Thursday, May 17, 2018

North Cheyenne Cañon plan challenged, appeal to be heard by Council

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 4:45 PM

The South Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is dry and has been for a few months. Opponents of the park's master plan take issue with the possibility of redirecting the creek. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The South Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is dry and has been for a few months. Opponents of the park's master plan take issue with the possibility of redirecting the creek.
On May 17, former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg paid the required $176 fee to appeal the city's Parks Advisory Board's approval of a new master plan for the North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

Bensberg and the Cheyenne Cañon Conservationists, a loose-knit group started in 2010, contend the master plan sets new policy without relying on the judgment of elected officials on City Council. Under the current set up, parks master plans aren't reviewed by Council, only the Parks Advisory Board.

The parks board approved the master plan on May 10 after an hours-long public meeting at which dozens of supporters of the plan, including Broadmoor employees, spoke in favor of it.
One of many picnic areas in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • One of many picnic areas in North Cheyenne Cañon Park.
Bensberg and others contend The Broadmoor, owner of Seven Falls on the park's west side, stands to gain from components of the master plan that would allow the city to reroute the south creek, shut roads in the vicinity of Seven Falls and take other steps to sanitize the natural character of the park and turn it into a "Disneyland" attraction.

Referring to a picnic area west of the Starsmore Center where gatherings such as weddings and receptions are frequently held, Bensberg says, "They want to bulldoze that area for a parking lot."

"We don't believe the problems city staff has outlined can justify these draconian measures they're taking," he says.

Opponents of the master plan also are against lumping the north and south sections of the park together into one master plan when, as Bensberg says, they represent two different ecosystems.

The south creek has been dry for months, and has been dry more often than not in recent years. Bensberg says City Council should explain why that is — suggesting that some of the water may be being syphoned off for other purposes. The Independent asked Colorado Springs Utilities about the lack of flow in the south creek and got this explanation via email:
There is no minimum streamflow requirement on South Cheyenne Creek. CSU entered into an agreement with the Cheyenne Creek Metro Park & Water District back in 1993 to bypass 1 cfs on North Cheyenne Creek between April 1 and October 31. Our Raw Water Ops staff monitors that flow daily.
Kent Obee, leader of Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit formed to oppose the city's 2016 deal to trade 186-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor, says his group, too, is opposed to the master plan.

The chief complaint, he says, is the inclusion in the plan of the possibilities for shuttle buses, traffic restrictions and closing off the remaining south canyon loop, which they say could lead to converting Mesa Avenue into a Broadmoor-shuttles-only road. The Broadmoor takes hotel guests and anyone who pays to visit Seven Falls to the attraction via bus.

"They would literally tear up and revegetate the south canyon road," Obee says. "We thought that was one clearly catering to The Broadmoor." He adds the loop draws crowds of people who picnic at pullouts.

Though city officials say those are only possibilities to be determined later, Obee is suspicious.

"We would call it the camel's nose under the tent," he says, explaining that he suspects that  items in the master plan (often described simply as possibilities) will simply be rubber-stamped by the board later on.

Another sticking point is the inclusion in the plan of marketing efforts. "Too much in the plan is marketing, and this park belongs to the citizens, not the tourists," Obee says, citing a column that appeared in this week's Independent. "Too much in the plan is marketing to bring more people in, when frankly, that's the last thing on earth we need."

Council could hear the appeal on June 12, unless Bensberg seeks to delay the hearing due to Council members not being able to attend. He says he wants the entire Council to hear the matter.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Transit Mix announces plan for mountain bike park in Colorado Springs in midst of controversial quarry fight

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 11:54 AM

Graphic renderings of the proposed mountain bike park were produced "at the direction of the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, which financed the renderings with funds Transit Mix donated to the City for the purpose." - FLOWRIDE CONCEPTS
  • Flowride Concepts
  • Graphic renderings of the proposed mountain bike park were produced "at the direction of the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, which financed the renderings with funds Transit Mix donated to the City for the purpose."
In the midst of a controversial fight over a proposed new quarry, Transit Mix has announced plans to make an older quarry off West Woodmen Road (that would close if the new one is approved) a world-class mountain biking park. The Springs currently lacks such an amenity, and this would be the largest such park in the state.

Transit Mix, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Continental Materials, has long been trying to establish a quarry on a portion of the 1,200-acre historic Hitch Rack Ranch, just outside Colorado Springs to the south on Highway 115. The beautiful property is known to be home to a great variety of wildlife, and is surrounded by a scattering of homes.

Not surprisingly, the idea of a quarry in the area has been met with resistance. Many homeowners certainly don't want it (and many say they did not suspect they'd end up next to a quarry when they built their homes). Some environmental groups oppose it. And, perhaps most damagingly, the powerful El Pomar Foundation, which owns land in the area, vocally opposes the proposal.

  • Flowride Concepts
In a unusual move, the state Mined Land Reclamation Board initially denied a permit for the quarry, in spite of staff recommendations to approve it. Transit Mix is shooting for approval a second time. The proposal will be considered by MLRB on April 25 and 26. If approved, the proposal would next go to the El Paso County Commissioners, which would consider a special use permit.

In the meantime, Transit Mix has been wooing leaders and citizens in Colorado Springs to latch onto the idea of a new quarry. Many City Councilors and state legislators have come out in support of Transit Mix's offer to close and move two batch plants (on Costilla Street and North Nevada Avenue) and accelerate the closure of two existing quarries (Black Canyon near Manitou Springs and Pikeview in northwest Colorado Springs) if granted a permit to open a quarry at Hitch Rack Ranch. (Opponents have claimed that Black Canyon and Pike View have been closed for some time and that they are marked as "open" only to avoid required restoration. Although Daniel Cole, speaking on behalf of Transit Mix, says Pikeview produced 300,000 tons of limestone in 2017.)
  • Flowride Concepts
Now, Transit Mix has announced yet another goodie: A mountain bike park that would be the largest in the state on the Pikeview quarry site — again, only if Hitch Rack is approved. The city's parks system would be given control of the property and would be responsible for building the park.

A Transit Mix release notes:

A mountain bike park in Colorado Springs has been a community vision for a number of years. In 2013, the Colorado Springs Parks Department led an extensive community planning process to update the Parks System Master Plan. The approved 2014 Parks System Master Plan recommends broadening recreational opportunities within Colorado Springs, to include a destination mountain bike park. The master plan, viewable here, mentions the need for a bike park on pages 136 and 141.

When Transit Mix informed the City of Colorado Springs of the potential accelerated closure of Pikeview, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department shared its vision for a community mountain bike park on the property.

Subsequently, Transit Mix, the Colorado Springs Parks Department and area cycling advocates and organizations engaged in a series of conversations about what the Pikeview Mountain Bike Park should look like. The ideas generated from these conversations shaped the concept plan released today.
Transit Mix notes that the plan has the support of local cycling advocate groups including USA Cycling. The Indy has also spoken to Cory Sutela of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, who expressed great excitement for the plan.
  • Flowride Concepts
Transit Mix details the plan:

The concept plan for a mountain bike park at Pikeview envisions an extensive variety of trails, loops and features that cater to all types and styles of riders. Projected amenities include mountain, downhill and slopestyle tracks, a BMX and pump track, a youth learning area, flow trails, a cyclocross course and a bike polo field. The plan allows for trail networks that could be utilized for organized races and events. It also provides space for facilities and amenities that are compatible with the bike park, including family picnic areas, a playground and a large dog park.

Pikeview offers several unique characteristics conducive to a bike park. The size of the parcel, approximately 150 acres, would provide significant space to create a variety of trail types, features and experiences. Other bike parks along the Front Range are much smaller in size, ranging from a few acres to 40 acres. The nearly 900 feet of vertical change in elevation at Pikeview would allow for longer, steeper and more challenging trails. Local rocks from the site could be used to create sustainable technical features in the trail as well. Transit Mix’s existing maintenance shop could serve as a small events center, offering rental space for parties, bike clinics, races, bike service and rentals and a small coffee shop or concessionaire.

Furthermore, Pikeview’s location adjacent to the Pike National Forest provides for possible trail connections to the national forest and an existing trail network atop Rampart Range. The views from the property are uninterrupted and expansive, further enhancing the users’ experience of the property. There are also opportunities for regional trail connectivity with the existing Foothills Trail, a tier II urban trail at the entrance to Pikeview.
John Hazlehurst contributed to this report. This post has been updated.
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Monday, March 19, 2018

Carson Midway Fire out, County, Manitou announce fire bans

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 12:43 PM

The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month. - J. ADRIAN STANELY
  • J. Adrian Stanely
  • The Orchard Canyon Fire, also on Fort Carson, ignited earlier this month.

A fire on Fort Carson Army Base merged with a second fire over the weekend of March 17-18, burning around 3,300 acres; destroying three homes and several outbuildings; and leading to the evacuation of around 250 homes. The Carson Midway Fire was out, with the exception some burning trash and tire fires, on March 19.

The fire should not be confused with the Orchard Canyon Fire, which started on Fort Carson on March 8 and burned some 1,800 acres before being fully contained days later.

The Army has been criticized for holding training, that may or may not include live fire, on days with extreme fire danger due to dryness and high winds. (Some are even collecting signatures to encourage the base to stop the practice.) Both recent fires ignited on dry, windy days.

Meanwhile, on March 16, El Paso County announced Stage I fire restrictions, meaning those in the unincorporated county must abide by restrictions on open fires and outdoor smoking. The use or sale of fireworks is forbidden under the ban.

El Paso County is under Stage I Fire Restrictions for all unincorporated areas of El Paso County

Due to the continued dry conditions and the National Weather Service forecast for continued dry and warmer than normal conditions, resulting in very high to extreme fire danger ratings, Deputy Fire Warden John Padgett has ordered Stage I Fire Restrictions for all of the unincorporated areas of El Paso County. The Stage I Fire Restrictions shall go into effect immediately and the following are prohibited:

1. Open burning, excepting fires and campfires within permanently constructed fire grates in developed
campgrounds and picnic grounds; charcoal grills and wood burning stoves at private residences in areas
cleared of all flammable materials.
2. The sale or use of fireworks.
3. Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped
in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

The Stage I Restrictions shall remain in effect until such time the restrictions are modified pursuant to El Paso County Ordinance #15-001.

Manitou Springs also instituted fire restrictions which include limitations on outdoor fires and an outdoor smoking ban:

Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council,

Effective immediately, and in an effort to remain consistent with regional partners, I am ordering the following Fire Restrictions for the City of Manitou Springs:

1. Open Burning Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any outside fire, including camp fires and warming fires.

This current ban excludes fires in permanently constructed fire rings within the city’s RV and Camping Parks; and charcoal grills, and wood burning fire places, (chiminia) or fire pits with proper fitting screen covers and with a minimum of 15’ separation from structures or other combustible material at private residences. None of these exclusions permit a total fuel area greater than 3 feet in diameter, and all must have a flame height of less than 2 feet.

2. Outdoor Smoking Ban, defined as the prohibited use of any tobacco product or similar material in cigarettes, cigars, or pipes outdoors. This excludes smoking in enclosed buildings or structures, and along Manitou Avenue. Discarding of a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco products is strictly prohibited.

These restrictions do not apply to gas-fueled grills used out-of-doors, or to fires within liquid-fueled or gas-fueled stoves. Additionally, compliant fireplaces and wood-burning stoves within private residences are not included in the ban.

If weather patterns change the local outlook significantly one way or the other, Fire Restrictions will be adjusted accordingly.

Respectfully Submitted,

John K. Forsett, Fire Chief, City of Manitou Springs

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Pikes Peak Summit House environmental study completed

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 10:44 AM

In a 409-page report that delves into environmental issues ranging from air quality to soils, the U.S. Forest Service concludes there will be no significant impact to the environment from building a new Summit House atop Pikes Peak.

The draft environmental assessment concluded, "After reviewing the EA, the Forest Service has determined the Proposed Action will not, individually or cumulatively, significantly affect the quality of the human, biological, or physical environment."

The Forest Service further determined, based on the "context and intensity" of the project, that a more thorough and lengthy Environmental Impact Statement isn't required.

Besides a new $50-million Summit House, the project includes two other components. Here's a description from the EA:
The city, PPAM [PIkes Peak America's Mountain], U.S. Army, and CSU [Colorado Springs Utilities] have requested approval to design and construct three facilities on two building sites on the summit of Pikes Peak as accepted by the U.S. Forest Service in a letter dated April 16, 2014.

Connected to the proposal and integral to the proposed project is decommissioning and removing the existing facilities, building new facilities designed specifically for the Pikes Peak summit use objectives and environment, restoring disturbed sites to native tundra, protecting heritage resources, and enhancing visitor experiences above the 17 14,000-foot contour.

The proposed action is to redesign and construct a new Summit Complex, consisting of PPAM’s Summit Visitors Center on one site and to consolidate the City’s Plant Building, CSU’s Communications Facility, and the U.S. Army’s High-Altitude Research Laboratory (HARL) on the second site. Although separate facilities, the City’s Plant, CSU’s communications tower, and U.S. Army’s HARL, will be designed to givethe appearance of one facility.

The EA discusses the use of shuttles during construction and after.

A public comment period is open until April 16, but the Forest Service says you can't comment unless you've already submitted a written comment earlier in the process. "Objections will only be accepted from those who have previously submitted specific written comments during a designated opportunity for public comment," the Forest Service says in an email. "Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project or activity and attributed to the objector, unless the issue is based on new information that arose after the opportunities to comment."

If you qualify to provide an "objection," as termed by the Forest Service, they should be sent to:
USDA Forest Service
Region 2 Rocky Mountain Region
Attn.: Objection Reviewing Officer
1617 Cole Boulevard, Building 17
Lakewood, CO 80401

Or faxed to (303) 275-5134.

Send electronic objections to r02admin_review@fs.fed.us and enter Pikes Peak Summit Complex in the subject line.

Here's a little history contained in the Forest Service's report:
1820- First recorded ascent by Dr. Edwin James
1873- First structure built atop Pikes Peak
1889- Completion of the Pikes Peak Carriage Toll Road
1891- The Cog railway completed
1963- Current Summit House built
1969- U.S. Army research building constructed
1970s- CSU Communication Facility built
1992- Pikes Peak Highway Master Plan completed- recommend implementing erosion and sediment control plan and replacement of the Summit House
2002- City of Colorado Springs implements the Drainage, Erosion and Sediment Control Plan
2011- Pikes Peak Toll Road is completely paved.
April 16, 2014 Decision to prepare an EA

Here's the Environmental Assessment:

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

UPDATE: Strawberry Fields decision supports city land swap

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 2:37 PM

Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Save Cheyenne has picketed some city meetings to oppose the land swap.

Kent Obee, spokesperson for Save Cheyenne, tells the Independent, "We're looking to go to the Supreme Court."

Mayor John Suthers, an attorney, counters by saying the unanimous decision by the Court of Appeals gives him a high level of confidence that the city's legal position is sound.

"I thought the trial judge's opinion was very thoughtful and well-written, so I'm no the least bit surprised that it was upheld by the Court of Appeals," he says in an interview. "The only surprise was it that it ruled within a month."

——————ORIGINAL POST 10:52 A.M. THURDAY, FEB. 8, 2018———————-

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled in the city's favor in its land exchange with The Broadmoor resort, turning away arguments by the nonprofit Save Cheyenne that the trade of the city's Strawberry Fields open space should have gone to voters to decide.

The city issued this statement:

The City of Colorado Springs today released the below statement in response to the opinion issued by the Colorado Court of Appeals.

“Today the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion, upholding the lower court’s ruling that the City of Colorado Springs acted within its authority as a Home Rule City in the land exchange. We are confident that any reviewing court will continue to find in the City’s favor.”
We've asked Save Cheyenne to comment and will update when we hear back.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

State of the Rockies project shows growing concern for the environment

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 2:52 PM

  • Slides courtesy Colorado College State of the Rockies Project
Colorado voters are more likely to identify as a conservationist today than two years ago, with similarly significant increases in every Western state, according to the State of the Rockies Project from Colorado College.

"You wouldn't expect that to change much year to year," project specialist with the State of the Rockies Project Jonah Seifer tells the Independent. "Over the past two years we've seen a 13 percent rise in voters who identify as conservationists.

"We've always asked, 'Do you visit national public lands?' Earlier, we got a resounding 'yes.' In the past year, we noticed a strong uptick in people who visit public lands repeatedly, people who have made a commitment to public lands and visit them often and develop a relationship with them. A culture that repeatedly visits public lands is a trend for us."

Past year's reports have been cited by politicians and last year was referenced during debate on the U.S. House floor during debate over national monuments.
The poll, conducted by Lori Weigel with Public Opinion Strategies, and Dave Metz with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associations, found:

• 65 percent of Coloradans identified as a conservationist in 2016, compared to 75 percent this year. Respondents in the seven other states also showed an increase. The biggest change came in Utah, which went from 57 percent in 2016 to 76 percent in 2018. Other states included Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.

• 74 percent consider themselves an outdoor recreation enthusiast.

The poll is in its eighth year and surveys citizens on their views of the most pressing issues involving public lands.

The poll comes at a time when President Trump and his administration are taking steps to block public access to some national public lands through reducing the size of public monuments and allow commercial use of public lands.

On Monday, the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities reported that a draft of Trump's infrastructure plan, first reported by Axios, includes a call for the “Disposition of Federal Real Property” by executive order, suggesting an intent to sell the country's public lands.

"This plan calls for the disposal of federal lands, it’s right there in black and white," the center's Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said in a statement. "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said time and again that he would oppose any attempt to sell off America’s public lands. Once again, the secretary is telling the public one thing while doing another behind closed doors."

The Colorado College report also notes that "96 percent of Coloradans surveyed view the outdoor recreation economy as important for the economic future of their state." Eighty-seven said their state's outdoor lifestyle attracts good jobs and innovative companies.

"Overall, Colorado voter approval for President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of issues related to land, water and wildlife sits at 36 percent, with 55 percent disapproving," the report said.

Here's more from a news release:
Asked where the Trump administration should place its emphasis between protection and development, 68 percent of respondents said they prefer protecting water, air and wildlife while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. That is compared to 21 percent of respondents who said they prefer the administration prioritize domestic energy production by increasing the amount of national public lands available for responsible drilling and mining.

Coloradans hold national monuments in high regard. Eighty-six percent described them as helping nearby economies, 93 percent as national treasures, 94 percent as important places to be conserved for future generations, 91 percent as places to learn about America’s history and heritage, and 96 percent as places they want their children to see someday. Twenty-six percent said national monuments hurt the local economy and 26 percent said they tie up too much land that could be put to other uses.

Seventy percent of Colorado voters view the Trump administration’s recent decision to remove existing protections and reduce the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 2 million acres as a bad idea. A Trump administration decision to alter or eliminate additional national monuments would be unpopular with 73 percent of respondents across the state.

“Over the eight-year history of the Conservation in the West Poll, a passion for the outdoors and strong support for American public lands have remained constant in the Mountain West,” said Dr. Walt Hecox, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Colorado College and founder of the State of the Rockies Project. “Nearly all of the people surveyed said they visited national public lands in the past year and plan to go to a national park in 2018. Public lands drive our economy and define our way of life. A leadership agenda that does not recognize that reality is going to be met with strong disapproval in Colorado.”

Specifically, several actions recently undertaken or currently under consideration by the Trump administration are unpopular with voters in Colorado:

• 40 percent of respondents support [44 percent oppose] raising fees to enter some of the country’s largest national parks during peak season;

• 30 percent of respondents support [53 percent oppose] privatizing the management of campgrounds, visitor centers and other services provided at national parks and other national public lands;

• 27 percent of respondents support [63 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to drill for oil and gas on public lands;

• 24 percent of respondents support [60 percent oppose] expanding how much public land is available to private companies which pay for the ability to mine for uranium and other metals on public lands;

• 17 percent of respondents support [72 percent oppose] allowing mining on public lands next to Grand Canyon National Park, where new mining claims are currently banned;

• 26 percent of respondents support [67 percent oppose] changing current plans to protect habitat for threatened sage-grouse in Western states; and, conversely, 74 percent of respondents support [18 percent oppose] requiring oil and gas producers who operate on public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas during the extraction process and reduce the need to burn off excess natural gas into the air—a regulation the Trump administration is seeking to overturn.

With the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show beginning this week in Denver, after the Outdoor Industry Association ended its 20-year partnership with Salt Lake City as a result of Utah politicians’ hostility toward land conservation and U.S. public lands, the impact of the Trump administration’s recent actions on local outdoor economies is top of mind for the outdoor recreation business community:

“Protecting public lands is a bipartisan issue with constituents across the West agreeing that public lands and waters should remain open and accessible for all to enjoy,” said Travis Campbell, chairman of the board for the Outdoor Industry Association and President of Smartwool. “Unfortunately, the current administration’s actions are not lining up with voters’ desires. We need people from both sides of the aisle to express their dissatisfaction with their legislators and let their voices be heard.”

The poll showed strong support for cleaner forms of energy in Colorado. Forty-two percent of respondents in Colorado pointed to solar as the source of energy that best represents the future of energy in their state. Wind was the second-ranked choice.

With record-low snowpack in parts of the West, the drought remained a top concern this year, as low levels of water in rivers and inadequate water supplies were identified as serious issues facing Colorado by 81 percent and 80 percent of respondents respectively. Eighty percent of respondents prefer addressing the water shortage by using the current water supply more wisely through conservation, reduction and recycling rather than by diverting more water from rivers in less populated places to communities where more people live. Seventy-nine percent of respondents in Colorado view the Colorado River as “at risk.”

This is the eighth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. Idaho was added to the survey for the first time this year. The 2018 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The poll surveyed 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT & WY) for a total 3,200-person sample. The survey was conducted in late December 2017 and early January 2018 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.


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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

UPDATE: Strawberry Fields case argued before the Colorado Court of Appeals

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 3:03 PM

The case of Strawberry Fields open space made it to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Jan. 9. A decision is expected in coming months. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The case of Strawberry Fields open space made it to the Colorado Court of Appeals on Jan. 9. A decision is expected in coming months.

UPDATE: This blog post has been updated to reflect a correction to which Court of Appeals judge is nearing retirement.

———————ORIGINAL POST 3:03 P.M. TUESDAY, SEPT. 9, 2018———————

DENVER — Opponents of the city of Colorado Springs' land exchange with The Broadmoor, finalized in December 2016, showed up in force on Jan. 9 for arguments of their case before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit formed amid debate over the land swap in early 2016, sued the city later that year arguing that 186-acre Strawberry Fields open space in North Cheyenne Cañon park couldn't be disposed of without voter approval. They argue the land was purchased from a bank in 1885 after voters approved the acquisition, meaning it was dedicated park land, which can't be sold or traded without voters having a say.

The city counters that there's no deed restriction, and the city's home rule powers enable City Council to dispose of city-owned land as it sees fit for the betterment of the city.

In addition, Save Cheyenne asserts that land received by the city isn't worth as much as the land it ceded to The Broadmoor, which is unconstitutional if the exchange constituted a "gift" from the government to a corporation. The city, and The Broadmoor, which has intervened in the case, argue otherwise, saying there was no gift.

The land exchange gave The Broadmoor the open space and a half-acre parking lot at the foot of the Manitou Incline. The city received more than 400 acres of wilderness property, easements for various trails and a roughly 9-acre tract immediately east of Bear Creek Regional Park. According to appraisals, The Broadmoor's land far exceeded the value of the city's land, but an appraisal of Strawberry Fields came into dispute when the Colorado Board of Real Estate Appraisers ruled, in response to a complaint, that the appraisal fell short in following standard appraisal practices and ordered the appraiser, Kyle Wigington, to pay a fine and take classes in such things as highest and best use and other appraisal skills.

The city has argued the land swap was good for the city, because it provides key trails connections and offloads care of Strawberry Fields from a Parks Department that's strapped for money to maintain the lands it oversees. The Broadmoor is planning to build a horse stable and picnic pavilion on about 8 acres amid the open space for use by its guests, while placing the balance under a conservation easement overseen by the Palmer Land Trust and opened for public use.

After a District Court judge dismissed Save Cheyenne's case, it appealed to the Court of Appeals where attorneys for both sides squared off on Jan. 9.

Charles Norton, a Denver attorney, represents Save Cheyenne, while City Attorney Wynetta Massey appeared on the city's behalf.

Their 15-minute arguments were confined to issues of law previously outlined in court briefs. The three Court of Appeals judges who heard those arguments interjected questions, such as one challenging the authority argued by Save Cheyenne for asserting a vote of the people was necessary for the Strawberry Fields transfer, and another asking Massey if the word "dedication" in the 1885 ordinance has a meaning.

After the brief hearing, attended by about a dozen Save Cheyenne supporters, Norton said questions surrounding the legitimacy of the Strawberry Fields appraisal aren't relevant to the appellate case, which pivots only on the law that dictates what the city can and can't do in disposing of property.

"The city is arguing that none of that makes any difference," he said, "that the court has no power to review the transaction or the appraisal."

However, if the court agrees with Save Cheyenne's arguments, it could send the case back to the District Court for trial, at which, Norton said, information about the appraisal would become pertinent.

Norton's take on the hearing was that the court "is wrestling with the issues."

Both sides have promised to appeal an unfavorable ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, so the case could persist for months. The Court of Appeals ruling will be handed down "in due course," according to appeals Judge John Webb, but Save Cheyenne supporters hope for a decision sometime in February noting Webb's one of the judge's imminent retirement. (Jon Sarche, spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department says  Judge Dennis Graham plans to retire effective Feb. 12.)

Among those attending on Save Cheyenne's behalf was supporter Donna Strom. "This could affect every city in Colorado," she told the Independent. "I feel like I'm standing in the shoes of those people in 1885 [who voted to acquire the open space], and I will never give up."

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Monday, December 18, 2017

UPDATE: Garden of the Gods frame to be removed

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 10:54 AM

The new 12-foot tall frame installed at Garden of the Gods without Parks Board of City Council approval. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • The new 12-foot tall frame installed at Garden of the Gods without Parks Board of City Council approval.

Here are the city's answers to the questions we posed:
1. How will the rock the frame is bolted into be repaired, or will it?

The sign and footers have been fully removed by the Parks Department. I do not have details on exactly what they did to remove it.

2. Did this expose a weakness in the city’s regulations for Garden of the Gods Park? If so, what will be done to plug that hole, if anything? If not, can anyone install whatever they like in the garden and then respond only if there’s any public feedback?
The sign was installed after going through the process as directed by the Parks department, which asked that the proposed sign be presented to the Parks Advisory Board. This was done in February.

Any change to the city’s parks master plan would require a vote by the Parks Advisory Board.

3. Where will the frame be relocated to and when?

That is in discussion

This just in from the city's communications office:
The blue frame in Garden of the Gods Park was conceived by the marketing advisors on the Olympic City USA Taskforce as an effective way to drive millions of views of our Park by harnessing the power of social media. Based on successes in other cities, the task force put this forward with enthusiasm for sharing one of our most popular attractions worldwide. Our observations since the frame was installed confirmed the task force was correct in assessing its appeal to tourists.

However, we recognize that while one of our goals is driving tourism, the concept focused too heavily on visitors, and was not well-received by local residents who feel a great deal of ownership of the Park. That viewpoint is extremely important.

Olympic City USA is meant to be a unifying concept, and one that was created to enhance – rather than divide - our civic pride. We have received some very thoughtful citizen comments asking for its relocation and we thank those citizens who took the time for constructive communication. In recognition of public sentiment, we are in the process of removing the frame from its current location.

While the initial execution was flawed, we are excited about the opportunity to eventually relocate the frame to a spot where it can meet its original objectives and become an amenity for both our visitors and our local residents to enjoy.

We've asked the city the following questions and will report back if and when we hear something:
1. How will the rock to which the frame is bolted be repaired, or will it?

2. Did this expose a weakness in the city’s regulations for Garden of the Gods Park? If so, what will be done to plug that hole, if anything? If not, can anyone install whatever they like in the garden and then respond only if there’s any public feedback?

3. Where will the frame be relocated to and when?

———————-ORIGINAL POST 5:21 P.M. FRIDAY, DEC. 15, 2017————————-

"I think it's terrible." That's the word from City Councilor Jill Gaebler about a 12-foot-tall blue picture frame bolted into rocks at Garden of the Gods.

Gaebler, and many in the community she's heard from, are outraged that the frame was installed without prior approval of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board or City Council.

"It looks like to me it's the Olympic City USA Committee, which is led by Janet Suthers, and it appears they did exactly that, they put this in Garden of the Gods without anyone's approval," she said. Gaebler says she wrote on her Facebook page about the installation, saying "A thousand times no."

"I can't believe the response I'm getting from community members," she says. "They think it's a joke. I think they thought they could put something in Garden of the Gods park and no one would care. They underestimate residents who care deeply about their parks and open spaces.
There was no community conversation about it."

The Gazette reports the frame is located at High Point in the garden.

Says Gaebler, "I wrote the Parks Board today and asked them to do what they could to get it removed. I heard back that somebody came to a meeting and spoke during public comments but there was no ask. They were told this is what was going to happen."

She reports that feedback she's received is unanimous against the frame. She heard from former state Sen. Andy McElhaney, she says, who said, "What can we do to get rid of this thing?"

Gaebler says such a thing shouldn't disturb the natural landscape.

The city issued this statement:
The 8’ x 12’ frame in Garden of the Gods Park was erected as a whimsical and fun way for residents and tourists alike to share the beauty of Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA. By occupying a small corner of a South parking lot, we hope that many of the 4M annual visitors will share their memories and celebrate Colorado Springs as an iconic vacation destination. No rock formations were impacted by the installation of the frame, which is adjacent to the parking lot. The location and installation will be re-evaluated at the end of 2018. No tax dollars were spent on the frame, as it was donated.

As you can see from the attached photo, the frame now has decals that say "Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA" and offers visitors an opportunity to capture their visit in this framed photo.

The idea of installing the frame came from the Olympic City USA taskforce and the actual frame was donated by GE Johnson. 

Here's the letter Gaebler sent to the Parks Board:
Dear Honorable Park Board members,

After reading the below linked article, I now write to ask you to reconsider your position to allow this 12-foot, blue frame to be placed in Garden of the Gods Park. This frame is a monstrosity and has no place in our natural environment. I do not know the details of how it was approved, nor what group requested its placement, but I do know that our outdoor residents consider it an abomination to all that we hold dear, and that it will be forcibly removed by them, if you do not act to remove it.

This frame creates a terrible perception for city. A perception that tells visitors and residents that our natural beauty isn't enough, and that while we don't have funds to open bathrooms or have functional water fountains, we somehow manage to fund atrocious $12K picture frames.


Thank you, and my best to each of you. 

Former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin says the way the frame was handled demonstrates why it's important to get public input on such matters.

"It's a perfect example where they bypassed the citizen input part of that," she says. "Janet [Suthers] spoke during the citizen comment [during a Parks Board meeting], it was not even an agenda item, so they just completely skipped citizen participation, and this is a good example of why that's so important."

For her part, Martin, who serves on the Garden of the Gods Foundation, agrees with Gaebler. "We've worked for years to bring the garden back to the original state, and I think everybody has been happy with the work that's been done, and this just doesn't fit," she says. "It seems to commercialize the garden, which is against everything that I stand for and most people stand for."
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Strawberry Fields appraisal needs fresh look, citizens say

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 3:41 PM

Opponents of the city's land exchange with The Broadmoor gathered outside City Hall today, Dec. 12, prior to a City Council meeting at which they asked Council to revisit the appraisal of Strawberry Fields, a 186-acre open space the city traded away. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Opponents of the city's land exchange with The Broadmoor gathered outside City Hall today, Dec. 12, prior to a City Council meeting at which they asked Council to revisit the appraisal of Strawberry Fields, a 186-acre open space the city traded away.

So many questions pervade the appraisal of Strawberry Fields open space, also called Strawberry Hill, that Colorado Springs City Council should revisit the land exchange that ceded the city's 186 acres to The Broadmoor, about a dozen people told Council at its meeting today, Dec. 12.

The exchange, approved by Council on a 6-3 vote on May 24, 2016, has come into question due to the Colorado Board of Real Estate Appraisers' action against the Strawberry Fields appraiser, Kyle Wigington, who was hired by the city.

The Independent reported the BOREA action in a story that also reported The Broadmoor's attorneys prepared amicus briefs for a Colorado Court of Appeals action involving the land and asked two nonprofits to submit them to the court. Neither agency — the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which backed the exchange, and the Palmer Land Trust, which holds the conservation easement on most of the property — agreed to do so. A legal expert consulted by the Indy said that asking the nonprofits to falsely claim authorship of the brief runs contrary to the spirit of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.

The lawsuit that The Broadmoor is fighting was filed by the nonprofit Save Cheyenne, which formed amid the land exchange discussion in 2016 for the express purpose of opposing the swap. The case is on appeal from a District Court decision in the city's and Broadmoor's favor.

Douglas Greenberg was among the citizens who spoke. He called the trade "corrupt," "inappropriate" and "appalling," and added, citing the Indy story, "Now it's even more evident." Greenberg also said the idea that the city needed the seven scattered parcels given to the city by The Broadmoor in the land swap is "just crazy."

"This community is not going to just roll over," he said. "The community is going to continue to protest this thing."

Council President Richard Skorman, who was the leader of Save Cheyenne until he was elected to Council last April, said he wants Council to discuss the matter. He also said he wants another legal opinion besides that of City Attorney Wynetta Massey, who told Council at the Dec. 12 meeting that BOREA's action to fine Wigington and order him to complete 41 hours of education in various areas of appraisal work, including highest and best use, was not of concern.

She said there had been no "formal filing of violation or wrongdoing" and that BOREA only took issue with documentation, not the value, $1,581,000, Wigington assigned to the property. BOREA imposed the penalties at a Nov. 2 meeting. Wigington is entitled to appeal the action.

Regardless, she said, this Council, which contains three new members installed in April, can't reverse the action taken by the previous Council. The land transaction closed in December 2016.

Like Skorman, Councilor Bill Murray was game to revisit the matter, noting the City Attorney's Office was wrong initially when it said the property wasn't acquired as the result of a vote of the people in 1885 when, in fact, it had been.

Skorman said it defies logic that an 8.5-acre "building envelop" amid the 186-acre property, on which The Broadmoor will build a horse stable and picnic pavilion for its guests, is worth only $8,300 per acre. It's common sense that a large commercial space next door to The Broadmoor-owned Seven Falls would be worth more, he said.

Skorman also called for a fresh appraisal.

Councilor David Geislinger disagreed, saying if Council revisited past Council decisions, it would be deemed ineffective and unreliable. "We can't constantly be subjected to second-guessing," he said.

Save Cheyenne supporters spent an hour pleading for Council to take another look.

"My request to you is to examine it," Save Cheyenne's leader Kent Obee said. "The highest and best use certainly was not applied to the Strawberry Fields property. There were many problems with that appraisal."

Linda Hodges also questioned whether The Broadmoor's tax break in the form of a donation based on the difference between the value of the city's land and The Broadmoor's land (The Broadmoor's parcels were assigned a higher value in appraisals) might need a second look if Strawberry Fields is actually worth more.

Arguments in the case on appeal will be held Jan. 9.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

UPDATE: Venetucci farmers laid off as contaminated water spoils finances

Posted By on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 4:51 PM

  • Nat Stein

UPDATE: We received official statements from both the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and the Gordon/Hamilton family regarding the latter's termination as managers of Venetucci Farm. Since they're written as public letters, we'll post them in their entirety below.

Here's the statement from the foundation:

Dear Friends of Venetucci Farm,

This past year has been an uncertain period for Venetucci Farm, but it is not without its successes. The PFC contamination that affects the Widefield Aquifer continues to challenge the farm’s operations. In 2017, we focused our efforts on the pumpkin giveaway and the farm’s education programs. Thanks to Susan, Patrick, and David, the farm hosted hundreds of school children and provided more than 10,000 pumpkins to the community.

As many of you know, the farm’s principle revenue source is a water rights lease with the Security and Widefield water districts. The administrators at these districts face a herculean task to provide safe drinking water for their communities. The Venetucci wells are part of the Widefield Aquifer, and it’s not clear that the water districts can use our water without treating it for consumption. For this reason, Security and Widefield asked to suspend payment of the water rights until a sufficient filtration system can be implemented for the wells.

Learning recently of this new information, we concluded that there are two options: We can challenge the suspended payment and consume resources that would otherwise be deployed to solve the community’s water problem, or we can join forces with the water districts. We recognize that the community’s priority is safe drinking water. We chose to be good and responsible neighbors by opting to come together with the districts.

We’ve agreed to an abeyance agreement that essentially suspends any payment or challenge until we have clarity on how to remediate the water contamination crisis.

There are consequences to this decision. Without our main revenue source, we must scale back our operations on the farm. We had to eliminate Susan, Patrick and David’s positions, and reduce our operations to a caretaking role. We are working on a management plan for the farm for this year, and beyond. We offered the opportunity to Susan and Patrick to stay on the farm as caretakers until the end of June to allow for a smooth transition.

One uncertainty we face is how long it will take for the wells to become operational. This reality has pushed us to work with community leaders to find other revenue sources for the farm. Our belief is that there are opportunities for a vibrant Venetucci in the future. We are pursuing them.

Once we have a better understanding of our options, I will be in communication with you all.

In the meantime, I want to recognize the diligent work of Susan, Patrick and David. They have been shepherds of the Venetucci legacy; they have fed, educated, and cared for our community. We also have great respect for Roy Heald and Steve Wilson, the managers of the Security and Widefield water districts. They are faced with a complex task to provide safe drinking water in a true crisis.

If you have questions about the farm’s future, please feel free to contact Sam Clark at PPCF: sclark@ppcf.org or 719.445.0605.


Gary Butterworth

Chief Executive Officer

And here's the statement from Susan Gordon:

Public Statement re: the Termination of my employment with PPCF

Patrick, Sarah, Clare, and I were disappointed and saddened to abruptly receive the news that we would be forced to leave Venetucci Farm, which has been our home, work, and community for the past eleven years. Honored to be tasked with preserving the Venetucci legacy, we worked tirelessly to restore the farm to health and increase its financial, ecological, and social resiliency. Produce and pumpkin sales, educational programs, and events provided diverse revenue sources and opportunities for the community to engage with the farm. Using the farm as a classroom, our educational coordinator, David Rudin, engaged thousands of school children in the natural world. We couldn’t have done any of this without the many hands and hearts that helped us along the way.

It is unfortunate that the recent water contamination by the Air Force and the subsequent decisions have resulted in an uncertain future for the farm. Losing a productive farm that provides opportunity for people to connect with the land and each other is not something our community or our world can afford. While the loss of the water lease money presents a formidable challenge, it does not preclude the farm from operating as it historically did, supporting itself through diverse income streams.

Eleven years ago as we walked the farm with Bambi Venetucci, we were acutely aware of the responsibility we faced to care for the land and preserve it as a working farm. Nick and Bambi Venetucci provided an incredible gift to this community and we were honored to have been the farmers here for the past decade. We hope that our affection for and care of Venetucci Farm has honored that gift, and that those now responsible for the future of the farm will make decisions that continue to do so.

Susan Gordon

—— ORIGINAL POST: 4:51 P.M. DEC, 7, 2017 ——

It’s been bad news after bad news for Venetucci Farm over the past two years. Now there's another blow to the 200-acre working farm — farm managers Susan Gordon and Patrick Hamilton have been laid off. Production is on indefinite hold. 

Venetucci's problems began in May 2016, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory lowering the level of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) considered safe for human consumption. Soon after, the groundwater under Venetucci tested above that level, prompting the farm’s longtime trustee, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF), to suspend produce sales mid-season.

Quite new in his role at the time, PPCF CEO Gary Butterworth tried to exercise an abundance of caution in the decision to stop all sales, though many loyal customers felt denied the chance to make their own judgement. (Colorado’s Chief Epidemiologist Mike Van Dyke has since found that eating Venetucci's produce, even with the highest possible PFC uptake levels, likely isn’t dangerous.)

Meanwhile, the foundation underwent some reorganization: staff were laid off; headquarters relocated; and the fiscal sponsorship program ended. Butterworth also indicated a desire to move away from land ownership. He ordered an advisory committee to seek potential plans for offloading Venetucci in a way that honored the intent of its donors, Nick and Bambi Venetucci.

Production was kept on hold through the 2017 growing season. There were murmurings that Colorado College would take ownership of the land. Those negotiations have since stalled, a CC official confirms.

Now, the municipal well on the land, located off US-85 in Security, will no longer support Venetucci’s operations as it has for over a decade. The water isn’t used to irrigate crops. (There are other wells for that, drilled back when no one else was pulling from the Widefield aquifer.) Rather, the water from this particular well is leased to nearby Security Water and Sanitation District (SWSD), Widefield Water and Sanitation District and Fountain Water District, fetching about $250,000 a year. That revenue accounts for most of the farm’s annual operating budget.

Or, it used to.

This week, the water districts entered into an abeyance, meaning they’ve moved to suspend the lease since they can’t serve contaminated water to their customers. 

Butterworth confirmed the news, emphasizing it’s for the “greater good” of the wider Security, Widefield and Fountain communities, of which Venetucci Farm is a part.

Gordon, having just been notified that the foundation is terminating her employment, is distraught. The farm is more than her work — it’s her home and her passion. She was hoping her daughter, who just completed her first season farming her own land down in Pueblo, might one day take over for her at Venetucci.

“That kind of familial continuity, I think it’s integral to good farming,” she told the Indy Thursday. “Under this vision [Venetucci] isn’t a home, it isn’t a family, it isn’t a diverse ecological community. It’s just a spreadsheet. … Yeah, I’m worried about the future.”

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Incline Friends releases fundraising calendar showcasing region's favorite hike

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 2:59 PM

  • Courtesy Incline Friends
The Manitou Incline is undoubtedly one of the region’s most popular hikes. Known for its difficulty, the famous stairs gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation over less than a mile, with 2,744 steps, making it one heck of a workout. Those who take the challenge frequently are well aware of the trail’s popularity, and anyone who has scaled that first step can attest to its beauty. If you want a little taste of the Incline without having to bust your lungs on it, Incline Friends has come out with a calendar showcasing the trail in all seasons.

Incline Friends, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the Incline sustainable and open to the public, will receive $3 from each calendar sale to continue their work.

Bonus: this 13-month calendar includes December, so you can start using it now.

See below for some of the calendar’s coolest photos.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Manitou Incline reopens after repairs

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 5:21 PM

  • Bob Falcone
After a round of heavy-duty repairs, the beloved Manitou Incline is open ahead of schedule, the city announced today, Nov. 22.

The city will mark the reopening with a ceremony at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, at the base of the incline.

It's been closed for past three months for a third phase of repairs that began at the false summit and continued to the top.

From the city's news release:
The Incline project had four major goals: improve safety, enhance the user experience, improve the trail’s long-term sustainability and increase accessibility. Work included removing and replacing damaged retaining walls, cleaning up the exposed rebar and loose debris, anchoring the existing ties, stabilizing the surrounding slopes, and replacing failed drainage structures and adding more drainage structures. The new drainage structures will greatly help to reduce the velocity of runoff water, which is a critical factor in reducing erosion and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Incline.

The project was completed at a final cost of approximately $2 million. Funding was made possible by a $2 million Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. The City of Colorado Springs is responsible for the general oversight, trail enhancements, general maintenance of the Incline and to apply for grants to fund improvements, per the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Manitou Springs. For more information on the construction project,www.coloradosprings.gov/incline" target="_blank"> www.coloradosprings.gov/incline

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Bike sharing program to be launched by Downtown Partnership

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:20 PM

Colorado Springs' Downtown Partnership has another project coming down the pike.

The Partnership's CEO and President, Susan Edmondson,
announced plans for a public bike sharing project, PikeCycle, during the Partnership's annual breakfast on Sept. 28, saying it was “fine time” Colorado Springs started a program. The bikes will be available for rental and return (to "ports") in and around downtown starting in spring.

Holly Kortum, executive director for Kaiser Permanente in Southern Colorado, which is sponsoring the project, highlighted how the plan aligns with the vision of Kaiser, and was hopeful that it could bring about positive outcomes.

“It improves the air quality, it reduces carbon emissions,
it supports and enhances our growing tourism, and it embraces for us our Olympic City USA brand as a fit, active community," she said.

(Disclosure: The Independent and our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, are sponsors of the bike share program as well.)

The project, still in it’s infancy, is slated to start offering bikes in April 2018, with a plan to put over 200 bikes and 364 docks in the Legacy Loop area encompassing downtown, Colorado College and the Olympic Training Center.

Those who want to use the bikes will need to pay. PikeCycle rental membership plans will range from one-day to annual use. All bikes are equipped with GPS technology to keep track of their location, so riders don’t have to worry about returning the bikes to specific ports.

But before the program launches, there are a few kinks to work out. Additional sponsorships are being negotiated, as well as a protocol for repairs. One Downtown Partnership spokesperson says that B-Cycle, the company who will supply the bikes for PikeCycle, will help employ staff for local maintenance. B-Cycle, which also has projects in Denver and Boulder, gives a product warranty to clients, but it excludes theft, vandalism and misuse.

In order to keep cyclists safe on the road and in construction zones, more continuous bike lanes will be created as the project expands.

Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2 - COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN COLORADO SPRINGS PARTNERSHIP
  • Courtesy of Downtown Colorado Springs Partnership
  • Projected PikeCycle regions, separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2

Here's the full press release on the announcement and the Downtown Partnership's Annual Breakfast:

Dan Robertson, Steve Schleiker and Ladyfingers Letterpress recognized with awards

Colorado Springs, CO - A before-the-trend developer, the El Paso County assessor and a creative Downtown business were honored today by Downtown Partnership with Downtown Star awards at the annual Downtown Partnership Breakfast. Now in its 20th year, the annual breakfast was attended by a sold-out crowd of 700 business, community and civic leaders. Remarks by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers were followed by Downtown Star awards presented in three categories: individual, civil servant, and business or organization, to those who have made outstanding commitments to a thriving Downtown. The event culminated with an announcement that Downtown Partnership intends to launch a bike share program next year.

The new PikeCycle bike share program is scheduled to launch in spring 2018. Bike sharing is the fastest growing form of transportation in the world, and PikeCycle title sponsor Kaiser Permanente was on hand to excite the crowd about the project. The first phase of PikeCycle will serve the entire Legacy Loop area, which includes 46,000 households and encircles greater Downtown Colorado Springs. Downtown Partnership CEO Susan Edmondson told the crowd that additional sponsorships are essential to ensure that PikeCycle becomes a reality. More on PikeCycle and sponsorship opportunities can be found online at www.DowntownCS.com/bikeshare.

Also at the annual breakfast, the 2017 Downtown Star Awards were presented:

Individual: Nearly two decades ago Dan Robertson saw the beauty in older buildings such as the Daniels building and the Giddings building and began converting the upper floors to residential units. It was a gamble to create the first lofts Downtown. Exposing the brick walls and retaining the wood floors and wooden beams lent character and beauty to each unit and planted a seed in our urban environment for loft living. From the Daniels Lofts to the Giddings Lofts, the Carriage House Lofts and – newly opened this year – the Bijou Lofts, Robertson continues to lead the charge on mixed-use development right in the heart of Downtown.

Civil Servant: County assessor Steve Schleiker may not have the most exhilarating of roles, but his is a vital part of a well-functioning community. Schleiker and his team work to take the emotion out of numbers, focus on proactively educating citizens – clearing the fog from often complicated state laws and processes – and respond quickly with a positive, helpful approach. Schleiker and his team also were recognized for the newly revamped county assessor website that makes public data user-friendly, business-friendly and resident-friendly, providing valuable information for investors looking to do business throughout the county.

Business or Organization: Morgan Calderini and Arley-Rose Torsone, founders of Ladyfingers Letterpress, were recognized for their business, which “goes beyond simply selling a product or making a product to fully embracing and enhancing their place in the community.” Their award-winning stationery is sold across the country and beyond, but more than that, they have created a gallery space in their store, host workshops and classes and serve as a community gathering place. This year, they rallied neighboring businesses to improve the business facades – applying for a Downtown Development Authority grant and project managing the entire process – to paint, update and create new signage for three businesses on their block. In addition, they hosted a prize-giveaway trip TO Colorado Springs, offering the all-expense paid trip as a contest to their distributors, “because we want them to know how great our community is, too.”

About Downtown Partnership
Downtown Partnership is the lead nonprofit organization ensuring that Downtown Colorado Springs serves as the economic, cultural, and civic heart of the city. For more information visit www.downtowncs.com, or contact Downtown Colorado Springs at 719.886.0088.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Conservation group targets Lamborn

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 8:38 PM

  • League of Conservation Voters Facebook page
The League of Conservation Voters is going after Rep. Doug Lamborn and others over their position on President Trump's executive order to determine if the Department of the Interior should scale back some national monuments.

In Facebook posts and a news release, the group is making a push for public responses in the runup to the deadline for public comment, as reported in a more far-reaching story by politico.com.

Here's the portion of that story that pertains to Lamborn:
The League of Conservation Voters is launching a final $100,000 push today across multiple platforms against the Trump administration’s review of nearly two dozen previously-designated national monuments. The campaign will urge people to urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke against making changes to the designations and promote videos highlighting support of public lands. LCV also plans to use Facebook and Instagram to push Reps. Paul Gosar, Steve Pearce, Doug LaMalfa and Doug Lamborn to stop their support of the review.

Here's the news release from the LCV:
Denver, CO – With the futures of national monuments across the West on the line, the League of Conservation Voters is investing $100,000 in a final push to urge Congressman Doug Lamborn and other members of Congress to stop attacking our public lands and to ensure Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump administration hear the overwhelming outpouring of support for our national monuments ahead of the August 24th deadline for its unprecedented monument ‘review.’

A member of the anti-public lands Congressional Western Caucus, Lamborn supports far-reaching changes to the dozens of national monuments caught up in the Trump administration’s dangerous and unnecessary review, including completely eliminating Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

“Coloradans cherish our public lands, but Congressman Lamborn and Secretary Zinke are pushing a dangerous agenda that threatens all of our parks and monuments protected under the Antiquities Act,” said Conservation Colorado Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate Scott Braden. “While the Trump administration’s mysterious review criteria spared Canyons of the Ancients, this unprecedented attack opens the door to drastic changes to public lands across the West.”

Starting today, LCV will run animated Facebook and Instagram ads urging Lamborn to stop attacking our public lands and monuments, and encouraging his constituents to take action by calling his office and expressing their opposition to the monument review. Lamborn is one of four members of the Congressional Western Caucus included in the ad campaign.

LCV is also running ads encouraging monument supporters to call Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and tell him to stop playing games with our public lands and end his dangerous review without recommending any changes to national monuments. Additionally, the campaign includes promoted videos amplifying support for threatened public lands and outlining the risks of the Trump administration turning over these special places to Big Polluters.

“It’s time for Secretary Zinke to stop playing games with our public lands, our waters and our national monuments,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski. “People across the country have spoken out and shared their stories of the value these special places bring their communities, from boosting local economies to preserving our cultural heritage for the next generation. But Zinke is treating our national monuments like contestants on a reality TV show, and his anti-public lands allies in Congress are enabling this dangerous agenda. Let’s be clear: if the Trump administration attempts to revoke protections for our national monuments, the millions of families who hike, fish, and enjoy our parks and public lands won’t sit on the sidelines while they sell out these special places to polluters.”

An unprecedented 2.7 million public comments were submitted in support of protecting national monuments, including more than 350,000 from LCV members. LCV’s “Our Lands, Our Vote” campaign has been engaging people across the country to stand up for our public lands and waters throughout the summer.
We've asked for a comment from Lamborn's office and will circle back if and when we hear something.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

City seeks input on Colorado Classic cycling race

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 2:54 PM

The crowd downtown before the first pass of the race didn't appear to be in the tens of thousands, as the city says, but spectators lined the route, so perhaps that's an accurate count. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The crowd downtown before the first pass of the race didn't appear to be in the tens of thousands, as the city says, but spectators lined the route, so perhaps that's an accurate count.
The city wants your feedback on how you enjoyed the Colorado Classic. A survey asks for impressions beyond traffic conditions, but we're guessing the traffic issue will rise to the top when all is said and done.

Anyone who travels to or from downtown or goes through it daily found one giant tie-up on the afternoon of August 10 after Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic. Traffic was stalemated in every direction of the downtown area and on the west side. Motorists wound through neighborhoods to find a way to make progress only, in many cases, to confront more paralysis.

Here's the city's release, which contains a link to the survey:
The inaugural Stage 1 Colorado Classic bike race in Colorado Springs is in the books, after bringing thousands of athletes and fans from across the state, nation and world to Colorado Springs.

Spectator attendance, international exposure and economic impact estimates are as follow:

· On average, people attending cycling events will stay for just over three days.*
· Approximately 500,000 spectators were expected over the four-day race (All stages).*
· Estimated TV viewership for the 2017 Colorado Classic is 41-50 Million.*

· The event is being broadcasted in over 140 countries.

· 500,000 individuals will watch the event online.*

*Source: RPM Events Group

“Large scale events like the Colorado Classic event dramatically heighten the profile of Colorado Springs,” said Bret Waters, Deputy Chief of Staff for the City. “In addition to the positive economic impact, which is significant, we saw tens of thousands of people line the streets to enjoy the elite-level event. Some of these racers were fresh off the Tour de France, and having the opportunity to watch them perform is something very special. These are the types of events that the nation’s top cities have the privilege of hosting.

An event of this magnitude is a very complex effort and we realize there are always things we can do better. We are continually looking for ways we can improve our planning and operations. A thorough after-action process will be conducted and citizen input is vitally important to that process.”

In order to gain resident feedback, the City of Colorado Springs has created a post-event survey. Data gained from this survey will be instrumental in helping to analyze the event. The City thanks residents in advance for completing the survey to share what went well, what could be improved and what the City can do to best accommodate this and other large events in the future. The survey is available at coloradosprings.gov/coloradoclassic.

The City’s event-day call center handled 95 phone calls, with the most frequent service for assistance navigating traffic closures. CSPD reports that there were zero event-related traffic accidents yesterday.

Colorado Springs is becoming a popular destination for elite-level sporting events and a large, cross-organizational team participated in a six-month planning effort around all areas of operations. Resident feedback will be instrumental to this group’s after action efforts. www.coloradosprings.gov/coloradoclassic.

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