Friday, November 1, 2019

CORE Act passes House over Lamborn, Tipton objections

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 2:18 PM

Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area.

A bill that adds protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado passed the U.S. House on Oct. 31, along mostly partisan lines.

Just five Republicans voted in favor of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act — and Colorado's own GOP representatives weren't among them.

The CORE Act's narrow victory might appear to cast a shadow on its odds of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially given a White House policy statement threatening to veto the legislation, as reported by the Colorado Sun.

But Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet — who has worked over the past decade to craft a bill that he says accounts for perspectives across the political spectrum — remains optimistic about the CORE Act's prospects.

"We can't find a similar precedent in the history of America where a president of the United States has reached out to threaten to veto with a bill like this bill," Bennet said on an Oct. 31 press call. "It's never happened. I'm shocked that it happened here, especially when it has such a broad bipartisan consensus of support in Colorado and there's such tremendous support at the local level."

"We're not going to let that dissuade us," he continued. "We're going to continue to work with the Coloradans that have worked so hard over the last decade to get this bill passed."

(See our previous reporting for a brief recap or detailed summary of the CORE Act.)

Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose 5th Congressional District includes Colorado Springs, refused to support the bill, arguing on the House floor that it does not take local concerns into account.

"While the goals of the public lands legislation in this bill are certainly admirable and well-intended, and I have great respect for the bill's sponsor...it is clear that this proposal lacks the type of local consensus required for a bill of this scale," Lamborn said on Oct. 30.

He and Rep. Scott Tipton, the Republican representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, said some stakeholders and local leaders affected by the CORE Act (the majority of which concerns Tipton's district) didn't feel their voices had been heard by the Democratic legislators crafting the legislation.

"This week alone, we received letters from Montezuma County, Dolores County, Rio Blanco County, Montrose County, Mesa County, all of which have various concerns about the CORE Act today," Tipton said during the debate. (Most of those counties do not contain land impacted by the legislation but are adjacent to an area it protects from future oil and gas development.)

Lamborn and Tipton also said they were concerned that a high-altitude aviation training site for the Army National Guard could be jeopardized by proposed wilderness area expansions included in the bill.

Rep. Joe Neguse, the bill's House sponsor, disputes those characterizations.

"We have yet to receive any opposition from a community in the state of Colorado to a provision of this bill that impacts that community," Neguse says, noting that commissioners in Pitkin, Ouray, San Juan, Eagle, Summit, Gunnison, San Miguel and Garfield counties support the CORE Act, as do several towns and municipalities.

The next step for the CORE Act is a Senate committee hearing.

Bennet says he's already spoken with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, about placing the CORE Act on the committee's hearing schedule. He expects that won't be an obstacle.

A potentially larger hurdle for the CORE Act will be obtaining the support of Colorado's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who has expressed some hesitation. While the legislation could pass without Gardner's support, such a feat would be tricky given that Republicans control the Senate.

Gardner recently told the Colorado Sun that he hasn't ruled out voting for the CORE Act, but would like to see changes related to water rights and livestock grazing.

Gardner's Democratic challengers for his contested Senate seat next fall have already seized on the possibility of his opposition — apparently counting on Colorado's natural landscapes to pull on voters' heartstrings. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper's Senate campaign, for example, has already launched digital advertisements urging Gardner to support the CORE Act.

“Coloradans need a Senator who will stand up for public lands and listen to local communities,” Hickenlooper said in an Oct. 31 statement. “Now that the CORE Act has passed the House and is heading to the Senate, I am calling on Senator Gardner to join me and Coloradans from across our state in supporting it.”
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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Colorado Democrats' public land bill up for vote in U.S. House this week

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2019 at 9:29 AM

  • Thompson Divide.


The White House issued a statement saying that if the CORE Act were “presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it," the Colorado Sun reports.


House lawmakers could soon weigh in on a bill that would add protections for 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act — sponsored by Colorado Democrats Rep. Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet — would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, and prohibit oil and gas development on 200,000 acres of public land in the Thompson Divide. The 84-page bill was placed on the House calendar for a vote the week of Oct. 28.

It unites and builds upon four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators, including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar, in previous years.

If the CORE Act wins House approval, and later makes it through the Senate, the bill would be the first statewide Colorado wilderness legislation to become law in more than a decade, Neguse's office notes in a statement.

“From Gunnison to Carbondale, to Eagle and Summit Counties, and so many other communities across our state, Coloradans have been waiting for over 10 years for Congress to act to preserve the lands they love," Neguse is quoted as saying. "I’m excited to lead on this legislation on the House floor that was written by Coloradans to conserve Colorado; and look forward to next week’s floor proceedings."

Among the bill's objectives:

• Create three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. (Public lands designated as "wilderness areas" receive the federal government's highest protection from human impact, making them prime places for outdoor recreation.)
• Designate the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, as the first ever National Historic Landscape.
• Create new wilderness areas and expand others in the San Juan Mountains.
• Prohibit future oil and gas development on 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, while preserving existing property rights.
• Formally establish the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. (Though the National Park Service has co-managed this area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress.)

Though Bennet has said he worked with a wide range of rural stakeholders in crafting the CORE Act, it remains to be seen whether Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate will jump on board in support. Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has not signed on as a cosponsor.

In the Democrat-led House, three Colorado Democrats have signed on as cosponsors: Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Jason Crow.
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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Denver scientists make "unprecedented" fossil finds at Corral Bluffs open space

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Dr. Ian Miller, left, curator of paleobotany at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Tyler Lyson, the Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, look for fossil concretions at the Corral Bluffs open space on Colorado Springs' northeast rim. - PHOTOS AND COMPUTER GENERATING IMAGES BY HHMI TANGLED BANK STUDIOS
  • Photos and computer generating images by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios
  • Dr. Ian Miller, left, curator of paleobotany at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Tyler Lyson, the Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, look for fossil concretions at the Corral Bluffs open space on Colorado Springs' northeast rim.
Colorado Springs' and El Paso County's Corral Bluffs open space has opened a new world of ancient discoveries for a pair of scientists with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

As the museum said in a release, Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology and lead author of a Science magazine paper on the discoveries, and Dr. Ian Miller, the Museum’s curator of paleobotany and director of earth and space sciences, led the team that announced the discovery.

The team reveals in striking detail how the world and life recovered after the catastrophic asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The findings are described in a peer-reviewed scientific paper in Science. It outlines the unprecedented find, which includes thousands of exceptionally preserved animal and plant fossils from the critical first million years after the catastrophe and "shines a revelatory light on how life emerged from Earth’s darkest hour," the release said.
A computer generated image of an ancient Loxolophus mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals. In this recreation, Loxolophus scavenges for food in the palm dominated forests found within the first 300,000 years after the dinosaur extinction.
  • A computer generated image of an ancient Loxolophus mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals. In this recreation, Loxolophus scavenges for food in the palm dominated forests found within the first 300,000 years after the dinosaur extinction.
From the release:
In addition to the paper published in Science magazine, the story of the discovery is told in a new documentary, ”Rise of the Mammals,” a NOVA production by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios for WGBH Boston, that will stream online beginning today at (https://www.pbs.org/nova/video/rise-of-the-mammals/) across PBS platforms and mobile apps and will broadcast nationally on PBS Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT (check local listings).

“Thanks to the expertise, vision and grit of the scientific team, we are gaining a clearer understanding of how our modern world of mammals arose from the ashes of the dinosaurs,” said George Sparks, the Museum’s President and CEO. “We hope that this story inspires people – especially future generations – to follow their curiosity and contemplate the big questions our world presents to us.”

“The course of life on Earth changed radically on a single day 66 million years ago,” said Lyson. “Blasting our planet, an asteroid triggered the extinction of three of every four kinds of living organisms. While it was a really bad time for life on Earth, some things survived, including some of our earliest, earliest ancestors.”

“These fossils tell us about our journey as a species – how we got to be here,” said Dr. Neil Shubin, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the discovery.
During the summer of 2016, dinosaur-hunter Lyson stopped looking for glinting bits of bone in the Denver Basin and instead zeroed in on egg-shaped rocks called concretions.
A computer image of an ancient Taeniolabis mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals.
  • A computer image of an ancient Taeniolabis mammal taken from the PBS NOVA special, Rise of the Mammals.
“It was absolutely a light bulb moment. That was the game changer,” he said in the release.

When the concretions were cracked open, Lyson and Miller found skulls of mammals from the early generations of survivors of the mass extinction, the release said, noting that finding a single skull from this era is unusual, but in a single day, the pair found four and more than a dozen in a week. So far, they've found fossils from at least 16 different species of mammal.

More from the release:
The Denver Basin site also adds powerful evidence to the idea that the recovery and evolution of plants and animals were intricately linked after the asteroid impact. Combining a remarkable fossil plant record with the discovery of the fossil mammals has allowed the team to link millennia-long warming spells to global events, including massive amounts of volcanism on the Indian subcontinent. These events may have shaped the ecosystems half a world away.
A cranium of a new species of Loxolophus uncovered at the Corral Bluffs fossil site.
  • A cranium of a new species of Loxolophus uncovered at the Corral Bluffs fossil site.
“It was only after the meteor impact wiped out the dinosaurs that mammals explode into the breathtaking diversity of forms we see today,” says Professor Anjali Goswami, a paleobiologist at the Natural History Museum, London, who was not involved in the discovery.

“Our understanding of the asteroid’s aftermath has been spotty,” Lyson explained. “These fossils tell us for the first time how exactly our planet recovered from this global cataclysm.”

Additional collaborators include:
David Krause, James Hagadorn, Antoine Bercovici, Farley Fleming, Ken Weissenburger, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Stephen Chester, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
William Clyde and Anthony Fuentes, University of New Hampshire
Greg Wilson, University of Washington
Kirk Johnson and Rich Barclay, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Matthew Butrim, Wesleyan University
Gussie Maccracken, University of Maryland
Ben Lloyd, Colorado College

The Museum worked with the United States Geological Survey’s National Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project to gather high-resolution images.

The NOVA program is slated to air Oct. 30, but check local listings for the exact time or visit pbs.org/nova.

Corral Bluffs is open for scheduled hikes but is not open to the public on a day-to-day basis.
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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hikers rescued in midnight mission at Cheyenne Mountain State Park

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 5:05 PM

  • Courtesy El Paso County Search & Rescue
What started out as a Saturday afternoon hike for six Broadmoor-owned Cloud Camp resort guests and their guide turned into a midnight rescue in Cheyenne Mountain State Park, including a Flight for Life helicopter used to spot the hikers from aloft.

"They were obviously very thankful for the assistance," El Paso County Search & Rescue Operations Director Patrick Kerscher tells the Independent, "and enjoyed the food and water we brought to them. We gave them extra clothing. They were all able to walk out."

Kerscher says the call for help came in at 5:43 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, and three Search and Rescue teams, totaling 17 people, mobilized by 6:20 p.m. The hikers were located at 12:08 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, and the mission was completed by 6:47 a.m.

"We were able to locate them via a cell phone signal when they called 911," he says.

But the rescue crews encountered difficult terrain as night fell, making for a long mission.

"What made it difficult was there are not significant traveled trails in that area," Kerscher says, noting that three rescue teams approached the hikers' location from different approaches, including a so-called social trail that turned into a bushwhacking exercise.
Cloud Camp sits atop Cheyenne Mountain. It's one of The Broadmoor's remote properties for guests. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Cloud Camp sits atop Cheyenne Mountain. It's one of The Broadmoor's remote properties for guests.
"It was very lengthy, and it was lengthy due to the terrain and lack of trails," he says. "It was crossing over dead trees, through ravines, and at night you have to go slow so you don’t break anything. They [hikers] had cell phone with them, so we could talk to them and let them know we were coming. We are very lucky nobody got hurt."

A Flight for Life helicopter came down from Denver to help pinpoint the hikers' location, using night vision technology, but didn't make a landing. If necessary, the helicopter, which assists under a cooperative agreement, would have picked up the searchers and dropped them elsewhere, but that maneuver wasn't needed.

The Search and Rescue team that finally located the group traveled up a creek bed. The guide was found in another location after the hikers were located. The guide earlier had climbed to a lookout point in an attempt to determine their position. The guide, too, walked out without injury, Kerscher says.

All seven hikers are from Colorado, according to Kerscher and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. The incident report isn't considered a public record and releasable, so the Indy was unable to interview any of the hikers.

When rescuers brought the hikers to the trail head, vehicles were waiting to drive them away, he says.

The 55-member El Paso County Search & Rescue operates under the auspices of the Sheriff's Office and is an all-volunteer organization that operates exclusively on donations. To donate, go here.

We've reached out to The Broadmoor for a comment about the incident and will circle back if and when we get a response.
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Creek Week features waterway clean-ups and plenty of beer

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2019 at 1:43 PM

  • Courtesy Fountain Creek Watershed District
Sept. 28 kicked off Colorado Springs' annual Creek Week Clean-Up, a nine-day schedule of events aimed at beautifying local waterways.

Since the first Creek Week in 2014, the event has more than quadrupled in size, with 2,791 volunteers and 99 groups participating last year. In total, Creek Week volunteers have picked up more than 84 tons of trash.

Missed the clean-ups last weekend? Never fear — there's still time to pitch in.

View a full list of remaining clean-ups at the Creek Week website. (There's too many to list them all here!) Contact the crew leader to register.

Below, view a sampling of clean-ups, fundraisers and more creek-related events. All events are open to the public, and most are free.

Monday, Sept. 30:

● Clean-up at Bear Creek Park East from 4 to 6 p.m. At 5 p.m., a representative from Environment Colorado will discuss historic contamination of water supplies from toxic PFAS chemicals near Peterson Air Force Base. Contact Crew Leader Alli Schuch at allischuch@gmail.com.

Tuesday, Oct. 1:

• The Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region will install a temporary "Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project" public art piece on a berm off Cimarron Street, east of Interstate 25 and south of America the Beautiful Park. The piece consists of metal letters constructed by Concrete Couch and filled with trash collected on public land and around waterways. A public dedication at 4 p.m. will include remarks from local leaders.

Goat Patch Brewery, located at 2727 N. Cascade Ave., will host a "Bleating Heart Night" Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week from 5 to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 2:

• The Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise will host a clean-up at America the Beautiful Park from 2 to 4 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Jerry Cordova at jcordova@springsgov.com.

Thursday, Oct. 3:

• Children ages 3 to 6, with an adult, can enjoy a Fountain Creek Nature Adventure at Fountain Creek Nature Center, located at 320 Pepper Grass Lane in Fountain. Today's theme: "Outstanding Owls." Prepaid reservations (required for all attendees) are $3 per person including siblings and adults.

Saturday, Oct. 5:

• Volunteers from Westside Cares, in partnership with COSILoveYou and Chapel of Our Saviour Episcopal Church, will meet at 9 a.m. at Vermijo Park and work along the Fountain Creek Waterway from 25th Street to Ridge Road. OCC Trash Fairies will also clean up the Vermijo Park area from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Luke Scott at luke.scott1124@gmail.com.

• El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up at Bear Creek Dog Park from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Dana Nordstrom at dananordstrom@elpasoco.com.

● El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up of Fox Run Regional Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Nathan Robinson at nathanrobinson@elpasoco.com.

● El Paso County Parks will host a clean-up at Bear Creek Nature Center and Regional Park from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Mary Jo Lewis at maryjolewis@elpasoco.com.

● Cross Creek Metropolitan District will host a clean-up at Cross Creek Park in Fountain from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Elise Bergsten at elise.balancedmgmt@gmail.com.

• The 4th Annual Clean n Crawl: Fountain Pick n Sip, a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week, starts at 1 p.m. at Peaks n Pines Brewery, located at 212 W. Illinois Ave. in Fountain. Tickets cost $25 per person, $40 for two or $50 for families. They include trash clean-up, free T-shirts, two beers and food. RSVP to Alli Schuch at allischuch@gmail.com.

● The city of Manitou Springs will host a clean-up at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Mike Essam at messam@comsgov.com.

Manitou Brewing Company, located at 725 Manitou Ave. in Manitou Springs, will host a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week from 1 to 3 p.m. For every pint purchased, $1 goes to support Creek Week, and volunteers can take 10 percent off food.

● Pueblo County will host a clean-up of Runyon Lake in Pueblo from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact Crew Leader Andrea Crockenberg at crockenberg@pueblocounty.us.

Brues Ale House Brewing Co., located at 120 Riverwalk Place in Pueblo, will host a Brewshed Alliance fundraiser for Creek Week with discounts for Creek Week volunteers all day.

• The Purgatoire River Cleanup Day will take place along the Purgatoire River in Trinidad from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Contact Crew Leader Julie Knutson at jknudson@purgatoirepartners.org.
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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Leon Young Pavilion project inches closer to completion

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 12:55 PM

The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail.

With the city's official invitation for contractors to submit design proposals, a long-delayed makeover for the Leon Young Pavilion — an aging wooden structure in the Hillside neighborhood, named for the city's first and only black mayor — is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The city on Aug. 29 issued a Request for Proposal, or RFP, soliciting bids from design and construction companies. Contractors must submit their proposals by Oct. 2, and the city will make a decision in November, according to the document.

The winning bidder must "revitalize the Leon Young Pavilion space for local gatherings" and "commemorate who Leon Young was and how much he brought to this community," the RFP says.

In order to accomplish that, the contractor should "help the City assess the existing site, propose a concept design & approach, and implement as many elements from the community’s
input as possible."

The work will include adding an accessible walkway and portable toilets, replacing the picnic tables, conditioning some wooden elements and removing others, redesigning community gathering areas, restoring turf and irrigation, installing a receptacle for electricity access, and adding security lighting.

Separately, a committee of Hillside neighborhood community members is designing a memorial to Leon Young to be installed on the site.

Last year, although a $150,000 federal community-development block grant was available for pavilion redevelopment, the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department said the project couldn't go forward — to the consternation of neighborhood advocates hoping to preserve and honor Young's legacy while improving an important recreational amenity.

Representatives from the city's Community Development and Parks departments held community meetings in the fall of 2018 and early 2019 to solicit feedback from Hillside residents and develop a plan going forward. Feedback from those meetings resulted in the city's RFP, along with the formation of a memorial committee.

The project will be paid for with the same type of federal block grant funding that was available last year, according to the RFP.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Toxic algae closes Prospect Lake; bacteria can harm people and pets

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 2:55 PM

  • Pam Zubeck
The city of Colorado Springs closed Prospect Lake in Memorial Park Aug. 9 after a water sample taken that morning tested positive for a toxin, cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.

The banks of the lake are dotted with closure signs and the swim beach is roped off. Swimming, bathing, paddleboarding, boating of all kinds and other water activities are banned. No pets are allowed in the water.

Fishing areas remain open, but anglers are urged to clean fish well and remove guts.
Media around the county have reported that blue-green algae can be deadly to pets. Dogs in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas died recently after being exposed to the algae in lakes.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Help for watersheds

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Grasses and reeds growing by small reflecting pond in the Four-Mile Recreational Area, in the San Isabel National Forest. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Grasses and reeds growing by small reflecting pond in the Four-Mile Recreational Area, in the San Isabel National Forest.
Three agencies will cooperate on projects to protect watersheds in the White River and Pike and San Isabel National Forests.

Colorado Springs Utilities, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service will spend a combined $15 million to restore areas of the forest and promote wildfire mitigation over the next five years.

“Through partnerships like this one, land managers and water providers in Colorado can help ensure clean, reliable water for present and future generations,” Mike Lester, state forester and state forest service director, said in a release.

Projects will span 11,000 acres of watersheds.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Help build the Pikes Peak Summit Complex

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Mayor John Suthers helps launch a fundraising campaign for the Pikes Peak Summit Complex on July 30. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Mayor John Suthers helps launch a fundraising campaign for the Pikes Peak Summit Complex on July 30.
Want to be able to say, "I helped build that!" when the Pikes Peak Summit Complex opens next fall?

Then get out your wallet and write a check to the "My Mountain" campaign, Mayor John Suthers urged residents to do, after he was the first to make a donation.

The city said in a news release Suthers donated his loose change at Ent Credit Union's University Service Center on July 30.

“The sense of pride and ownership of this mountain that’s felt by members of our community is and always has been palpable, and now our generation has a chance to contribute to this incredible legacy,” Suthers said in a news release. “The ‘My Mountain’ campaign is an exciting opportunity for everyone who has ever felt a connection to Pikes Peak to rally together and offer their support to preserve and protect this treasured destination.”

The complex will cost $60 million and is funded in part by reserves from the city enterprise, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, which charges tools and collects money from concession sales.

The city set the goal for public and private donations at $15 million, of which $7 million has yet to be raised.

Hence Suthers' plea.

You can donate at any of Ent's 24 southern Colorado locations and via phone at 719-574-1100 or 800-525-6923 through the end of the year.

The project is to open in the fall of 2020, replacing the Summit House built in 1963. It's a collaboration among the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Office, tribal representatives and the summit’s five major permit holders: the City of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, The Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway, the U.S. Army High-Altitude Research Laboratory and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The contractor is GE Johnson of Colorado Springs. Architects are local firm RTA Architects and GWWO Architects of Baltimore.
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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Shopping center seeks missing dinosaur sculpture

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 3:45 PM

  • Courtesy of The Market at Spring Creek
Either Colorado Springs is dealing with a Jurassic Park situation, or someone (some people, more likely) was able to steal a brontosaurus named Deeno from a local shopping center — and keep him hidden for nearly two weeks, as of this writing.

Deeno was last seen July 13 at The Market at Spring Creek, a retail center at South Circle Drive and Monterey Road.

The center's new owner, Western Centers — which recently commissioned Deeno and four other colorful sculptures — is advertising a $500 reward for the return of the green and purple dino.

He has very large footprints and eats a vegan diet, the missing poster notes.

Aurora-based property management group Western Centers is also working on revitalizing the center through the installation of "large art murals, new LED lighting, new paint, roof and HVAC repairs, new landscaping, food trucks and more," representative Paul Suter notes in an email.

Deeno's four companion sculptures include a multicolored giraffe, pink flamingo, blue T-rex and red rooster. They anxiously await his safe return.
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Friday, July 19, 2019

Water woes: Pricey pools, a splash pad, and a little girl with hand, foot and mouth disease

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 8:10 AM

Monument Valley Pool - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Monument Valley Pool

Colorado Springs's city pools are far more expensive than those in Denver, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Boulder. How expensive? Try $35 for a family to go to the pool for a single day.

For comparison's sake, in Denver adults pay $3.50 each and kids, $1. Denver seniors and Denver Public School students get in free. I wrote about the discrepancy in prices here.

But here's a little twist: When asked about expensive pools, city officials pointed out the city has several spray grounds and splash parks that kids can go to free of charge. Then, last week, a local mom went viral on social media and made the TV news with claims that her 2-year-old, Athena, likely contracted hand-foot-and-mouth disease at John Venezia Community Park's spray ground.

Meantime, local dad Ryan Brown — who you might remember as the black man that Colorado Springs Police say they did not racially profile and then arrest with excessive force, though they paid $212,000 to settle his case — says he plans to speak to City Council on July 23 about the high fees.

Brown says he's called around since our story ran and isn't satisfied with the reasons he's been given for the high price tags. To him, city pools ought to be affordable for all families.
“It ’s discrimination," he says. "It’s not based on in the '60s, like this is white only, it’s based on class.”

Brown, who plans to bring along his 7-year-old son, says, “I would say 60 percent of the people in this town can’t afford to do that.”

Given the current heat wave, many families that can't afford pools will be heading to those aforementioned spray grounds. Which might seem a little questionable to some parents after that viral story about little Athena. (Who wants to trade a $35 pool entrance fee for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills and a suffering child?)

So, here's the deal: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common childhood ailment. Considered mild, it causes a rash, blisters, and flu-like symptoms and is generally spread through feces, saliva, fluid from blisters, snot, etc.
Athena clearly contracted a severe case. Her body was covered in painful-looking blisters. "She's barely eaten, barely drinking. She's drinking enough to where she's hydrated. She's itchy, she's miserable," Molly Jenig, Athena's mom, recently told KRDO.

News outlets generally noted, and El Paso County Public Health confirms, that while it's possible little Athena got sick at the spray ground, it's unlikely.

"HFMD is most commonly spread a person-to-person via saliva, blister fluid and feces. It is possible a child/person can be exposed by swallowing recreational water, but most likely exposure would be from another person. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-6 days which means a child could come into contact with the virus days prior to infection in a variety of different locations and circumstances (especially if the child mingles with others under the age of 5)," Public Health's Matt Steiner notes.
City spokesperson Jamie Fabos says that the Venezia spray ground was cleaned with a Purell product after the reports from Jenig, in an abundance of caution, but also says that the spray grounds are regularly cleaned:

Here is our protocol:

• Water is tested initially at approximately 7:30 each morning, seven days a week. We test for free chlorine, total chlorine, Ph and alkalinity.

• The test goal is to have between 1 and 5 parts/million of chlorine. If necessary, adjustments are made. Adjustments are necessary infrequently at best.

• The filter system is backwashed twice a day.

• After the initial morning water test the water will be tested two more times during the day for free chlorine, total chlorine, and Ph.

• All protocols are performed per State Health Department guidelines.

• Logs are kept on site of the testing performed (we have them going back to the first day the spray ground opened).
So is that enough to keep kids safe? Maybe. Public Health notes:

• The use of chemical disinfectants in recreational bodies of water are intended to reduce the risk of disease transmission and ensure that a safe and healthy environment is available for use. Two chemicals, chlorine and bromine, are recognized as the only primary disinfectants and approved for use in recreational water. Through numerous scientific studies and data these chemicals are shown to provide effective disinfection for most pathogens of concern in recreational water. While the use of chemical disinfection is important, it really is the use of chemical disinfection in conjunction with recirculation and filtration that provide the greatest decrease in recreational water illness.
In other words, there's always a risk, but your kids are probably fine at the spray grounds. And they're certainly a cheaper choice than the city pools. 
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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Feds propose new plan to manage millions of acres in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 9:57 AM

A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state. - COURTESY BLM
  • Courtesy BLM
  • A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state.
A federal agency that oversees issues like drilling minerals and livestock grazing on virtually the entire eastern half of Colorado has opened a public comment period for its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan.

The Bureau of Land Management has planned seven public meetings, including one in Colorado Springs at 5:30 p.m. on July 22 at Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

Go to this site to access all the reports associated with the BLM's preferred alternative, which will allow development of "energy and natural resources and increasing access to minerals, renewable energy, livestock grazing, right-of-way development, and recreation," according to a news release.

In a sentence, the BLM describes the impact of its preferred alternative like this:

Overall, the Preferred Alternative would increase access to public
lands for recreational and hunting and fishing uses and by increasing areas available for rights-of-way and mineral development. In addition, it would decrease regulatory burden and improve management efficiencies by minimizing right-of-way avoidance areas and fluid mineral restrictions.
Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat. - BLM PHOTO BY BOB WICK
  • BLM photo by Bob Wick
  • Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat.
Take note of that phrase, "decrease regulatory burden."

In a news release, Wild Connections, an environmental watchdog group, expresses suspicion that the BLM won't be looking out for the best interest of those who can't speak for themselves, like wildlife that rely on natural settings to live and thrive.

"The low-elevation lands affected by this resource management plan are particularly important as wildlife habitat since they form crucial links in the mountains-to-plains ecology of our region, through which many of our species migrate annually," Wild Connections president Jim Lockhart said in a release. "Protecting this network of wild areas therefore must be given the highest planning priority.”

  • Photo by BLM
From Wild Connections' news release:

The BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative D) fails to conserve the area’s wildest lands and natural resources. For example, BLM has identified 190,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands (LWCs) in the planning area. Yet, BLM only includes 1,300 acres of lands with wilderness character, and does not include appropriate management to protect their wild values, making them vulnerable to fragmentation and development. Additionally, BLM reduces other conservation management across the planning area, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). The preferred alternative would reduce existing ACEC designations by more than 20,000 acres, even while BLM found that more than 100,000 acres of public land meet the agency’s criteria for designation – meaning they have significant natural resource values that are at risk without protective management.

“If we leave these BLM public lands unprotected, we risk losing critical fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and local wild and scenic areas, along with the sustainable tourism dollars and economic benefits that accompany these values,” Aaron and Brenda Cromer, owners of Bighorn Sheep RV Park, said in the release.

Similar planning initiatives envelop millions of acres of land in Oregon, Montana and Alaska.
Conservationists fear the draft plan will lead to opening federal lands to additional mineral mining and other issues, such as over-grazing.

The BLM's plan will replace two prior plans and bring new types of management to 658,200 surface acres and 3.3 million acres of mineral estate in 37 counties in eastern Colorado.

Besides the Colorado Springs meeting, feedback will be sought during these meetings, all of which begin at 5:30 p.m.:

• July 8, in Salida at the SteamPlant Event Center, 220 West Sackett Avenue
• July 9 in Cañon City at The Abbey, 3011 East Highway 50
• July 11 in Fairplay at the Foss Smith Multipurpose Room, 640 Hathaway Street.
• July 15: Walsenburg at the Washington School, 201 East 5th Street
• July 18: Golden at the Denver Marriott West, 1717 Denver West Boulevard
• July 23: Greeley at the Greeley Recreation Center, 651 10th Avenue

Citizens can comment on the management plan by going here. Deadline is September 20.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Bike to Work Day is June 26

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day.

Colorado Springs' Bike to Work Day is June 26, and there are plenty of reason to press your feet the pedals — starting with your stomach. The event, for which the Independent is a sponsor, features over 30 locations for cyclists to get a free breakfast including local businesses with yummy offerings. (Find yours on the map!)

You don't have to register to get breakfast, but you are encouraged to: It's a way for the city to judge how many people are getting out on their bikes and that factors into a lot of decision-making on how best to accommodate cyclists. You can register as late as the morning of Bike to Work Day!

Feeling nervous about your route? Check the city's bike map to figure out the safest way from home to work.

By the way, Bike to Work Day is just one of many events for Bike Month. So be sure to check out the other happenings.

Here are some tips to keep you safe on the road:

Under state law bicyclists are considered vehicles, however, they are much more vulnerable on the road. Please consider the following safety suggestions to help make for a pleasant ride to work that morning.
• People get around our city on foot, in car, by bus, on bikes and wheelchairs. Let’s be mindful so that we all arrive safely.
• Always wear a helmet.
• Always signal when riding on the road and obey all Colorado traffic laws.
• Be visible and alert to surroundings.
• Respect and be considerate of others on the roads and trails.

Want to hit a Happy Hour on the ride home and get a special deal? Here's the list:

Stop at any one of the local breweries listed below for a special deal as you bike home from work:
• Brass Brewing Co. (318 E. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Brewer’s Republic (112 N. Nevada Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Cerberus Brewing Co. (702 W. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• FH Beer Works Downtown (521 S. Tejon St), $1 off pints for riders
• FH Beer Works East (2490 Victor Pl/ Rock Island Trail & Powers), $1 off pints for riders
• Goat Patch Brewing Co. (2727 N Cascade Ave, #123/ Lincoln Center), BOGO for riders
• Local Relic (320 S. Weber St), ½ off first flight or full pour, plus BOGO select bottles
• Peaks N Pines Brewery (4005 Tutt Boulevard 80922), BOGO for riders
• Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 East Pikes Peak Avenue 80903), free pint with purchase of an appetizer ($10 minimum)
• Storybook Brewing Co. (3121A, N El Paso St), BOGO for riders on BTWD, 10% off for riders all year
• Tap Traders (3104 N Nevada Ave #100), BOGO for riders on BTWD
• Trails End Taproom (3103 W. Colorado Ave), 15% off beer pours for riders
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gov. Polis unveils new state logo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 11:44 AM

Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new state logo to replace the one implemented by his predecessor, John Hickenlooper, at a press conference March 26.

The new logo features a green pine tree to the left of a blue and red letter "C" with blue mountains and a yellow background in the center.

The former state logo, which features the white letters "CO" overlaying a green, snow-capped mountain, was implemented in 2013 following a campaign by Hickenlooper's office. A team of designers created three possible logos, which were displayed on a public website.

The redesign ultimately cost $1.1 million in private donations and $1.5 million in pro-bono work, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The winning logo proved to be a tough sell.

Critics complained that it looked like the warning sign for carbon monoxide, and mourned the loss of the former accepted logo — the ubiquitous red and yellow "C" on Colorado's state flag. Republicans even lodged an effort in the state Assembly to refer the logo to voters, but a Democrat-led committee defeated it.

Despite protests, the logo soon adorned the state government's department websites and official messaging.

Will Polis' new logo pass muster? That remains to be seen.

Here's some thoughts from Twitter so far:

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Panorama Park in the Southeast set for makeover

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Panorama Park will get a facelift next year. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Panorama Park will get a facelift next year.

City Councilor Yolanda Avila tells us this via voice mail:
I’m excited about the Panorama Park. So many of the parks in southeast don’t even have shade or trees, and that park has zero. So we got feedback from little kids to seniors walking with canes. People are really excited about having the park there. I think that’s a great place to start. It’s going to be a large community park."

—————-ORIGINAL POST4:13 P.M. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2019—————————

The long-neglected southeast part of the city will get an infusion of cash to spruce up 13.5-acre Panorama Park, thanks to a $350,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the city said in a news release.

The release called the project "the largest neighborhood park renovation in city history."

The Parks Department will seek more community feedback about the park's renovation this spring and summer, with construction beginning in 2020. So far, the city reports, concepts for Panorama Park, located southeast of Fountain Boulevard and Jet Wing Drive, include a new playground, walking paths, lighting and a community gathering space.

Parks Director Karen Palus said in the release:
We have heard from residents about how much they value Panorama Park and look forward to the final stage of planning for new amenities. The upgrades will not only improve safety at the park, but make it a wonderful destination for our community to gather, play and enjoy the outdoors.
Additional support for the renovations comes from the Trust for Public Land and the Southeast RISE Coalition. Colorado Health Foundation will award a $935,000 grant over three years to The Trust for Public Land for work on the park. Go here for more about the project.

Panorama Park is adjacent to Panorama Middle School. More than 3,000 people live within a 10-minute walk to the park. More information about the park renovation can be found at www.coloradoSprings.gov/panoramapark.

Great Outdoors Colorado has given $54.7 million for projects in El Paso County, including the Legacy Loop and John Venezia Community Park. It is funded by the Colorado Lottery.

We've asked City Councilor Yolanda Avila, who represents southeast District 4, and will update when we hear from her. Avila, elected in 2017, has lobbied for more park projects in her district.
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