Wednesday, September 24, 2014

County likely to get Jones Park

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 4:24 PM

He started it: the greenback cutthroat trout. - DOUG KRIEGER
  • Doug Krieger
  • He started it: the greenback cutthroat trout.

City Council is ready to give at least a little closure to the debate over what will happen to Jones Park.

The west side property, home to many of the region's favorite trails, has been the subject of a political tug of war. Currently, it is owned by Colorado Springs Utilities. But it serves no purpose for the Utilities and it's become a looming liability since it was recently found to be the last home in the wild for the the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. The discovery has meant that the federal government will now be imposing expensive changes to the property to protect the fish.

Utilities planned to offload the land onto the Forest Service through a nonprofit that already had funds in place to do the federally-required work. But then El Paso County said it too wanted the land. Then the Council appeared to suddenly be interested in trying to sell Jones Park. (Read more about that controversy here.)

Yesterday, Council appeared to at least rule out some of the possibilities. It voted 5-3 to appraise the land, but also stated that its intention was to give the land to El Paso County.

The appraisal will be completed Nov. 25 and the County Commissioners, pending board approval, plan to pay for the cost of the study.

Meanwhile the Trails and Open Space Coalition is pushing the Council to put deed restrictions in the transfer to protect the land. According to a press release, they want to make sure the owners of Jones Park keep it open to the public; comply with federal environmental guidelines to protect the greenback; never sell or transfer the land to a private owner; and comply with existing agreements (like fire mitigation agreements with the Forest Service).

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