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Results by year's end on study to create Garden of the Gods shuttle service

       Colorado Springs Parks is looking to create a shuttle service for visitors to the Garden of the Gods.

The only shuttle service currently in the Garden of the Gods is provided by the Visitor & Nature Center, but it's generally just for special programs or events and/or when the center's parking lot fills up. This photo - shot from the Mesa Overlook during the snowy Earth Day in April 2017 - shows a shuttle bus (the large red vehicle at right) about to drive under 30th Street en route to the center (not shown) as it transports people who had parked in the lot at Rock Ledge Ranch (upper background, south of Gateway Road).
Westside Pioneer photo

       With funding requested from the Garden of the Gods Foundation, the city hired a consultant earlier this year to analyze options such as routes, stops, parking and time ranges.
       As to whether the shuttle would be mandatory or optional, there is “no word yet,” replied department spokesperson Jennifer Schreuder, in answer to a Westside Pioneer question. It's “still very early in the process.”
       The incentive for the study is the popular city park's “increasing visitation and associated congestion,” reads a statement from City Parks. A shuttle service would “alleviate congestion, improve emissions, enhance access and provide a better visitor experience to Garden of the Gods Park.”
       For example, from July 1 to 4, counters that the city installed this year showed a total of 30,143 cars entering by the four roads into the park - more than half of them on Gateway Road.
       “The numbers confirm what we know to be true - the Garden of the Gods' beauty draws visitors like no place else around,” writes Hank Scarangella, president of the Friends of Garden of the Gods (FOGG) volunteer group, in the fall edition of its newsletter, the FOGGHorn.
       Hired earlier this year, the shuttle-service consultant is the U.S. Department of Transportation's John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), whose charge is to develop the plan and assist in its implementation.
       “No specific recommendations have been formulated as analysis of data continues,” the City Parks statement elaborates. “It is anticipated that a proposed plan would be developed by the end of the year.”
       Started by long-time city benefactor Lyda Hill, the foundation owns the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, 1805 N. 30th St., which Hill built in 1995 across from the park's main entrance at Gateway Road. The facility donates a share of its earnings to the city, providing well over $2 million for park improvements over the years.
       Working with the Volpe Center on the study is a “core group” that consists of representatives from City Parks, the foundation, the Visitor Center, FOGG and the City Parks Advisory Board, according to a list provided by Schreuder.
       Also kept in the study loop are a range of “stakeholders,” the list shows, including the neighboring Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, various government employees, the Pleasant Valley Neighborhood Association, and tourist-focused officials and businesses.
       The shuttle study is separate from another City Parks proposal that would also seek to control Garden travel. That idea, revealed earlier in 2017, would install gates allowing the Garden's entrances to be closed at night or during special events. No specific proposals have emerged on that concept yet.
       Scarangella provides some Volpe Center study details in the fall edition of FOGGHorn. The city and consultant “have developed options for a shuttle based at Rock Ledge Ranch,” he writes. “Each option has the shuttle stopping at a different set of places. There are also some variations that call for closing certain parking lots at different times. Offsite parking (Coronado High School, the former MCI building, etc.) are also part of the conversation. Everything you can think of is on the table.”
       Scarangella also notes, in an e-mail response to Pioneer questions, that the shuttle's operational time range would be “roughly from May to September; possibly only on weekends.”
       A public process will follow the consultant's work. “As you can imagine,” Scarangella's e-mail states, “the city expects a robust response.”

Westside Pioneer article