Bear Creek conservation easement approved
A 2½-year county/citizen effort to preserve Bear Creek Regional Park in perpetuity has ended with the Board of El Paso County Commissioners approving a conservation easement for the 545-acre property that straddles South 21st Street.
A conservation easement is a permanent legal agreement that restricts the use of a property. In the case of Bear Creek, which consists of recreational and open space, it would ensure that the land could never be sold for commercial uses such as oil drilling or housing development.
The easement is part of an updated Bear Creek Regional Park master plan, which the commissioners separately approved at the same meeting. Replacing its 2008 predecessor, the new Master Plan allows the continuation of existing park uses - the easement does not prevent that - and includes recommended upgrades to many of them. A five-year program suggests funding, if available, for a pavilion roof, tennis courts, Bear Creek Nature Center exhibits and park road upgrades.
The easement will be held by the nonprofit Palmer Land Trust, which started on the Westside in the late 1970s and specializes in land preservation. A total of $17,500 was needed to cover the Land Trust's costs, and a private fundraisingcampaign raised $20,000 in all, according to County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a Westsider and one of the easement-effort leaders.
The concern arose for Bear Creek Park in 2008, when a tight budget led to a county staff suggestion that selling the park could add about $14 million in revenues. No commissioners championed that idea, but it left many park supporters fearful of what could happen.
Westside Pioneer article