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Trails close for year, new negotiations at Copper Ridge, more 

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Trails closed for year

North Cheyenne Cañon was already closed until further notice due to massive damage from September's floods; now the trails above the canyon are also closed.

Due to massive damage to the Bear Creek Watershed, the U.S. Forest Service has closed trails numbered 665, 667, 668 and 701. Trail 720 is also closed from its junction with 701 to its junction with 668. The closures will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

For those not familiar with Forest Service trail numbers, this means Captain Jack's, lower Captain Jack's, and Pipeline trails are closed. The trails have been some of the region's most popular with mountain bikers, and for a long time, motorcyclists. The latter were banned from much of the area after an environmental group took legal action against the Forest Service following the discovery that the Bear Creek Watershed was the last remaining habitat for the threatened greenback cutthroat trout.

By the way, Doug Krieger, senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, says it won't be clear if the storms caused harm to the greenback until a head count is done later in the year. Anecdotally, however, he says the fish appear to have weathered the storm. — JAS

Developer seeks $133M

The developers of Copper Ridge at Northgate are seeking $132.9 million in sales-tax-increment financing to continue developing their shopping center at Northgate and Interstate 25. The money would be used to finance a 4.5-mile extension linking Powers Boulevard, which now ends at Highway 83, to I-25.

The site of Copper Ridge, a development where Bass Pro Shops is expected to open this fall, was declared an urban renewal area by City Council in May 2010. Council approved allowing the developer to use property-tax-increment financing for the project, which allows taxes above existing levels to be applied to infrastructure. The idea is that development will create more tax revenues, which in turn help develop roads, traffic signals and the like.

Copper Ridge developers want to use half of the city's 2 percent sales tax for 25 years. In March 2011, El Paso County commissioners declined to funnel county tax money to the project, citing worries it would draw stores from existing shopping areas and lower the county's overall tax revenue.

Council consideration is slated for Oct. 22. — PZ

Local GOPers oppose 66

If one thing can be said about the $950 million tax increase for education proposed by Amendment 66, it's that it is confusing.

If passed in November, Amendment 66 would implement the contents of an already-passed, very detailed education reform package. We explained the basics of the changes last week ("Debate club," News, Oct. 2), also noting that the intricacies of those reforms have caused more than a few headaches.

But local Republicans don't need any more time to contemplate the legislation. The executive committee of the El Paso County Republican Party passed a resolution opposing the funding measure on Oct. 2, by unanimous vote of all members present.

In a press release, Chairman Jeff Hays is quoted as saying, "This executive committee represents more than 170,000 Republicans. We're a diverse group, but on this issue, we stand absolutely united." — JAS

VA cemetery advancing

Although the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is being coy about progress in selecting a site for a VA cemetery in Southern Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet blurted out the news last week.

The Colorado Democrat issued a news release saying, the VA "has executed a sales agreement to purchase land for a National Veterans Cemetery in Southern Colorado." Bennet's office didn't say where the site is located, but the Gazette quoted Victor Fernandez, who chairs the Pikes Peak National Veterans Cemetery Committee, as saying it will be built east of Powers Boulevard along Bradley Road.

The VA refuses to confirm that, saying that it "is resolving various issues required for land acquisition" and that "negotiations are on-going." — PZ

A terminal for TSA?

Leaders at the Colorado Springs Airport want to spend $860,000 to convert the empty east terminal into office space to be rented to the Transportation Safety Administration.

The TSA has tentatively agreed to rent the space for 10 years; costs are to be recovered through those rental payments.

The project is endorsed by the Airport Task Force, chaired by Bill Hybl, CEO of El Pomar Foundation, and the Airport Advisory Commission. The spending item is slated for Council action Oct. 22. — PZ

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