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Only good news 

Twenty years ago this month I participated in Mainely Men, a four-day workshop organized by several steelworkers whose day job was building destroyers.

Forty-one men from all walks of life voyaged to a YMCA camp deep in the woods of Maine, where we took part in workshops including "The roles and responsibilities of divorced dads when kids live far away" to "What straight men should know about gay sex"; from "What to do about sex offenders?" to "What's its like for men to work as nurses, pre-school teachers and 'Moms.'"

At our initial gathering, we were required to say only positive things about men, with no buts. For example, "Men have painted most of the world's great paintings, built most of the great buildings and invented most of the world's worthwhile inventions," without adding any qualifiers, such as "but women rarely had the freedom to pursue art and have been effectively barred from the building trades" or that much of the stuff men have invented has caused pollution and violence.

Far too often the media, the Independent included, focuses on disturbing news. This Earth Day, I'm going to highlight only positive news about our local environment, without the burden of adding any qualifiers that we all know exist.

Just a year ago, the people of Colorado Springs, by a 2 -1 margin, extended TOPS, a 0.1 percent sales and use tax, thus signaling their continued support for preserving and building trails, open space and parks. By 2025, TOPS should raise more than $250 million through direct taxes as well as matching federal, state and private funds.

So far, TOPS has already helped build and preserve 75 miles of hiking and biking trails and 4,000 acres of open space and parks, including the magnificent 778-acre Red Rocks Canyon south of Garden of the Gods. Another keystone project we'll all soon enjoy is Cheyenne Mountain State Park, set to open in 2005. This 2,200-acre park will enable families to camp, roast marshmallows and enjoy wildlife just 20 minutes from downtown.

Late last year our City Council actually listened when concerned citizens expressed alarm over Colorado Springs Utilities' plans to pursue yet another massive coal-fired power plant. Instead of just rubber-stamping CSU's expansion plans, Council ordered the utility back to the drawing board. Utility officials are now working with citizens to explore clean energy alternatives, including wind, as well as determine ways to help reduce our reliance on polluting and/or health-damaging materials such as coal, oil and gas.

Voters will soon be given a chance to invest in comprehensive and balanced solutions to our transportation mess. Initial polling reveals that there is strong and growing public support for providing needed funding for new roads, improved infrastructure and maintenance, better bike trails, as well as an expanded regional mass transit system.

Today, Colorado ranks a dismal 46th nationally in recycling. And Colorado Springs' recycling rate is the worst of any Front Range city. Our wretched recycling rates are directly linked to an ass-backwards trash collection system that financially penalizes households and businesses that recycle.

The good news is that things can only improve. And some folks from Manitou have a plan to turn things around. Manitou Springs Recycles -- which last year received financial support from the Independent's charitable arm, the Independence Community Fund -- has set up a free, comprehensive community recycling center at 3222 W. Colorado Ave. The center, which officially opens on Earth Day, now accepts the following:

Paper, including newspaper, magazines, calendars, junk mail and office paper

Cans, including aluminum, tin and steel cans

Plastic, labeled #1 and #2, plus plastic bags

Corrugated cardboard, flattened

Paperboard, including cereal/ cracker boxes and similar packaging.

In addition, Manitou Springs Recycles, working with Bestway Disposal, has introduced an aggressive, all-volunteer program whereby Manitou residents will no longer have to pay extra to recycle, but instead will receive lower service fees if enough residents recycle. Recycling containers will be placed in Manitou's parks and hopefully in schools and the downtown district.

By the end of 2005, Manitou Springs Recycles' goal is to have recycled more than 100 tons of plastic, cardboard, paper and cans. This small city west of the Springs represents less than 1 percent of El Paso County. If this all-volunteer program is expanded throughout our region, 10,000 tons of valuable resources will be reused instead of dumped into our landfills, saving a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources as well as teaching our children and ourselves a valuable lesson about the need to reduce our impact on our environment.

That is something we all can be proud about.

--jweiss@csindy.com

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