Wednesday, February 17, 2016

City escorts media on tour of Broadmoor land-swap sites

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 3:36 PM

click to enlarge Parks employee Chris Lieber seems to be doing an excellent job of herding cats, I mean, the media. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Parks employee Chris Lieber seems to be doing an excellent job of herding cats, I mean, the media.

The headline from a 2.5-hour media tour of city property involved in a land swap with The Broadmoor is that most of the 189.5-acre Strawberry Fields open space would remain accessible to the public. The resort would use only eight or nine acres for a stable operation, says city parks director Karen Palus.

Read the land swap's details here: "Fields of dreams," Feb. 10, 2105.

With neighbors and others up in arms the city would even consider trading away the Strawberry Fields property, owned by the city for 130 years, the Parks Department hosted a media tour on Wednesday so that all of us numbskull reporters will get a better idea of the deal city officials have put together on behalf of citizens.

Actually, the tour skipped the Manitou Incline and Barr Trail pieces of the exchange and went straight to the more controversial parts.

After chugging up Gold Camp Road in a Mountain Metro shuttle bus, the first stop was an overlook that gave a nice view of the meadow in Strawberry Fields, shown here:

click to enlarge Strawberry Fields as seen from above. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Strawberry Fields as seen from above.

Then we all piled back in the bus and as we did so, we were offered granola bars, apples and tangelos, a hint there would be no free lunch on this excursion.

No matter. We, instead, were treated to a feast for the eyes, as we climbed higher to a point where Mount Muscoco and its overlook tower above Cheyenne Cañon Park. The Broadmoor owns the overlook and 208 acres in this general area, which would become city property in the trade. A few key trails, including Daniels Trail, go through this area, despite it not being owned by the city. They're heavily used, we're told, but no one has ever been ticketed for trespassing.

Here's the overlook:
click to enlarge Mount Muscoco overlook is that rocky outcropping on the right. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mount Muscoco overlook is that rocky outcropping on the right.

Parks worker Chris Lieber, one of at least five parks employees on the tour, noted the land trade will fill in some gaps for the city trail system, including the Chamberlain Trail that eventually will extend from Red Rock Canyon to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

It's worth noting the city hasn't made any specific efforts to buy the Barr Trail, Manitou Incline and Mount Muscoco properties in the past.

After driving by the Seven Falls entrance, which is blocked with a big iron fence bearing The Broadmoor's initial, since it owns it, the bus comes to a stop next to Strawberry Fields.

Parks employee David Deitemeyer says The Broadmoor has agreed to allow access to Strawberry Fields  with the exception of a riding facility, which hasn't really been defined as to where it would be exactly or how many horses it would accommodate.

Palus says the modification of the original swap deal, which would have barred the public from Strawberry Fields, is a result of The Broadmoor being "a good partner."

She also notes that public feedback has helped shape the exchange agreement in recent weeks. "It's gotten better each time," she says.

click to enlarge Strawberry Fields up close. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Strawberry Fields up close.

Last stop was nine acres east of 21st Street next to Bear Creek Regional Park. It's owned by The Broadmoor, which bought it for about $1 million in late 2014 in hopes of building a stable there. But there was a lot of push back, so that idea was scrapped. Now the resort is offering it to the city as part of the deal. The city would keep it as open space, and El Paso County has agreed to maintain it along with its Bear Creek Park land. But it's zoned residential, so presumably, it would need to be rezoned.

Which brings us to the value of all these parcels. While the city has previously said it will get twice the dollar value as The Broadmoor in the deal, many question that. So far, only preliminary appraisal estimates have been released. The formal appraisal figures are almost done, Lieber says.

Regarding Strawberry Fields, resident Kathy Meinig tells us via text message: "It's a private company that wants to take over public land for their own use. I think that sets a bad precedent. The city never entered into negotiations with any other private businesses about getting that land. Which at $1.6 million is a steal. We just should not get into the habit of giving a private business public land. And what is the hurry? There seems to be some unspoken March deadline."

To have a say in all this, be aware of a Feb. 24 public meeting about the land swap to be held at Gold Camp Elementary from 6 to 8 p.m.

In addition, City Councilor Keith King, who represents the Broadmoor area, will hold a town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 14 at Broadmoor Community Church. "On paper, this swap appears to be a net win for city parks," he reportedly told a citizen recently.

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