Saturday, June 6, 2015

An open letter to Mayor Suthers on National Trails Day

Posted By on Sat, Jun 6, 2015 at 7:23 AM

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Mayor Suthers,

Congratulations on being elected mayor of Colorado Springs. You’re a life-long resident of this fair city, so I certainly don’t need to tell you how great this place is, especially the local parks and open spaces.

As an avid hiker and lover of our city parks and open spaces, please allow me to bend your ear for a moment.

First, please fix the roads. I know you’ve been hearing this from everyone since you announced your candidacy — but I’m talking about the roads in our parks. Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Cañon Park is a major draw for both tourists and locals, but the three miles of road from the park entrance to the falls is littered with over 200 potholes. (Yes, someone counted them.) Other parks around the city are in the same shape. I don’t think blowing a tire on a pothole contributes to the “positive guest experience” that the city's parks department strives to create.

Speaking of positive guest experiences, please address crime in our local parks. They tend to not be dangerous places, but vehicle burglaries are a real problem in parks and at trailheads around the city. Vandalism is out of control, whether it’s damage to signs and fences, graffiti or rogue trails. And repairing the damage is a drain on the parks department's budget and manpower — not to mention the hours spent by many volunteers who work in the parks.

How about resurrecting the Parks Police that was disbanded in the ’80s? Maybe reassign the Colorado Springs Police Department’s school resource officers in the summer months or, even better, empowering the parks department staff to issue summonses for city ordinance violations? As it stands, it seems miscreants act with impunity, as if the parks staff can’t do anything about it, and the CSPD considers these violations to be a very low priority.

The parks department staff is a great bunch of people working with budget constraints and general resource shortages as best as they can. The staff is augmented by hundreds of volunteers and a bunch of park “Friends” groups working tirelessly in and for the parks they love. (Disclosure: I am currently serving as president of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon group.)

How about supporting these groups a bit?

Some kind of acknowledgment from the mayor’s office for the work we do — instead of treating it with benign neglect like your predecessor — will go a long way toward making we volunteers and groups feel appreciated. And while I’m at it, it shouldn’t cost a volunteer group its time AND money to clean up a city park. (Maybe the city could pay for a dumpster rental once in a while?)

I could go on, Mr. Mayor, but I think that covers much of it. You’ve been chosen to govern one of the most beautiful collections of city parks in the country. And I believe by working together with the community, we can make them even better.


Sincerely,

Hiking Bob

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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