Outdoors

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Colorado Springs park "protectors" strategize next move

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 10:43 AM

Kent Obee, a long time parks supporter, on a hike in the Stratton Open Space. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Kent Obee, a long time parks supporter, on a hike in the Stratton Open Space.
A band of citizens dedicated to preserving city parkland continues to mull what its next step might be after a defeat last summer for a bid to require voter approval for disposal of parks.

Protect Our Parks, a movement born from the city's 2016 deal to trade its 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor for wooded acreage and trail easements, might yet pose a ballot measure. Go here for background on the issue.

Or, the group might try an end run around a local process by seeking a change in the state Constitution which could prove equally daunting.

Kent Obee, a leader of Protect Our Parks (POPs), writes in a briefing to members that member Donna Strom suggested appealing to state lawmakers to refer a measure to voters statewide that would "require voter protection of parklands in home rule municipalities as is already the case with our statutory municipalities." Colorado Springs is a home-rule city and, as such, asserts that it can dispose of parkland and open space by City Council vote. But Strom acknowledged the research for that possible avenue is incomplete.

As POPs supporters have previously noted, nearly all cities of significant size in Colorado have adopted a similar measure to Protect Our Parks, including most major cities on the Front Range — Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Boulder, Greeley, Parker, Castle Rock. But over the past several decades, only one or two elections have taken place regarding a land sale or swap.

Two other options outlined by Obee:

• Collect thousands of signatures to petition a measure onto the city ballot in April 2021. (Twice as many signatures would be needed to force a measure onto the November 2020 ballot.)
• Try once again to work with Council.

"We did not achieve unanimity," he advised in an email to supporters. "The majority view (with varying levels of optimism/enthusiasm) was to give the Council option one more try within real limits. These limits included getting things resolved in the next couple of months to avoid the kind of photo-finish disaster we experienced last summer, getting clarity in the [ballot] referral that the list of parks being protected was the one developed and approved by the City POPS Committee and to firmly resist further Wayne Williams attempts to subvert POPS. On this latter point, it was agreed that his super majority requirement would only be acceptable as a part of a referral as long as the final decision on any parkland conveyance remained in the hands of the voters — in other words, the requirement of a Council super majority vote to refer a parkland conveyance to a vote of the people was okay as long as the final say remained with the voters."

(Williams injected a proposal into the process last year that would allow Council to dispose of parkland but require a 6-3 majority to do so. This morphed into a second ballot measure, which lost favor and ultimately wasn't referred to the ballot.)

The POPs meeting ended with general agreement to give Council another try while also gathering more information about the state constitutional change option.

Obee also called attention to two other parks issues he says are deserving of residents' attention:

• The city will consider changing the Park Land Dedication Ordinance to reduce the required amount of parkland set aside in new developments from the current 7.5 acres per 1,000 residents to 5.5 acres per 1,000. Says Obee, "This is the wrong way to be going — particularly for a city that smugly bills itself as the 'second best place' (or whatever) to live in the country."
He was referring to U.S. News & World Report naming Colorado Springs the most desirable place to live  2019.

• The city's attempt to "activate" three of the city's oldest and most historic downtown parks: Acacia Park, Antlers Park and Alamo Park, which Obee refers to as the "Disneyfication" of those parks, and encourage citizens to participate in the city's process. Find information about that here.

The city's report shows that less than 40 percent of those surveyed expressed support for holding more events and entertainment in those parks, whereas more than 70 percent supported more "cleanliness and maintenance" and "greater safety and security."
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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Where do Colorado Springs residents want to move?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 at 9:52 AM

Apartment List's latest migration report suggests Pueblo is a popular option for apartment hunters looking to move from Colorado Springs. - GREGORY HOWELL
  • Gregory Howell
  • Apartment List's latest migration report suggests Pueblo is a popular option for apartment hunters looking to move from Colorado Springs.

According to a new report, about a quarter of Colorado Springs residents hunting for apartments are looking to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, out of the people looking for a place to live in Colorado Springs, slightly over half are from outside of the metro area.

That data comes from Apartment List, an online listing platform that also follows rental housing trends, which released the results of its latest Renter Migration Report on Jan. 22.

The proportion of apartment hunters within Colorado Springs who were looking to move outside the metro area was slightly lower than in June 2019, when Apartment List reported that 31 percent of searches from people living in the city were for apartments elsewhere. But the percentage of people outside the city looking for an apartment in Colorado Springs remained unchanged, at 54 percent.

Taken together, those two factors suggest that the city is growing in population.

About 15.5 percent of the people from outside Colorado Springs who were looking to move here lived in Denver, according to the latest report. Washington, D.C., residents represented 8.3 percent of inbound searches, while Chicago residents made up 3.8 percent. Last summer, those same three cities were the most likely to include people looking for apartments in Colorado Springs.

As for outbound searches — people in Colorado Springs who wanted to move to a different city — about 30 percent were looking in Denver. Pueblo was the second most popular destination, drawing 5.2 percent of outbound searches, and 3.9 percent of outbound searches were for Phoenix listings.

That's a significant change from June 2019, when the three most popular destinations were Denver (34 percent), Phoenix (4.3 percent) and Boulder (3.5 percent).

It could reflect that Colorado Springs residents are increasingly looking to Pueblo as a more affordable option. Apartment List's latest report on Colorado Springs rents showed that median rent grew 3.4 percent between December 2018 and December 2019, the fourth-highest such increase among metro areas in the U.S.

Median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,270 in December, according to Apartment List numbers for Colorado Springs. In Pueblo, median rent was just $800.

It's also clear that Denver remains a popular place for apartment hunters looking to move to a different city.

Apartment List's latest migration report showed that 48 percent of people looking for listings in Denver lived outside the city. By that measure, the city is attracting more outsiders than any other metro area in the country. A typical two-bedroom apartment costs about $80 more a month in Denver than in Colorado Springs.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Gray wolves initiative qualifies for 2020 ballot

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2020 at 10:23 AM

The gray wolf has been functionally extinct in Colorado for 75 years. - JOHN AND KAREN HOLLINGSWORTH/USFWS
  • John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS
  • The gray wolf has been functionally extinct in Colorado for 75 years.

A group working to restore gray wolves to the Colorado wilderness has qualified for the state's 2020 general election ballot, the Colorado secretary of state's office announced Jan. 6.

The Restoration of Gray Wolves initiative's proponents, led by Gail Bell and Darlene Maria Kobobel, had to collect 124,632 valid signatures to put it on the ballot. They submitted 215,370 — about 139,000 of which were projected to be valid, based on a random sample.

If approved by a majority of Colorado voters, the initiative would allow for the reintroduction of gray wolves on designated areas west of the Continental Divide. A specific restoration plan would be developed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, a citizen board appointed by the governor, with public input.

Ranchers and farmers — many of whom have been opposed to efforts in other states to reintroduce gray wolves — would receive compensation for loss of livestock caused by gray wolves.

According to the initiative language, wolves were an "essential part" of Colorado's habitat in the past, but have been functionally extinct for 75 years.

The commission would hold statewide hearings before developing a management plan for reintroducing gray wolves. It would have to take into account "scientific, economic and social considerations," begin reintroduction by Dec. 31, 2023, and include:

• the selection of donor populations of wolves;
• the places, manner and scheduling of reintroduction;
• details for establishing and maintaining the wolf population; and
• methods for determining when the population is self-sustaining, and when to remove it from the endangered species list.

Under the ballot initiative, the commission could not impose any land, water or resource use restrictions on private landowners in order to carry out wolf restoration efforts.

The initiative also directs the state Legislature to designate money in the state budget to pay for the restoration, in order to cover any costs exceeding the money available from the state's wildlife restoration fund.

Legislative staff calculated the initiative would cost $344,000 over the fiscal year that starts in July of 2021 and $467,000 the following year. Those first two years would be for creating the restoration plan — so costs would likely increase in future years.

Those costs would probably include acquiring about 10 wolves per year, transporting them and housing them, as well as paying compensation to ranchers and farmers. But staff didn't estimate the costs of actual restoration, as they'd depend on the specifics of the restoration plan.

In their analysis, staff also noted that Colorado would require federal approval for restoration efforts, because the gray wolf is designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But in March of 2019, the federal government proposed removing the gray wolf from the list — meaning it must decide by March of this year whether to do so. If the wolf is removed from the endangered species list, then federal approval wouldn't be necessary.

Reintroducing gray wolves may also decrease populations of animals such as deer and elk available for hunting, the analysis notes, but could foster more interest in outdoor recreation (other than hunting) by having a positive effect on some ecosystems.

The gray wolf initiative is the third initiative so far on the 2020 ballot, after a referendum on the National Popular Vote law and another initiative changing language in the state constitution to explicitly say that only citizens can vote.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the initiative would require 55 percent voter approval. In fact, the initiative constitutes a statute change, which requires only a simple majority.
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Friday, November 22, 2019

Rep. DeGette's Wilderness Act heads for House vote

Posted By on Fri, Nov 22, 2019 at 9:29 AM

The Wilderness Act would protect 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon. - BOB WICK
  • Bob Wick
  • The Wilderness Act would protect 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon.

Rep. Diana DeGette, the Democrat representing Colorado's 1st Congressional District, has introduced a version of the Colorado Wilderness Act each year since 1999.

This year, for the first time, it was referred by a House committee to be voted on by the full chamber.

“This bill will permanently protect 32 unique areas across our state from the threat of future development and the destruction caused by drilling for oil and gas,” DeGette told lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee. “It will help grow Colorado’s thriving tourism economy, and our multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.”

The bill would designate more than 600,000 acres of public land in Colorado as wilderness areas, the federal government's highest level of protection. Wilderness areas are open to hiking, camping, hunting and other types of non-motorized outdoor recreation, but closed to development.

COURTESY REP. DIANA DEGETTE
  • Courtesy Rep. Diana DeGette
Committee members on Nov. 20 moved 21-13 to approve the Wilderness Act for a vote.

Here's a few of the proposed protected areas:

• 35,200 acres in the Beaver Creek wildlife area about 20 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.
• 17,900 acres in Browns Canyon National Monument, a popular whitewater rafting site southeast of Buena Vista.
• 25,600 acres in Demaree Canyon, an area northwest of Grand Junction with hiking opportunities.
• 33,300 acres in the Dolores River Canyon in southwestern Colorado, near the Utah border.
• 32,800 acres in Grape Canyon, a ravine area south of La Junta.
• 26,700 acres at Handies Peak, a fourteener east of Telluride.
• 28,200 acres in the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, northeast of Grand Junction.
• 38,200 acres at Redcloud Peak, a fourteener southeast of Ouray.
• 37,600 acres at Sewemup Mesa, a popular  hiking area southwest of Grand Junction.
• 26,600 acres at the Palisade, a rock formation southwest of Grand Junction.

Republican committee member Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose district includes Colorado Springs, declined to support the bill.

Lamborn said that while he appreciated DeGette's efforts to make sure areas used by the military for high-altitude aviation training could still be used for those purposes, he found the wilderness designation to be overly restrictive.

He added that Mesa, Montezuma and Dolores boards of county commissioners had all issued resolutions opposing the bill. One concern was that a wilderness designation could restrict fire mitigation near residential areas.

Another bill protecting wilderness areas in Colorado, which recently passed the House without much Republican support, is the Colorado Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act. That bill creates about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, protects 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, and prohibits oil and gas development on 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide.

The CORE Act could face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican from Colorado, has yet to declare his support. 
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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. - JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • JON MULLEN, COURTESY OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Thompson Divide.

——-UPDATE WEDNESDAY, OCT. 30——-

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.

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 29——-

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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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