Dozens of emails from opponents to Mayor John Suthers, who was helped in his mayoral campaign by Broadmoor interests, haven't changed his mind. He recently called each Parks Advisory Board member to urge his or her support, and the board on April 14 recommended Council approval by a 6-3 vote. Council is slated to vote on May 24.
Feedback via public meetings, informal polls and a petition drive indicate more citizens oppose the trade than support it.
That doesn't surprise former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, who served on City Council a dozen years before being elected mayor and serving from 1997 to 2003. She ran against Suthers a year ago.
She says the swap proposal seems to have been engineered before being announced publicly on Jan. 14. "The process is flawed," she says in an interview, "because we learned a long time ago that citizens do not like or trust deals done in the back room."
The public should have been consulted prior to formulating the deal, Makepeace says.
"People who've been around for awhile know that our parks are sacrosanct," she says. "Giving away a park to a private entity? They should have known that was going to be controversial."
While the city has modified terms of the exchange in recent weeks, such as requiring The Broadmoor to obtain a conservation easement on Strawberry Fields open space, Makepeace says the rush to approval might already have cost officials credibility for the long term.
"People remember they weren't listened to, and it goes to the erosion of trust in elected officials," she says. "How do you build trust? This would not be the way. Once we give up open space, we never get it back."
The mayor has received few, if any, emails supporting the trade, but a city spokesperson notes, "Most people will send letters to voice their opposition more often than sending emails in support."
Here's what opponents have told Suthers and Council in emails.
• Debbie Gonzales: "Originally, I thought the swap was an opportunity for the city. However, the more I have researched and heard about the swap the more uneasy and concerned I have become... I have become increasingly concerned regarding the lack of transparency our city government has shown in this swap."
• Teresa Biederman: "It's so very clear why they want it [Strawberry Fields] so very badly. It's GORGEOUS."
• Stephanie Dowdell: "Shame on you for choosing to exploit Strawberry Fields for profit! This land is meant for the people of Colorado Springs not corporate interests!"
• Jennifer Sundman: "The lovely meadow area the Broadmoor would fence off is the heart of the property and the MOST IMPORTANT part of 189 acres to keep for the use of ALL people... We should not be trading away such prize land..."
• Betty Virag: "There seems to be a definite rush to have the land swapped without the appropriate assessments... One has to wonder what is really behind the lack of transparency."
• Steve Kerchner: "Strawberry Fields is a treasure that has been protected since 1885 when Helen Hunt and the citizens of Colorado Springs helped make it part of 'our city lands.'"
• Randi Hitchcock: "The suggestions from YOUR citizens are clear. Delay this vote, or, stop this deal."
• Heidi Eaton: "That property belongs to us as citizens and it should not be traded away to a corporate entity, just to get some property that is barely accessible to anyone."
• Harry Hamill: "The Broadmoor's plans for Strawberry Fields are too vague to even clearly assess, let alone decide if the use is appropriate. There's no estimate of equestrian guests per day, rides per day, how many horses will be stabled there or even where they plan to ride... There has been no information presented as to what would be agreed upon in the Conservation Easement aside from very broad statements."
• Stan Gatzke: "Do not allow community control of priceless public assets to be dealt away without a vote by the community, and without more fresh air in the process."
• Lynda Slater: "I ask you, sir, to take into consideration the wishes of your citizens and stop this land swap."
• Patrick Tolbert: "I've been watching the proposed land swap between the Broadmoor and the City of Colorado Springs with great interest. After much reading, research and careful attention to what is being written and said by both parties, I can come to only one conclusion — There is not enough clear, concise information being shared with the public on this swap to allow it to go through."
• Mark and Connie Chittum: "Allowing the Broadmoor to build horse stables, horse riding trails, and picnic areas will most certainly negatively impact our wildlife and continue to shrink their habitat."