engstrom at Coronado, Clay Gomez at West Middle and Terry Martinez at West Elementary - among more than 20 overall, district-wide. Coronado is now led by Marcia Landwehr, who had been an assistant principal at the school.
Judy Hawkins, herself reassigned from North Middle, now heads both Wests, with an assistant principal (Chris Lehman at the elementary and Karen Newton at the middle school) handling the respective day-to-day affairs.
The group's initial goal is to upgrade Old Town's Bancroft Park. Towards that end, the park hosted two major fundraisers in 2013 - the Taste of OCC in April and Harvest in the Park in September. At each, hundreds of people bought tickets and for several hours in a fenced-off park area were able to enjoy donated food and drink, live music, games, exhibits and (at the Harvest event) a “cook-off” by chefs from Old Colorado City restaurants.
The two events combined raised close to $30,000. But that is still short of funding any major upgrades. Also, definite plans for park improvements are still conceptual, with the OCCF working to fine-tune what can be done, broaden community support for ideas and coordinate with City Parks (which would need to approve any serious changes and possibly contribute some funding).
Mainly with the impetus of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group, the foundation was formed as a charitable nonprofit that is eligible to receive grants under the 501(c)3 category of the federal tax law. Dave Van Ness, OCCA executive director and OCCF member, said he will be writing grant applications this winter.
9. Westside commerce - A wide range of business activity occurred on the Westside in 2013. Here is a capsulized list:
- The transformation of a former county welfare building into a Holiday Inn Express is nearing completion at 105 N. Spruce St. General contractor Greg Maxwell said this week he expects the work to be done “around the first of the year,” with the hotel opening in February or March.
- The Garden of the Gods Gourmet, a market/restaurant on the Westside for a dozen years, is redeveloping the building at the southwest corner of Highway 24 and 26th Street, with plans to open in early 2014.
- Demolition of the former Express Inn, 725 W. Cimarron St., has been delayed but should happen soon, according to Dave Watt of the Colorado Department of Transportation. The state bought the site for right of way needs at an unspecified future date when plans call for an interchange to be built at Eighth and Cimarron.
- The Pinery opened in September on Bijou Hill, initially as a wedding and events center, available for rent. Then the business owners obtained a city OK to also make the site into a restaurant, open to the general public.
- The ownership of Rick's Garden Center at Uintah and 19th Street took over the neighboring nursery - the first time that's happened in the nearly half century both businesses have existed.
- Married Drs. Mary Purinsh and Gene McHugh - a dentist and audiologist, respectively, renovated the building at 1330 W. Colorado Ave., so they could merge their practices at the site.
- Started in 1968 as the Garden of the Gods Campground, the 13-acre facility at 3704 W. Colorado Ave. is now called Garden of the Gods RV Resort. It received major renovations in 2012-13 through its owner, RVC Outdoor Destinations, a national company that specializes in outdoor resorts.
- In 2014, Colorado Springs Health Partners plans to open an urgent-care center and relocate two of its general-practice doctors to the historic Roundhouse commercial center at the southwest corner of Highway 24 and 21st Street.
- Judy Mackey and Brenda Smith, who bought the Garden of the Gods Club this year, plan to put at least $6 million into renovations, with an initial focus on building a wellness center in 2014 that will be open to the public.
- The 210-acre Gold Hill Mesa residential/commercial development continued to grow, with more than 200 occupied households now, according to Bob Willard of the ownership group.
- Development began on the Morningstar at Bear Creek memory-care center off Lower Gold Road near the existing Village at Skyline retirement community. Located on five acres, the building will be one story, hold 35,475 square feet and include 48 bedroom spaces.
- Also being built is the 20-unit Gabion Apartments project on a 1.83-acre property in the 600 block of West Monument Street.
- The El Dorado Gallery closed after 33 years in Old Colorado City.
10. Law enforcement - City Police and the County Sheriff's Office increased their presence on the Westside this year. Police continued the assignment of two officers on a regular basis to the West Colorado Avenue corridor. Their work includes a focus on motels that have housed problem individuals. The assignment, which had started in 2012, is in cooperation with Westside civic, business and elected officials - working through the informal Avenue Task Force (ATF) - to focus on problems of panhandling, theft and even felony crimes in an area that's often frequented by tourists.
Part of the ATF effort has involved a multimedia campaign, urging individuals and businesses to “Donate to charities that help… not professional panhandlers.”
Police also assign their Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to the Westside at least once a week.
A county tax approved by voters in 2012 allowed more Sheriff's deputies to be hired. This provides more patrol time on the Westside, according to an office spokesperson.
Aiding law enforcement in 2013 was the City Council passage in late 2012 of the “20-foot rule” (proposed by ATF members), which reduces the number of locations where panhandlers can solicit.
Schmidt later said the new location was working out well, and he was also able to bring in 35 or more vendors, whereas 28 had been the maximum on the street. He expects to continue with the same plan in summer 2014.
12. Westside Pioneer goes online-only - After 10 years as a weekly newspaper, the Pioneer will become an online-only publication.
The last printed issue is this one, dated Dec. 19. Between then and the Jan. 6 release date of the online edition, the existing website, westsidepioneer.com, will be revamped to allow regularly posted stories and photos.
Access will be free. The site will be supported by local advertisers.
According to the publishers, several factors made the change necessary: higher printing and mailing costs, postal inefficiencies, time demands, personal health erosion, and the undeniable nationwide migration to electronic communications.
The Pioneer's focus will remain the Colorado Springs Westside, defined as west of I-25, north of Cheyenne/ Broadmoor, east of Manitou Springs and south of Garden of the Gods Road.
13. Morse recall - Republican Bernie Herpin now represents State Senate District 11 after Democrat John Morse was recalled from office in September.
The district includes Old Colorado City and the Westside, bordered in the north mostly by Fontanero, King and Uintah and on the south by Bear Creek Park and Wheeler Avenue.
Morse, then the Senate president, had been elected to a four-year term in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.
Herpin was the only “Successor Candidate” name on the ballot. With the recall passing, Herpin took office.
The main issue in the recall was gun rights. The Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature passed several laws restricting gun rights in 2013, including limiting the size of magazine clips and increasing government control over gun sales and transfers.
Herpin's term will continue until the end of 2014. The next election for Senate District 11 will be in November. Democrat Michael Merrifield has announced his candidacy. He was state representative for District 18 (which includes the Westside).
14. 24th Street light - For years, Old Colorado City merchants and property owners had asked the city to put a stoplight at 24th and Colorado, worried that it was a dangerous crossing, especially for shoppers at the Farmers Market in Bancroft Park. They finally got their wish this year, when City Transportation installed a light. A ripple effect is the city's concern that now there are too many signals in that area, including pedestrian crossings in the middle of both the 2300 and 2400 blocks of Colorado. A recently announced city decision is to remove the 2400 signal (at Colbrunn Court) in 2014. The Goodwill light will remain for now, while the nonprofit decides on a course of action for the two-acre parcel it owns in the 2300 block of the avenue.
Academy ACL is a no-attendance-area K-8 charter school for gifted learners with 290 students and waiting lists at all grade levels. It opened in 2010 at 2510 N. Chestnut St.
A sixth-grade teacher said the school individually challenges the fastest as well as slowest learners, with the reading effort including classics such as “Treasure Island,” “Gulliver's Travels” and “Peter Pan.”
The only other Westside school attaining a plus-90 in the TCAPs was Buena Vista Montessori elementary school, with a 94 in third-grade reading.
16. Billie Spielman Center - The center, which had helped the Westside's needy since the late 1960s, closed its office at the Westside Community Center Aug. 5.
Formerly an outreach facility for the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency (PPCAA), Spielman is now part of the PPCAA office at 312 S. Weber St. It was part of a consolidation move in which PPCAA also closed its Norvell Simpson Center east of I-25.
An outgrowth of the 1960s War on Poverty, PPCAA uses federal funds and local donations, to help working families deal with financial setbacks.
Spielman had been part of the Westside Community Center at two locations since 1992.
17. Arveson Shrine - The unique saga of the Rose Arveson Shrine took a sad turn in January when 11 dead or dying animals were found inside the house and the man living there had to be transported to a hospital with a swollen foot.
Police had gone to the house at 3540 W. Pikes Peak Ave. based on neighorhood concerns. Encountering a foul smell, they broke through a window after the man inside (William Schwartz) refused to open the door.
Contacted this month, City Code Enforcement Director Tom Wasinger expressed optimism for a long-term solution. On a short-term basis, people from his staff are keeping the quarter-acre property cleaned up and the buildings secured. Over the long term, a local business person has paid for the outstanding taxes and plans to continue doing so. In that case, under law, that individual could take ownership of the property by 2016 (and also repay the city's costs), Wasinger explained.
The site had been made into a public shrine by two sisters, Dorothy and Pauline Arveson, in 1969 after the death of their mother, Rose Arveson Simmons, whom they believed was a saint.
The property is legally owned by a corporation, and state records show that Schwartz has been a director at least since 1989. The other two directors were the sisters, but Pauline died in 2008 and Dorothy in 2011. Schwartz, who was found guilty of animal cruelty stemming from the police bust, is now living in a type of assisted care, Wasinger said.
18. Mayor's town halls - Mayor Steve Bach held well-attended town halls on the Westside in February and March. The first was at the Old Colorado City History Center, the second at the Shriners Hall.
No major revelations emerged from either gathering, although the mayor used the opportunity to explain his political philosophy of controlling spending and creating a business-friendly community.
The biggest story from the town halls was the turnout, especially at the History Center. Mayor's staffers had ignored advance concerns by the Organization of Westside Neighbors that the center, which is standing room only at 100 people, wouldn't be big enough. And sure enough, more than 100 people came. Hearing that several people had been turned away for that reason by police at the door, Bach scheduled the second town hall in March.
19. History Center - It was a challenging but ultimately successful year for the Old Colorado City History Center at 1 S. 24th St., which is run by the all-volunteer Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS). According to its treasurer, Suzanne Schorsch, the financial books for the nonprofit organization wound up “in the black” despite:
- Water seeping through the foundation during the heavy summer rains, requiring significant repairs
- The cancellation (also because of rain) of a major annual society fundraiser - the Cemetery Crawl in September.
- The lowest-ever turnout (because of snow and extreme cold), for another major fundraiser - the Holiday Tour Dec. 8.
- Serious illness that laid up OCCHS President Sharon Swint for about a month this fall.
The OCCHS was able to pull through, Schorsch said, due to strong donations (in response to the water problem), a successful fall event (including 50 sales of the reprinted “Candy Maker's Manual” book from Colorado City in 1905) and a strategy by society archivist Tom Daniels to sell copies of historic photos from the OCCHS collection.
“We're thrilled with how the community supported us in a bad year,” Schorsch said.
20. Uintah project - Work is nearing completion on a $375,0000 project to build a sidewalk and curb and gutter, improve the drainage, widen the street as needed and make room for a bike lane along Uintah Street between Walnut Street and Mesa Road.
Started in August, the project is funded by about $300,000 from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and $75,000 from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA).
One improvement the current project will not make is the installation of missing sidewalk on the south side of Uintah, east of Mesa. This work will be part of a follow-on project, possibly next year, according to City Engineering. The main focus of that project will be bike lanes along Uintah in both directions west of Mesa, city officials say.
A study of improvements for Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street started back up in October, and public meetings are anticipated in 2014. Called the Westside Avenue Action Plan, the study started in 2012 but was on pause for much of 2013 because of funding issues. About $12 million in upgrades, to be developed from the study's ultimate design, are scheduled to start construction in 2015, with funding from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA)…
A May 2014 completion date is set for the opening of the 76,000-square-foot, three-story building that will become the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) outpatient clinic. The 18-acre site, which broke ground on Veterans Day 2012, faces onto Centennial Boulevard south of Fillmore Street. It will be named after PFC Floyd Kenneth Lindstrom, a World War II Medal of Honor winner who died in the war…
After 30 years in the basement of Bethany Baptist Church at 1930 W. Colorado Ave., Westside CARES moved above-ground in September to 2808 W. Colorado Ave. At 9,600 square feet, the new locale has over twice as much space as before. The private, emergency-help agency is supported by a consortium of 22 local churches…
Mountain Song Community School opened in the old Whittier school building at 2904 W. Kiowa St. Starting with about 200 students, the school uses the Waldorf style of teaching, first developed around 1920, which seeks to make children “healthy, strong, and inwardly free,” the Mountain Song website states.
Westside Pioneer article