Tuesday, June 16, 2020

COVID-19 update for June 16: Bars, concert venues could open soon

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2020 at 5:38 PM

Under the next phase of Colorado's coronavirus response, standard-sized indoor venues may be allowed to open for events with up to 50 people. - JACKIE VITETTA
  • Jackie Vitetta
  • Under the next phase of Colorado's coronavirus response, standard-sized indoor venues may be allowed to open for events with up to 50 people.

Through June 15, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 29,442 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Statewide, 1,617 people have died with COVID-19, and of those, the deaths of 1,373 people were directly attributed to the disease.

El Paso County Public Health was reporting 1,992 cases and 112 deaths by the afternoon of June 16. The county reported 32 new cases on June 16, representing a jump: The daily average over the previous seven days was 10.29 cases.

Meanwhile, Colorado bars and concert venues — many of which have been closed since March — may be able to open in late June or early July with precautionary measures in place, Gov. Jared Polis announced June 15.

These changes will take place as part of the third major phase of the state's coronavirus response, following "Stay at Home" and "Safer at Home."

The new phase, called "Protect Our Neighbors," will provide more flexibility for individual counties based on the size of local outbreaks in different parts of the state.

Under the state's proposed plan for this phase, all activities (other than mass gatherings with 500 people or more) would be permitted at 50 percent capacity.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to find a way to sustainably live with this virus in our communities until there is a cure or vaccine," Polis said in a statement. "If we can continue to wear masks, stay six feet away from others and empower our local public health agencies to meet the needs of their communities, then we can rely on these tools to flatten the potential second wave and reduce future outbreaks."

Counties could enter the "Protect Our Neighbors" phase when they meet:

• "Low disease transmission levels";
• "Local public health agency capacity for testing, case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak response"; and
• "Hospital ability to meet the needs of all patients and handle the surge in demand for intensive hospital care."

The state expects some counties to begin transitioning into this phase by late June or early July.

Throughout the pandemic, the state health department wants Coloradans to maintain 60 percent social distancing. This means having less than half the number of close interactions, on average, as you normally would.

You can submit comments on the "Protect Our Neighbors" framework online through June 18.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is also seeking feedback on draft guidelines for residential camps and events. These guidelines would apply to counties in the "Safer at Home" phase.

For residential camps, the department proposed that camps should limit group sizes to 25 people outdoors or 10 people indoors, and allow for 6 feet of distance between campers. Family- or buffet-style meals would be prohibited.

CDPHE's draft guidance for indoor events includes limiting attendance at standard-sized venues to 50 people or 25 percent of the venue's capacity, whichever is fewer. Large venues could accommodate up to 75 people, and extra-large venues (larger than 11,300 square feet) could allow 100 people at events.

Under the draft guidance for outdoor events, CDPHE proposes increasing those limits — up to 50 people or 50 percent capacity for standard venues, 125 people for large venues and 175 people for extra-large venues.

Both indoor and outdoor venues would be required to ensure 6 feet of distance between people lined up at entrances and exits.

People interested in submitting feedback on any of the draft guidance should do so by 5 p.m. June 17.

CDPHE released a "risks and benefits" guide to help people decide whether to engage in certain activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

“People need to be informed, then use their judgement to make individual decisions about what works best for them, their household members, and their communities,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said in a statement from CDPHE. “We really need everyone’s help to contain COVID-19 in Colorado. We all need to have fewer interactions with fewer people while maintaining social distancing.”

According to the guide, camping outside or visiting a vacation home poses low risks of virus transmission. CDPHE recommends camping or vacationing with members of your own household.

On the opposite end, CDPHE classifies going to bars and attending a protest among "high-risk" activities. People who participate in these activities are encouraged to wear a mask whenever possible.

Those who face extra risks of experiencing serious symptoms from COVID-19 (including people older than 65, those with chronic lung disease and the immunocompromised) should "aim to limit in-person interactions with others as much as they can, and carefully consider the risks and benefits of activities in which they choose to participate," CDPHE's statement says. 

CDPHE says outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, and smaller group sizes are also less risky. Doing an activity for a shorter amount of time, wearing a face mask and keeping 6 feet away from other participants can help decrease the risk of virus transmission.

The Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and El Paso County Public Health will host a webinar for small businesses on June 19 at 11:30 p.m. The session will cover "contact tracing and best practices for data collection to help keep your and your customer's data secure."

The Fourth Judicial District will resume jury trials starting the week of July 6. It's the first judicial district in the state to seek and receive approval to do so by the Colorado Supreme Court, according to a statement from the Colorado Judicial Department.

"Trial by jury is the cornerstone of our judicial system, and there is no way to fairly and effectively effect justice without it,” Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Bain said in a statement. “With the thoughtful planning we have put in place in consultation with our local health experts, I am confident we can conduct these trials in a safe and efficient manner for everyone involved.”

People who receive a jury summons but are at high risk of serious illness due to COVID-19, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been in direct contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the two weeks before they're scheduled to appear are asked to contact the jury commissioner to reschedule their jury service.

Everyone involved in jury trials at the courthouse must wear masks — except the judge, who isn't required to wear a mask when they're 6 feet away from others in the courtroom.

The Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 205, the "Healthy Families and Workplaces Act," on June 15. The bill — sponsored by Sens. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, along with Reps. KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton — requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of the year, as specified in federal coronavirus relief legislation.

But the bill also goes further: It requires all employers to keep providing paid sick leave to their employees starting Jan. 1, 2021, accrued at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked, up to 48 total hours of paid sick leave.
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Friday, May 29, 2020

Bancroft Park or Bancroft Plaza? Overhaul spread concrete in westside park.

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 8:53 AM

A concrete slab covers a good portion of the westside Bancroft Park. - DONNA STROM
  • Donna Strom
  • A concrete slab covers a good portion of the westside Bancroft Park.

When you think of a park, what comes to mind? Trees? Grass? Concrete?

The latter seems to be in abundance at the overhauled westside Bancroft Park for which the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year.

And the new version hasn't been pleasing to some.

"It has no business being called a park anymore," says Donna Strom, a parks supporter who backs the Protect Our Parks ballot measure that would ensure voter approval be gained before the city sold or traded away park land in the future. The measure might appear on the November ballot.

"They really should rename it Bancroft Plaza," she adds.

Judith Rice-Jones, with the League of Women Voters and a long-time parks advocate, is equally dismayed. She wonders if adding concrete will exacerbate the city's considerable stormwater drainage problems that erupted in a lawsuit filed by the EPA against the city in 2016 for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

She notes that normal urban planning calls for minimizing "hardscapes," because massive amounts of concrete increase summer temperatures and create "urban heat islands."

"As a CC [Colorado College] Environmental Studies class presented to Council," she says via email, "we already have issues with shade inequality in our city." The study showed that the city's southeast sector has an average temperature 8 degrees hotter than the rest of the city due in part to a "preponderance of major and minor arterials and especially their tree canopy deficits," Rice-Jones says.

Another critic, Dana Duggan, has a term for what's happening in not just Bancroft but other parks and open space areas: "carnivalization."

Big swaths of concrete create space to sell food and curios and stage events "like Vegas rather than simple, well maintained parks with green grass in the middle of a concrete jungle," she says in an email.

"They want to make money and create marketing opportunities," Strom says. "Picture it: A row of stalls down the plaza, all of them making money."

Some residents fear the same approach will be applied to three historic downtown parks now under going master plan overhauls: Acacia, Alamo Square and Antlers parks.

But city spokesperson Vanessa Zink asserts that "a significant public process led to the final design and reconstruction of Bancroft Park," a $550,000 project funded by the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax (TOPS), Lodgers and Automobile Rental tax (LART) and the Old Colorado City Foundation.

"One of the top citizen comments during the master plan process was a request for space that better accommodated special events, especially the weekly farmers market that is traditionally held each summer and fall," Zink says in an email. "As such, additional concrete was added to this park. The updated concrete plaza space creates a more sustainable area for these special events to take place. Eight additional trees are still set to be planted in the park."

Additional information on the Bancroft Master Plan is available here.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dispute brews on how and when Manitou Incline will reopen

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 4:28 PM

The Manitou Incline appears to be the focus of a brewing battle. - RHONDA VANPELT
  • Rhonda VanPelt
  • The Manitou Incline appears to be the focus of a brewing battle.
On March 17, the Manitou Springs City Council shut down the popular Manitou Incline, calling it "an attractive nuisance and health hazard" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution said the Incline attracted 208,412 visitors from March through July last year and that free shuttle buses from parking areas are “packed to capacity." Notably, it said, public restroom facilities are “insufficient or non-existent for the number of visitors" using the Incline, leading climbers to urinate and defecate on the Incline and surrounding property.

"Because conditions are unsuitable for public safety and welfare the Incline will be closed to the public immediately,” the resolution said. Read background on the closing here.

Manitou Council's public information officer Alex Trefry notes in a news release that "grave concerns" about the health of residents, visitors and first responders during the pandemic also played a role.

On May 26, Council heard several options laid out by staff on how and when to reopen the attraction, which led Council to favor a reservation system, imposing fees and not establishing a clear timeline for reopening. As Trefry tells the Indy via email, "No timeline has been set thus far."

From a news release, issued May 27:

The Incline is an attraction, not just a trail, and it would be irresponsible to open it with no precautions taken, as it would put our visitors, residents, and first responders in a dangerous situation. A great deal of work needs to be done before the Incline can open with these safety precautions in mind.

The City of Manitou Springs subsidizes the free parking at Hiawatha Gardens, as well as pays over $350,000 per year for the free shuttle and the necessary emergencies services performed on the Incline. Revenue collected from the Barr parking lot helps offset these costs, but the remainder is paid for by the City. A reservation system for the Incline, paired with a usage fee, will be used to pay for the longevity and the successful operation of the Incline.

The City of Manitou Springs wants the Incline to open as soon as possible, but the health and safety of everyone involved is our first priority. City Staff is looking forward to collaborating and working with the City of Colorado Springs, and the Forest Service to work through the details of how to open in Incline in a way that will preserve the safety of our residents, visitors, and first responders.
In less than a day, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers fired off his own release, reminding the public of who owns the Incline. Here's the Springs release:
The Manitou Incline is owned by three partners - the City of Colorado Springs, the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs Utilities. These partners, along with the City of Manitou Springs, which has specific roles around enforcement and parking, are all stakeholders in this popular part of the City's trail system. The suggestions that came out of Manitou’s City Council Work Session last night go far beyond the scope of temporary, health and safety-related issues around COVID-19. While the city will review the ideas with the other property owners, it is extremely premature to suggest that major changes, particularly under the guise of COVID-19, especially without agreement of the owners and a significant public process.

The fee proposal as it is currently written especially goes beyond mitigating risk and would require a significant public process to evaluate a future usage fee and additional management options. Further, implementation of any fee would trigger a level of public involvement specific to the National Forest System Lands.

Colorado Springs continues to encourage and has supported the City of Manitou Springs’ implementation of the current management plan that recommends they address parking strategies and Ruxton corridor traffic congestion.
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Friday, May 22, 2020

Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend responsibly, officials say.

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 3:40 PM

  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs website
Thank goodness for three-day weekends. That's a sentiment whirling through everyone's mind as we anticipate the Memorial Day holiday, but there are a few things to keep in mind during the era of COVID-19.

First, the Pikes Peak Regional Joint Information Center reminds people who head for city and county parks, trails and open spaces:
• If a parking lot is full, find a new place. DO NOT create an unsafe situation by making your own parking space. Parks are generally most crowded between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
• Playgrounds and pavilions remain closed
• Do not gather in groups larger than 10 people
• Continue hand washing and other good hygiene practices
• Wear a face covering when you’re not able to maintain 6 feet of distance in public
May 22 marks the first day of summer hours on Pikes Peak-America’s Mountain, the city says in a news release, noting that through Sept. 30, the gates open at 7:30 a.m. Last entry is at 6 p.m.

The mandatory shuttle service for guests begins May 22, as during the last two summers, due to construction of the Pikes Peak Summit Complex. Only vehicles with a disability placard or disability license plate and vehicles with young children in car seats will be allowed to park on the summit.

Also from the release:
In response to COVID-19, modifications are being applied to shuttle service. This includes physical distancing for all waiting lines, less than 50 percent capacity in each shuttle and increased cleaning and disinfection of shuttles throughout the day. For the safety of all staff and guests, face coverings are required for all guests riding the shuttle, drivers and parking attendants. Guests who do not have a face covering to use in the shuttle will only be allowed to drive to the 16-mile parking area. Face coverings are available for purchase at the gift shops.

Guests are encouraged to purchase admission tickets online in advance of their visit. There is a 20 percent discount for guests who purchase one-day admission tickets online during the month of May using discount code “May20.” As always, access is weather permitting and visitors should call 719-385-7325 for the most up-to-date road conditions. Refunds are not available.

In addition to the summit, there are other areas to explore on Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, including the North Slope Recreation Area, which features numerous opportunities for hiking, biking, as well as three reservoirs for fishing and boating. A free parking permit is required for access to the Catamount Reservoirs. These permits can be reserved online and a limited quantity is available at the Gateway on a first-come basis.

The South Slope Recreation Area is set to open June 4, weather permitting. Use of this area is by permit only. Registration opens May 28. It is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

U.S. Forest Service officials also remind Memorial Day recreationists to use these national resources wisely.

Before enjoying the outdoors, plan ahead, they say. Visitors are encouraged to check with local forest and grassland offices first.
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Thursday, May 14, 2020

City projects $4.7 million in revenue shortfall for LART fund

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 5:20 PM

Loss of tourism will result in a projected loss of $4.7 million. - VISIT COS
  • Visit COS
  • Loss of tourism will result in a projected loss of $4.7 million.

For the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) fund, the city's financial office is projecting a revenue shortfall of $4.7 million, according to projections stated at a teleconference meeting of the LART Advisory Committee.

Through LART, the city collects a 2 percent tax on lodging, such as hotel reservations, and a 1 percent tax on car rentals.

The LART Advisory Committee makes recommendations on where to allocate projected revenue from the tax; recommendations are added to the city budget and approved by City Council.

The city’s 2020 budget, approved by City Council last year, allocated $8.19 million from LART, or about 2.4 percent of the entire city budget, to tourism promotion, visitor attractions and economic development.

But the lack of revenue anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn will mean the city misses out on more than half of the fund's projected revenue, $8.75 million — and that means drastic cuts to those allocations.

City Council will review a resolution at its May 22 work session regarding the shortfall, the city's chief financial officer, Charae McDaniel, told the committee.

Under the resolution, around $2.3 million in cuts would be spread across four contractual agreements funded by LART. (The city's 2020 budget includes $5.2 million for four agreements with Visit COS, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, and Colorado Springs Sports Corporation.)

That money could potentially be reimbursed by federal coronavirus relief funding, which the El Paso County Board of Commissioners decided to share with the city.

Another $1.1 million in cuts is expected to come from canceled events that were set to receive LART funding, and other events that may receive reduced funding amounts.

A final vote on the resolution by City Council is likely to come in June.
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Monday, May 11, 2020

Beer garden, 400-space parking lot approved for south downtown

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 3:13 PM

A beer garden with patio seating is planned for South Nevada Avenue. Renderings, courtesy of architect Bobby Hill Designs, will be modified to reflect some slight changes. - COURTESY OF BOBBY HILL DESIGNS
  • Courtesy of Bobby Hill Designs
  • A beer garden with patio seating is planned for South Nevada Avenue. Renderings, courtesy of architect Bobby Hill Designs, will be modified to reflect some slight changes.

There’s no denying that downtown restaurants and retailers are feeling the pain caused by coronavirus closures, but new development in the area is still moving forward.

Case in point: A 417-space parking lot and beer garden approved for south of Vermijo Avenue, along with a new brewery planned for Pikes Peak Avenue.

The parking lot, beer garden and brewery are three separate development proposals, all approved by the Downtown Review Board at its May 6 meeting.

A 417-space parking lot is planned for the 4.6-acre site bordered by Vermijo Avenue to the north, Costilla Street to the south, and Sierra Madre and Sahwatch streets to the west and east, respectively.

Building new parking lots downtown goes against the philosophy of some urban planners who’d prefer to see the city invest in more walkable areas and public transportation. But the planned summer 2020 opening of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame, plus the spring 2021 completion of a downtown stadium, which will be home to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer club, “create a significant need for off-street parking in this area,” the city’s staff report on the parking lot says.

Redevelopment in the south downtown area “will likely lead the property owner to pursue higher/better uses for the property in the near future,” the report adds — implying that the site won’t be used for surface parking in perpetuity. The parking lot was approved for an “interim use” of five years.

Meanwhile, a new bar called The Garden, approved to convert an existing structure just southwest of that planned lot, recieved a parking warrant. The warrant allows development without ensuring any of the 16 stalls required under city code.

The bar and beer garden — proposed for sites on South Nevada Avenue just south of East Costilla Street — would replace an existing parking lot. To make up for lost spaces, the establishment would lease parking from the Assistance League of Colorado Springs’ Bargain Box Thrift Shop next door. Customers could also utilize street parking or nearby garages. The Garden’s co-owner, Julie Nasser, hopes the bar complements other local businesses, to include serving libations made only by Colorado Springs companies.

According to the current plan, The Garden would be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The site’s currently approved for one food truck at a time, but the owners hope to eventually add a second. Russ Ware — who co-owns Wild Goose Meeting House and Good Neighbors Meeting House a few blocks north — is working with Nasser in a consulting capacity.

They aim to open the bar in late summer or early fall, if all goes as planned.

While some board members expressed initial concerns that the location wouldn’t have enough parking, they ultimately unanimously approved the project. “I can understand some of the parking concerns,” said board member Darsey Nicklasson, “but you know what? This is a dead corner — this is a dead neighborhood at night, and I welcome some liveliness to it.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect The Garden's correct hours and that Russ Ware is a co-owner of Wild Goose and Good Neighbors.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

COVID-19 update for April 29: Polis elaborates on Colorado's testing plan

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2020 at 5:45 PM

A sign at Acacia Park asks visitors to practice physical distancing. - HELEN ROBINSON
  • Helen Robinson
  • A sign at Acacia Park asks visitors to practice physical distancing.

As of 4 p.m. April 29, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 14,758 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Statewide, there have been 2,621 hospitalizations and 766 deaths. (That data is current through April 28.)

El Paso County has had 907 cases of COVID-19 and 69 deaths.

Gov. Jared Polis provided more detail on Colorado's plan for expanded testing during the "Safer at Home" phase of the pandemic, guided by public health orders at the state level.

The state aims to conduct between 5,000 and 10,000 tests each day during the month of May, Polis said.

Although the state has started a gradual reopening of businesses and other locations, local city and county parks officials say that they don't expect to implement dramatic changes anytime soon.

People should not gather in parks or other outdoor recreation areas in groups of greater than 10, should wear masks, and should maintain physical distance of 6 feet from others when possible. Basketball courts and the like remain open for team sports — but only members of the same household should be playing together, officials say.

Locals may see a few tweaks to outdoor policies in the near future, however.

El Paso County will be reopening its park restrooms next week, says Tim Wolken, the county's community services director.

On city golf courses, people will probably be able to resume using golf carts starting May 1, says Karen Palus, director of city Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. She adds that carts should only be used by one person at a time. Some fishing areas will also reopen May 1.

The city's Sertich Ice Center, pools and visitor's centers, as well as playgrounds, will remain closed, Palus says. Some community centers have reopened for food distribution by appointment only.

Parks officials are also asking the public to avoid using popular parks during the busiest time of day — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — to keep parking spaces open and provide better opportunity for social distancing.

One new tool to help with that: the "Get Out — Spread Out" webpage on the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC)'s site.

The webpage includes information on 100 lesser-known parks and trails in the Colorado Springs area, to encourage people to "get out of their comfort zone" by checking out a less busy location, says Susan Davies, executive director of TOSC.

The Colorado Division of Insurance urges uninsured people to take advantage of a special enrollment period to sign up for individual health insurance on the state-run exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.

The special period, instituted in response to COVID-19, ends April 30.

"In the midst of this pandemic, there are many uncertainties, but what we do know is that people with health insurance will be in a better position to get through this," Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway said in a statement from the Division of Insurance.

"They are more likely to seek treatment for their medical needs - whether those be chronic conditions or emergency situations like COVID-19," he added. "And they are less likely to suffer huge financial hits from large hospital bills."

Contact Connect for Health at 855-752-6749 or visit ConnectforHealthCO.com to enroll. The website also features a Quick Cost & Plan Finder tool where Coloradans can check eligibility for financial assistance and find plans.

Health insurance coverage starts May 1 for anyone enrolling during this period, the statement says.

Keep in mind that the following the loss of a job, Coloradans have a 60-day window to enroll in individual coverage at any point in the year. "A change in income or a person's living situation may also trigger such enrollment windows," the statement adds.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education's Decision Day, a campaign that "celebrates the importance of higher education," will become a "Decision Season" that extends through the month of May, according to a statement from CDHE.

On May 1, Virtual Decision Day, Coloradans are encouraged to wear clothing from their "alma mater, favorite school, or future program to rally in support of students on their path to postsecondary success."

People of all ages can support the campaign by posting pictures and videos on social media tagging @cohighered and @mycojourney, with #DecisionDayCO and #DecisionSZN.

The Department of Homeland Security launched the “Operation Stolen Promise” web page to inform the public of COVID-19-related fraud schemes, and highlight efforts by Homeland Security Investigations to "counter threats posed by individuals and criminal organizations seeking to exploit the pandemic for illicit financial gain," according to a statement.

HSI’s S.T.O.P COVID-19 Fraud campaign, part of Operation Stolen Promise, provides facts and tips for the public on coronavirus-related scams.

For example:

- Don't click on links in unsolicited emails or texts.
- When surfing the web, ensure your browser connection is secure by using "https" websites only. (The lock icon in your address bar also means a site is secure.)

People are encouraged to report potential fraud by emailing COVID19FRAUD@DHS.GOV.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which represents more than 14,000 long-term care facilities, called for state and federal governments to provide "expanded and priority testing for nursing homes and assisted living communities" and "emergency funding to help the profession respond to the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in long term care facilities across the country."

AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson also asked the federal government to establish an emergency response fund for long-term care facilities, similar to the fund that's been set up for hospitals.

"Our profession has been sounding the alarm for weeks and weeks, but we have largely been forgotten by the public health sector," Parkinson said in a statement. "If we are not made a top priority, this situation will get worse with the most vulnerable in our society being lost."

As of April 29, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 157 outbreaks at non-hospital facilities such as nursing homes. That includes nine outbreaks in El Paso County.

The state Unified Command Center conducted testing at Colorado's three largest long-term care facilities between April 19 and 23, and "is planning to conduct preemptive testing of staff at four more facilities that do not have known outbreaks," according to a statement.

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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
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.


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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