Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gov. Polis unveils new state logo

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

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

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

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

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

The winning logo proved to be a tough sell.

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

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

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

Here's some thoughts from Twitter so far:

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Panorama Park in the Southeast set for makeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We've asked City Councilor Yolanda Avila, who represents southeast District 4, and will update when we hear from her. Avila, elected in 2017, has lobbied for more park projects in her district.
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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fisher's Peak in Trinidad will open to the public, thanks to land purchase

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad. - COURTESY OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY/LAURYN WACHS
  • Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy/Lauryn Wachs
  • Crazy French Ranch, which contains Fisher's Peak, is a 30-square-mile area south of Trinidad.

Just east of Interstate 25, a few miles north of the New Mexico border, 9,600-foot-tall Fisher's Peak is a hidden gem in plain sight.

The Trinidad landmark has long been closed to the public. But thanks to a land purchase completed Feb. 28, the peak and the ranch it sits on will open for as-yet-undefined public use within a few years.

The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, two nonprofit organizations focused on conservation and land access, bought Crazy French Ranch and will spend the next two years or so working with the city of Trinidad, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Trinidad State Junior College to develop a management plan for the peak-containing property. That could include opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and education, says Matthew Moorhead, director of business development and strategic partnerships for The Nature Conservancy.

"We can make sure that this is a well-managed, a properly-managed natural area that protects everything living there that makes it special," Moorhead says. "At the very same time ... we’re able to provide for the kind of public recreational access that’s going to bring a cultural and economic and educational value to the citizens of Trinidad, Las Animas County and Colorado."

Great Outdoors Colorado — which invests a portion of state lottery proceeds into state parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces — has awarded a $7.5 million grant for the Fisher's Peak Project, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has pledged an additional $7 million.

After the management plan and financing is in place, the two nonprofits will turn over the property to a local or state entity, such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the city of Trinidad, Moorhead says.

The project could have widespread appeal to Coloradans who might not otherwise visit Trinidad. Colorado College's 2019 State of the Rockies poll showed 90 percent of Coloradans believe the outdoor recreation economy is important to the future of their state and the Western U.S. And the town doesn't have other recreation opportunities nearby that compare with what Fisher's Peak offers, Moorhead says.

In fact, he adds, the only way the public can currently access the state land adjacent to Fisher's Peak is by first crossing into New Mexico and undertaking a difficult hike.

“The ranch embodies the amazing history of this area, we look forward to conserving that for future generations,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico was quoted in a statement from The Nature Conservancy. “We are also excited about the economic opportunities that public lands and recreation can bring to our community.”
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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jill Gaebler apologizes for comment at bike lane debate

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 2:50 PM

Suthers emailed us the following statement in response to Gaebler's comment on how he viewed older people moving to Colorado Springs:
Gaebler’s choice of words is unfortunate. What I’m sure she has heard me say is that the current workforce development needs of our high tech companies in Colorado Springs requires us to attract about 4,000 millennials a year to fill software engineering, cybersecurity and other high tech positions. We’re competing with San Fransisco, Boston, Austin, etc. Four years ago we weren’t attracting millennials. Today we are. The retirees moving here cannot fill those workforce needs. I’ve noticed that the bike lane debate is largely a generational one. Many of the older folks contacting me think of us as a retirement community. They don’t seem to understand that to keep really good employers here, we have to be attractive to young people who will fill their jobs. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

——————————ORIGINAL POST 2:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 27, 2019——————————

Jill Gaebler represents District 5. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Jill Gaebler represents District 5.
City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, who represents District 5 northeast of downtown, seems to have ruffled some feathers with a comment she made at the Gazette's Battle of the Bike Lanes forum Feb. 25. Gaebler's just issued an apology for the comment, which singled out older people, on her personal Facebook page.

Here's what she said at the forum: "The city of Colorado Springs believes implementing safe bike infrastructure is what is best for this community. It is what is safest for this community, and as the mayor has said many times now, and I will just speak his words, it is important for this city to add 3 to 4,000 35-year-olds every year for the next who knows how many years. Because we need them to be our workforce, to take our tech jobs, take those software designer jobs. The mayor will actually go further and say, I don’t care if one more 65 or older person moves to this city, but I need those 3 to 4,000...I’m not quite done. We need those folks to move to our city, and those folks, those younger folks, want bike amenities."

On Feb. 26, Gaebler posted the following on Facebook:

I want to apologize for my recent statement regarding the workforce needs of Colorado Springs and hope to clarify. To continue the City's successful economic growth we need to attract 4,000 millennials a year to fill medical and high tech jobs (which make up the highest amount of job openings in the City). I was referencing workforce needs for the City and had no intentions of downplaying Colorado Springs as a one of a kind retirement destination.

I helped form the City's Commission on Aging and serve as its City Council Representative; the purpose of the Commission is to provide "ongoing and embedded advocacy for older adults in the municipal government of Colorado Springs." I've made it known throughout my six years on Council that my passions for Colorado Springs are a connected community and an accessible, livable community for all.

The Indy has reached out to Mayor John Suthers for comment and will update if and when he responds.

Unlike Suthers, Gaebler is not up for re-election this year. Her term ends in 2021.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Battle of the Bike Lanes" draws large, noisy crowd

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 5:41 PM

About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • About 300 people crowded Studio Bee to hear panelists speak about bike lanes.

Bike lanes are currently one of the most controversial topics in Colorado Springs, at least in terms of the number of comments and letters-to-the-editor that local media receive on the subject.

So, we stopped by a free public event called "Battle of the Bike Lanes," hosted by the Gazette at the Pikes Peak Center's Studio Bee on Feb. 25. Billed as a "Community Conversation," the event had five panelists debate the pros and cons of the new bike lanes and striping changes that arrived downtown this year. Gazette readers and audience members were invited to submit questions for the panelists to answer.

Around 300 people crowded the room, dozens standing in the back when seats were quickly filled. Bike lane supporters cheered and rang bicycle bells when their ideological counterparts — City Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, Cory Sutela of Bike Colorado Springs and city traffic engineer Tim Roberts — defended the lanes that have some residents feeling safer and others fretting that their tax money was misused.

Opponents applauded bike-lane skeptics Edward Snyder of Restore Our Roads, and Rick Villa of SaferCC.com, when they challenged the city's traffic priorities.

The Gazette published a recap here, and posted a video of the forum on its Facebook page.

We reached out to Gaebler and Snyder for comment on the event.

"I appreciate the Gazette offered a forum for citizens to speak about why they do or don't support bike infrastructure," Gaebler said via text. "But I'm disappointed they did nothing to find common ground, and instead asked questions that promoted discord and anger. The forum could have brought all of us together and instead it only fueled the fire."

Gaebler said a group of people in the front row "heckled and booed me the entire time."

"There was at least one comment about finding common ground and I am hopeful we can find some agreement toward understanding each other better," she added. "I also think there are ways for the city to work with citizens to get better data that informs how we build our roads to meet the needs of all users."

Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Don Ward, a KKTV 11 News anchor, doles out questions to the panelists.

Snyder told the Indy he was grateful for a platform to express his organization's views, but thought that in the end, it may not do much to change the city's way of operating.

"The city has made pretty clear what they think and what they want to do," he said. "They’re not acting in the best interest of either bicyclists or cars, and more importantly they’re ignoring the majority of the public who are actually opposed to (bike lanes) by any measure."

However, Snyder said he received "a lot of responses" after the panel from people who "finally heard someone express what they’ve been thinking and waiting to hear for some time."

"The public is getting increasingly irritated that the city’s not taking them seriously — the majority opinion or, you know, the data," he added. "I’m not pretending that (the mayor and City Council have) got an easy job, but I do think it could be done a lot more effectively that it’s being done now."

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Edward Snyder's name.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Senate votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 10:22 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

The U.S. Senate has passed a massive public lands package that includes legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The package, Senate Bill 47 — which encompasses more than 100 bills addressing land exchanges, national parks, wildlife conservation, recreation and more nationwide — soared through on a vote of 92 to 8. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement championing the legislation's passage. Gardner, like his counterpart, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has been a vocal supporter of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund, which expired in September after legislators failed to reauthorize it, had been used since 1965 to buy and preserve land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

"The [Land and Water Conservation Fund] has a direct impact on public lands in Colorado and will be used to protect our state’s natural beauty for future generations," Gardner said in the statement. "I’m thrilled we were able to finally permanently reauthorize this commonsense program supported by Coloradans across the political spectrum."

Gardner sponsored or cosponsored several Colorado-related bills that were included in the package.

Bennet also issued a statement praising the public lands package. He led or co-led several of the bills, including some that were collaborations with Gardner.

“It’s rare that a bipartisan lands package moves in Congress, so this bill is a significant accomplishment for communities across Colorado,” Bennet said.

Bennet tried to get his Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which combined four previously introduced bills to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, included in the package, but that amendment did not pass.

Conservation groups in Colorado and beyond applauded the public lands package, especially the fund's reauthorization.

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued this amazing and incredibly important conservation program," Carlos Fernandez, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “Thank you, Senators Bennet and Gardner, for championing this effort. Your leadership and stalwart support has helped get this legislation to where it is today."

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Democrats introduce bill to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Two Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress they say would safeguard 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado.

The 82-page Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, would create about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, preserve nearly 80,000 acres for outdoor recreation, expand access to existing protected lands and prohibit new oil and gas development in some areas. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse, the legislation "unites and improves" four bills spearheaded by Bennet and other Colorado legislators — including now-Gov. Jared Polis and former Rep. John Salazar — in previous years.

"This bill is the result of years of hard work from local leaders, businessmen, sportsmen and conservationists across Colorado," Bennet said in a Jan. 25 conference call announcing the legislation.

Not since 1993, when Congress passed the Colorado Wilderness Act, has this much Colorado land been preserved at once, Bennet told the Denver Post.

Should Congress pass the CORE Act this year, Bennet's likely to leverage it if he runs for president — which he told MSNBC he was "thinking about" just a day before announcing the new legislation, after an uncharacteristically emotional speech on the Senate floor had catapulted him into the national spotlight.

(Does Bennet's verbal takedown of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., pass fact-checking muster? Check out this analysis from PolitiFact.)

Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area. - MASON CUMMINGS, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
  • Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
  • Proposed Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area.

Anyhow, here's a quick summary of each section of the CORE Act (formerly separate bills):

Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act

Last year, Bennet introduced this bill in the Senate, and Polis sponsored its counterpart in the House. Neither got a vote.

This section of the CORE Act would create three new wilderness areas totaling 21,000 acres in the Tenmile Range west of Breckenridge, Hoosier Ridge south of Breckenridge, and Williams Fork Mountains north of Silverthorne. In the Tenmile Range, a new 17,000-acre recreation area would protect access to hiking, hunting and mountain biking. The bill would also expand three existing areas — Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak and Holy Cross — by a total of 20,000 acres. Two new wildlife conservation areas, Porcupine Gulch and Williams Fork, would comprise a total of 12,000 acres.

Under this bill, the 29,000-acre area surrounding Camp Hale, where Army troops trained in skiing and mountaineering during World War II, would become the first ever National Historic Landscape. This section creates a $10 million fund for "activities relating to historic interpretation, preservation and restoration" in the Camp Hale area.

The bill would also adjust boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure continued public access, protect water rights for Minturn, a town southwest of Vail, and grant several parcels of land in Grand County to the U.S. Forest Service.

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

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

Bennet introduced this bill last spring. Subcommittee hearings were held in the fall, but it never reached the Senate floor.

The CORE Act's version of the bill designates new wilderness areas and expands others — including Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels — near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray and Ridgway in southwest Colorado. It also creates two special management areas where roads and most motor vehicles would be prohibited: the 22,000-acre Sheep Mountain area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton, and 790-acre Liberty Bell East area near Telluride.

This bill also prohibits future oil and gas development on 6,600 acres in Naturita Canyon.

In total, this section of the CORE Act protects about 61,000 acres of land in the San Juan Mountains through new wilderness areas, expansions, and oil and gas restrictions.

Stakeholders in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties "came together over a decade ago to plan for the future," San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper said on Bennet's Jan. 25 conference call. "All sides compromised again and again, and then again, and the result is the designations and boundaries of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill we have today."

  • Jon Mullen, courtesy of The Wilderness Society
  • Thompson Divide.

Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

Bennet introduced this bill in 2017, after which it languished in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The CORE Act version protects around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing property rights.

"There's just some areas where the costs to the community outweigh any potential benefit of drilling, and Thompson Divide is surely one of those places," said Bill Fales, a local rancher on Bennet's conference call. "What is on top of this land is much more valuable to us than any petroleum that might lie below it."

This section of the CORE Act also creates a leasing program to generate energy from excess methane produced by abandoned and existing coal plants in the North Fork Valley, a region on Colorado's Western Slope.

Curecanti National Recreation Area. - NPS/VICTORIA STAUFFENBERG
  • NPS/Victoria Stauffenberg
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act

Last introduced by Sen. John Salazar in 2010, this bill formally establishes the boundaries of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which includes three reservoirs on the Gunnison River. Though the National Park Service has co-managed the area since 1965, it has never been legislatively established by Congress. The bill makes some administrative changes to the way the land is managed, gives the Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction over Curecanti's three reservoirs, and ensures that the public will have greater access to fishing.

Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck spoke in support of the bill on Bennet's conference call.

"The need to declare that boundary designation and have management plans...has been the desire of this community for decades," Houck said, pointing out that Curecanti's Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado.

"You can count on the support from the greater Gunnison community to provide a voice to match our values around this legislation to protect these amazing and cherished places for now and into the future," he added.

Go to the next page for maps of each area.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parks advocates gain clout on special panel to form ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:21 PM

Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.) - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.)
After nearly two years of urging City Council to protect the taxpayers' parks and open space from land swaps like the one involving Strawberry Fields, a citizen group has been granted a seat on a special committee that will study a possible ballot measure.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that formed amid debate surrounding trading Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor in 2016, wants voters to weigh in on whether other city parks and open spaces should or should not be protected from a similar measure in the future.

Called Protect our Parks, the measure hasn't gotten traction, despite Council President Richard Skorman having at one time been the leader of Save Cheyenne. (He stepped down after being elected to Council in 2017.)

The city's swap of Strawberry Fields, 189 acres of open space near North Cheyenne Cañon, to The Broadmoor for forested acreages and trail rights-of-way in May 2016, created a huge controversy that triggered a lawsuit and court fight that ended last year when the Colorado Court of Appeal turned away Save Cheyenne's entreaties to undo the deal and allow voters to have a say in the swap.

At Council's Jan. 22 informal meeting, Save Cheyenne president Kent Obee told Council the city has three types of property:

1. Historic park land dedicated to the city by deed restriction by city founder Gen. William Palmer and other philanthropic donors, such as the Perkins family's gift of Garden of the Gods.

2. Property purchased through the Trails Open Space and Parks tax approved by voters that automatically is protected from sale or trade via the TOPS ordinance.

3. All other park land and open space not protected by either a deed restriction or the TOPS ordinance.

As Obee noted, "They belong to all of us. We think all of us should have a say when something is decided about giving away or trading park land."

Obee also noted that at least 40 cities and towns in Colorado have protections from sale or trade of park land built in to their city charters, including home rule cities like Colorado Springs. Others rely on a state statute that provides for elections to dispose of park land in local jurisdictions.

"We do want to go ahead with this," Obee told Council about the ballot measure. "We’re willing to work with you. We’re willing to be part of any committee or process you can outline. We think it’s important for the community, and we’re not giving up."

The city attorney has issued an opinion saying the POPs ballot language is confusing, causing Council to shy from referring it to the April 2 city election ballot.

But on Jan. 22, Council agreed to study a ballot measure further, and Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene also consented to such a committee, which will arrive at an appropriately-worded ballot measure to submit to voters at the November election. That's the same election at which Suthers plans to seek voter approval of a five-year extension of his .62 percent roads tax.

The exact composition of this committee wasn't articulated, other than designating members of Obee's group and two City Council members to serve.

Said Skorman, "I hope we don’t have any of these types of transactions [like Strawberry Fields] coming forward that would be affected if we had acted sooner. I want to make sure that we’re not doing something that’s preemptive to voters. I wouldn’t want another trade to come forward in the next month that may be susceptible to a vote of the people."

Greene said city officials "aren’t entertaining any park land swaps," and "We are not anticipating any kind of transaction involving a large land exchange such as Strawberry Fields."
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Friday, January 18, 2019

"Small house" community coming to Woodland Park

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 4:10 PM

  • Shutterstock.com
Woodland Park developers think a planned “small house” community called the Village at Tamarac provides the answer to many people’s tiny-home dreams. But think “dreams” in terms of lifestyle, not cost — affordable housing experts say developments like these aren’t for those looking for a deal.

The Village at Tamarac will offer 53 models, says Pete LaBarre, one of the developers behind the project. The homes are a little too big to be considered “tiny homes,” which normally top out at 400 square feet.

Manufactured by Champion Home Builders, each small house — 500 square feet with a 500-square-foot crawl space — will cost about $115,000. While that may seem like a bargain, homebuyers won’t own the lots their homes sit on, and each site will cost an additional $600 to $700 a month to lease. In other words, it’s a similar setup to buying a mobile home, except the home can’t be moved elsewhere.

That could be a problem for some. Residents with fixed or low incomes who own homes in mobile home parks can struggle with lot rent increases. If rents become unaffordable, that can lead to foreclosure.

But LaBarre says his tenants are better protected than many mobile home owners. He’s offering all buyers a 99-year lease, and while there will be rent escalation provisions, LaBarre says they’re being included to “protect ourselves in the event of really high inflation.” It’s also worth noting that the developers won’t have an interest in the mortgages because they are not lending to homeowners, which sometimes happens in mobile home parks.

“Our passion is to try to bring more affordable, more obtainable housing, in this kind of price range where there just isn’t any,” LaBarre says.

But Jamie Pemberton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Teller County, says developments like these won’t solve the area’s affordable housing problem. (A 2016 assessment identified the need for at least 741 affordable rental, workforce, senior and other housing units in Woodland Park.)

Let’s assume that you can make a 20-percent down payment of $23,000 on one of LaBarre’s small houses. If you have good credit, you could get a 30-year fixed loan and pay about $522 a month. But when you add the $600 monthly lot fee to that, you’re paying $1,122 a month to live in your small house for 30 years.

And theoretically, you’d have to keep paying $600 a month to lease the lot (though LaBarre says developers hope to sell the Village at Tamarac back to the community in five to seven years). If you purchased a $230,000 conventional home, on the other hand, and made the same down payment of $23,000, you could get a 30-year fixed loan of about $1,079 a month. (To be fair, it’s difficult to find a home in Woodland Park for $230,000 or less.)

“For homebuyers, [leasing land] is not what we recommend,” Pemberton says. “... We actually counsel our families that they can get caught up in this thinking.”

Susan Cummings, Habitat for Humanity’s homebuyer services coordinator, adds that tiny houses aren’t very family-friendly: “Where do you change the diapers? When somebody gets sick, how do you handle that?”
But LaBarre says the choice to purchase a tiny home “typically isn’t about affordability. It’s about lifestyle.” He expects many residents to pay cash for the homes, as he’s seen in longstanding Peak View Park, a Woodland Park RV and tiny house location that he co-owns.

“They like living in a smaller space,” LaBarre says. “... There’s less time spent cleaning the house, less time spent maintaining the house. So that translates to, in their view, and in my view, a better quality of life.”

LaBarre says overwhelming demand for spaces in Peak View Park led him and a few other developers, as the group M3XP2 LLC, to propose the new small house development.

They couldn’t expand the tiny house community at Peak View Park, LaBarre says, because Teller County’s building code no longer allows long-term residence in towable homes. Because the Village at Tamarac’s small houses will be secured by foundations, the development can follow the same building code as typical subdivisions.

The developers received preliminary approval from Woodland Park, LaBarre says, and plan to close on the property in February or March in time to have homes available in August.
Interest continues to grow — as of Jan. 17, there were already 34 people on the wait list. LaBarre says their demographics mirror those of residents of Peak View Park, which is most popular with single women, with and without children.

Wendy Hartshorn, vice president of marketing for the Village at Tamarac, says she’s moving to Peak View Park to start “a new chapter.”

“I’m able to simplify and cut costs. And I’m really excited.”
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

El Paso County adds two new dog parks

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 3:08 PM

  • elbud / Shutterstock.com

Pups will have 13 new acres on which to frolic on opposite ends of El Paso County, thanks to the addition of dog parks in Falcon Regional Park and Fountain Creek Regional Park.

Falcon Regional Park, about 20 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, will open an 8-acre park for large dogs and a 2-acre park for small dogs along Eastonville Road in March, the Trails and Open Space Coalition announced. The parks will include more than half a mile of trail, with benches and parking for 40 cars.

And 30 miles southwest, Fountain Creek Regional Park is constructing a 3-acre dog park, to include a new 1,600-foot trail and 22 parking spaces.

There's currently no dog park in the Falcon area, says Aaron Rogers, program and event coordinator for the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

"The closest one would be in Fox Run Regional Park," Rogers says. "So allowing people to have a place in Falcon will open up the eastern plains to those families and also give northeast Colorado Springs a spot, too, to take their dogs."

And Fountain Creek Regional park's new addition will be the southernmost in the region, Rogers adds, enhancing outdoor opportunities for families in Fountain, Widefield and Security.

Visitors should "be considerate and respectful of all the people who are using the parks and to pick up after their pets," Rogers says. "Dog waste is a big issue in all the parks across Colorado, and we need to all do our part to make sure we leave our parks cleaner."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting and to reflect a change in the parks' opening month.
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Thursday, December 27, 2018

What the government shutdown means for federal workers in Colorado

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 1:16 PM

Rocky Mountain National Park will remain open without visitor services. - COURTESY OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE/JIM ECKLUND
  • Courtesy of National Park Service/Jim Ecklund
  • Rocky Mountain National Park will remain open without visitor services.
December 26 was the first day that many of Colorado's 53,200 civilian federal workers began to feel the effects of a government shutdown, triggered Dec. 22 by President Donald Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Some workers have been placed on unpaid leave, while others whose services are deemed essential will be required to work without pay until lawmakers agree on legislation to fund the government. Not all federal workers are affected — the Departments of Energy, Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education all received funding appropriations for 2019.

However, nine of 15 federal departments and dozens of agencies are closed, according to a statement from Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee predicting the effects of a shutdown. They projected that more than 420,000 people would work without pay through the shutdown, and that more than 380,000 would be placed on leave.

So what's happening to federal workers in Colorado? Thousands have been affected, though it's difficult to determine exactly how many, and by how much.

There are approximately 53,200 civilian federal workers in Colorado, according to Bill Thoennes, spokesperson for the state's Department of Labor and Employment. While the department couldn't break down that number further, data from Governing Magazine shows most work for the U.S. Postal Service (which is still functioning normally), Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Air Force, Army, and Department of Agriculture.

Colorado is likely to feel the effects of the shutdown most acutely through the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture.

According to that 2017 data, 6,524 Colorado residents work for the Department of the Interior (which includes the National Park Service), and 3,697 residents work for the Department of Agriculture (which includes the National Forest Service). Democratic lawmakers predicted around 80 percent of employees at the Park Service and Forest Service would be furloughed.

One-third of Colorado's 1,390 Department of Transportation workers, 86 percent of its 1,419 Department of Commerce workers, and 95 percent of its 343 Department of Housing and Urban Development workers were projected to be furloughed.

Lawmakers also predicted up to 88 percent of workers at the Department of Homeland Security, including TSA employees and Customs and Border Protection agents, would be forced to work without pay. Colorado has 682 of these workers, according to Governing Magazine.

Thoennes recommends federal workers affected by the shutdown file an unemployment claim with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. You can do that online by visiting www.colorado.gov/cdle/ui and clicking on "File A Claim."

Not a federal worker? If you were planning an outdoor excursion in the next couple of weeks, you may also feel the effects of short-staffed national parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park announced it would remain accessible to pedestrians and bicycles during the shutdown, but would close several gates to vehicular traffic due to snowfall Dec. 22 and did not know whether these roads would reopen before the shutdown ended. The park advises visitors to use "extreme caution," "as park personnel will not be available to provide guidance or assistance" and "emergency services will be limited."

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will remain open, but "the visitor center and entrance station will remain closed and no visitor services will be available." Parking lots may also be closed and "hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist" due to the lack of snow removal.

The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will be closed for the duration of the shutdown.

You can view a list of national parks and monuments online here, though the National Park Service cautions that the website may not reflect current information. Click on each park for more information. Some parks have announced closures or limited services.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

City begins clearing "Quarry" homeless camp

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Police and city workers showed up with bulldozers Dec. 11 to clean up the "Quarry" campsite southeast of downtown. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Police and city workers showed up with bulldozers Dec. 11 to clean up the "Quarry" campsite southeast of downtown.

Police and city workers began cleaning up the "Quarry" campground southeast of downtown early Dec. 11. Though police gave campers about two weeks notice to leave — far longer than the 24 hours usually required under city code — pockets of people still remained with their tents and belongings.

"I got an estimate — as of yesterday, there was like 70," says Lt. Lux, who leads the Colorado Springs Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team. "I don't think there's that many now...but there's certainly more than we had hoped."

Lux points out that because the Quarry is on private property, police technically don't have to give campers any notice before ordering them to leave. If anyone refuses to move, they could be arrested and cited for trespassing. But Lux says most were "actively trying" to pack up and leave.

"We've contacted people, they've been trying to get their stuff, and then we'll work around them best we can," he says.

Before police posted the site, Lux estimated there were more than 100 people camping. About five large bulldozers and 40 people, including police and city workers, were present Dec. 11 for the cleanup, which will probably take multiple days.

Police officers stopped by tents to speak with remaining campers, who hurried to fold tents and stuff garbage bags and suitcases with belongings.

Police officers talk to campers still present at the Quarry the morning of cleanup. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Police officers talk to campers still present at the Quarry the morning of cleanup.

For Regina, who said she'd been living in the Quarry with her boyfriend for the past few months since getting evicted, city efforts to give campers extra time and connect them with resources weren't enough to make up for kicking them off the land.

"Some people didn't have rides until today," said Regina, who declined to give her last name. She worried that police would make them leave before her mother could get there to help them load their belongings into her car.

"They make it seem like, 'Oh, we're so nice to you, we brought out DHS and the health department so let me give you some shots if you've got hepatitis A. Let me sign you up for food stamps and Medicaid,'" Regina said. "OK, that's wonderful. But what are you going to do about putting people up in houses? How are you really going to help people? Because you're not."

Regina said she didn't plan on going to a homeless shelter, even though Springs Rescue Mission had opened 150 additional low-barrier beds the day prior. Her dog, used to sleeping by her side, would have to sleep in a kennel. She also isn't sure where she would go during the day, as she doubts anyone would hire her and doesn't want to sit on the sidewalks or in the park waiting for the shelter to open.

Instead, Regina expects that she and her boyfriend will find another place to set up camp.

Nearby, Cody Gross and Josh Striker, who had each lived in the Quarry about a year in total, were more accepting as they packed up their belongings. "[The police] were actually nice this time about it," Striker said.

Neither was sure where he would go. Striker, like Regina, didn't want to go to the shelter because he'd have to put his dog in a kennel. He said he's been homeless on and off since 1996, when his family's trailer burned down.

"Definitely glad they're cleaning it up," said Gross, who's been homeless since 2015. "I do see a lot of families come through on that trail down there, a lot of people ride their bike through there."

Striker mused, "If there was more people like us that camped around here where we try to make sure it stays clean—"

"If there was structure, it'd be a lot easier," Gross said. "There was no structure, it was just pretty much come and go as you please."
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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Senate bill could help Colorado's wildlife hit hard by brain disease

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 4:44 PM

At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease. - COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE / DAVID HANNIGAN
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife / David Hannigan
  • At least 37 percent of Colorado's elk herds are affected by chronic wasting disease.

A fatal neurological disease that affects more than half of Colorado's deer herds is getting renewed attention on Capitol Hill.

Colorado's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet joined Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in introducing a bill Nov. 15 that would authorize a national study on how to prevent chronic wasting disease from spreading. (A similar bill was introduced in June in the House, where it currently sits in committee.)

The disease is caused by a protein that "attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to display abnormal behavior, become uncoordinated and emaciated, and eventually die," according to information on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) website. It's been cited by city councilors as one reason Colorado Springs should authorize urban hunting or hire professional shooters to control the deer population.

The bill, of which Barrasso is the lead sponsor, would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to review data and best management practices from state agencies. The goal is to "give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread," according to a statement from Bennet's office.

CPW calls chronic wasting disease — which affects at least 57 percent of the state's deer herds, 37 percent of its elk herds and 22 percent of its moose herds — a "significant threat to the future health and vitality" of deer, elk and moose.

City Councilors Andy Pico, Don Knight and Merv Bennett had hoped the city would be able to hire professional hunters to cull a few dozen does within city limits in January. Though allowing urban bowhunting was one option councilors had originally discussed, they concluded at an August meeting with city and state officials that it was too close to the end of the season to implement such a policy.

The city issued a request for proposals on Aug. 20 for deer management, which called for a plan to be submitted by Sept. 30. "The deer management program is intended to maintain deer as an asset to the community; prevent disease due to overpopulation of deer; reduce the public safety risks of deer-vehicle conflicts; and preserve and protect the land of private and public property owners," the RFP said.

From there, the councilors had hoped the city could issue a new RFP for a culling company to carry out the management plan.

When asked whether that timeline was still in place, Pico said in a Nov. 21 email that one firm submitted a response to the RFP for a management plan, but it recommended the city not proceed "based on several factors."

"Also, the state has to approve such a plan and none have been approved in the state that I’m aware of," he wrote. "So culling in January isn’t going to happen."

In the meantime, Pico points out that City Council will consider a "don't feed the wildlife" ordinance for final approval Nov. 27. The ordinance would implement a $500 fine, on top of the state's $50 fine, for providing food to bears, skunks, raccoons, wolves, coyotes, foxes, deer, elk, moose, antelopes and other urban wildlife. The city contends that feeding wildlife "endangers the health and safety of both residents and animals" via vehicle crashes and wildlife's reliance on food from humans.

"And in the near term," Pico writes, "we will continue to cull using Fords, Chevys and Toyotas."

The city reports that a CPW survey counted about 2,700 deer in an area west of Interstate 25, or about 70 deer per square mile. From January to November 2017, Public Works removed 306 dead deer from roads and elsewhere, and police report about 50 traffic crashes involving deer each year.

CPW estimates about 200 does per year need to be eliminated to have an impact on herds within the city limits, the city says.

Read the full text of the Senate bill here:

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Weed-eating goats are baaaack in Bear Creek Regional Park

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Lani Malmberg stands among her herd in 2014.

A herd of 500 goats arrived in Bear Creek Regional Park on Oct. 26, and they'll stay there through the following weekend munching on weeds and poisonous plants.

Lani Malmberg and her son, Donny Benz, co-owners of Goat Green, are leading the eco-friendly effort in its 20th year. (We ran a profile on Malmberg, a self-proclaimed "gypsy goat herder," a few years ago.)

The herd will munch through 20 acres of the park surrounding the Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, according to a statement from El Paso County. The nonprofit Bear Creek Garden Association raises about $10,000 each year to pay for the organic weed control.

“The goats prefer the dry vegetation first—leaves, weeds and brush,” Malmberg is quoted in the statement. “They're browsers, not grazers like cows, and will only eat the green grass as a last resort. They like the dry prickly things and the herd will eat two to three tons a day. What they eat, they recycle — pure organic fertilizer — back into the soil. Plus, their 2,000 hooves work the soil, aerating and mulching as they go.”

The goats eliminate the need for harmful herbicides, and digest weeds and poisonous plants without spreading their seeds. Goat Green also does fire mitigation work in areas where dry brush poses a risk.

Planning to visit the weed eaters this week? Just keep in mind that the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Garden Association ask visitors to keep their dogs leashed, citing a few altercations between uncontrolled canines and goats in the past.

To help bring the goats back next year, you can send tax-deductible donations for the Bear Creek Garden Association Goat Fund to P.O. Box 38326, Colorado Springs, CO 80937.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund faces uncertain future

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 9:53 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

Without action by Congress, a fund that's helped to pay for the conservation of public lands since 1965 is on hold.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired Sept. 30, bought and preserved land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.

As of Oct. 2, U.S. parks had lost more than $3.6 million in funding as a result of Congress' failure to reauthorize it, according to the LWCF Coalition. (The organization has an automatically updating online counter that tracks funds "lost," based on the $900 million deposited annually.)

A total of $40 billion was deposited in the fund over its 54-year lifespan, though less than half of that was appropriated by Congress. Of the $18.4 billion spent, 61 percent went to federal land acquisition, 25 percent went to the state grant program and 14 percent was spent on other purposes, according to the Congressional Research Service. The other funds were diverted elsewhere.

A measure to permanently restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund passed in the House Natural Resources Committee in September, but the measure has not yet reached the chamber floor. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was expected to consider similar legislation Oct. 2.

Both bills would dedicate a minimum of $10 million from the fund each year to "projects that secure recreational public access to existing Federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes."

A coalition of more than 70 Colorado business owners and leaders in August signed a letter addressed to the state's representatives in Congress, urging them to reauthorize the fund.

"LWCF funding has leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of state, local, and private
matching funds to contribute to the betterment of Colorado and well-being of its citizens,
and its reauthorization is critical to our future," they wrote. "Now more than ever, with the rapid
expansion of Colorado’s population and ever more common water shortages throughout
the Colorado River basin, Coloradans need the tool of LWCF to protect public land access,
critical drinking water supplies, and community resources."

Colorado legislators from both parties have jumped aboard the LWCF train. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet are cosponsors of the Senate reauthorization measure, while Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) have signed on in support of the House measure. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), serves on the Natural Resources Committee and voted in favor of advancing the legislation, the Colorado Sun reports.

Gardner and Bennet, original cosponsors of the Senate measure, co-authored a July 24 guest editorial in the Boulder Daily Camera championing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

"LWCF is a critical tool for fulfilling our basic responsibility to give the next generation the same opportunities our parents and grandparents gave to us. It is time for Congress to stop the serial, short-term extensions of this program and make LWCF permanent with the full dedicated funding it deserves," they wrote.

Jonathan Asher, senior representative for the Wilderness Society, called actions in the House and Senate "really great signs," but predicted that legislation reauthorizing the fund is more likely to pass as part of next year's budget than as a stand-alone bill.
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