Central outdoors 

If downtown's skyline doesn't grab you, its recreational resources just might

People from near and far regularly trek to Colorado Springs' core to enjoy historic parks with contemporary amenities, a city-owned golf course and a network of trails, all listed at springsgov.com.

Despite drastic budget cuts in recent years, parks continue to be a rewarding destination. Monument Valley Park (170 W. Cache la Poudre St.), donated by city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, stretches 4.25 miles and backs many turn-of-the-century mansions, intermingled with high-rise condos. It's one of the most popular spots for jogging, bicycling, strolling, walking dogs, photographing ducks, picnicking, shooting hoops, lobbing a tennis ball or playing baseball. The park also offers the flower and vegetable demonstration gardens of the Horticultural Art Society (Cache la Poudre Street and Glen Avenue).

Another mainstay is Memorial Park (1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave.), where rollerbladers and walkers peacefully coexist; kids cavort on playgrounds (including one built for children with disabilities); and anglers fish in Prospect Lake. The park hosts large-scale events, such as the Labor Day weekend Colorado Balloon Classic, and has fields and facilities for numerous sports, including baseball, football, tennis, basketball, horseshoes, handball, skateboarding, hockey, ice skating, cycling, soccer, volleyball and swimming.

The newer, 21-acre America the Beautiful Park (126 Cimino Drive) draws children and adults to its upscale playground, covered picnic tables and a stellar metal fountain that cascades water in the summer. Farmers markets, art festivals, races and outdoor concerts also bring crowds.

Another popular water feature is the magical Uncle Wilber fountain in Acacia Park (115 E. Platte Ave.). The whimsical, tuba-playing character, designed by local artists Kat and Bob Tudor, emits rousing music and spurts water from 52 jets. A cascading waterfall, unpredictable streams and colorful lights add to the experience. A band shell provides a venue for concerts, rallies and other events.

Another skateboard and BMX park can be found at the Rich "Goose" Gossage Youth Sports Complex (3225 Mark Dabling Blvd.), named for the baseball Hall of Famer who was born in the Springs and still lives here. Also included are baseball and soccer fields, a playground and ample parking.

The complex leads to Sinton Trail and Templeton Gap Trail, a four-mile connection to Palmer Park that passes through the kid-friendly Portal Park (3535 N. Hancock Ave.). That park is home to a public pool — like those at Monument Valley and Memorial parks, as well as the Prospect Lake "beach" — that the city has been trying to keep open via a partnership with the local YMCA.

Pedestrian trails abound in the area, led by the Pikes Peak Greenway, a 16-mile, multi-use paved path that's the center link between the Fountain Creek Regional and New Santa Fe Regional trails, stretching from Palmer Lake south to Fountain. The greenway runs along Fountain and Monument creeks through downtown and gives access to both Monument Valley and America the Beautiful parks. A segment recently reopened with a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge providing access to downtown.

Shooks Run Trail, another paved, north-south stretch east of downtown, parallels the trickling Shooks Run Creek for three miles, from Constitution Avenue to Fountain Boulevard, and passes several playgrounds, tennis courts and residential neighborhoods while linking to other trails. It's one of the easier bike paths.

Those looking for a matter-of-fact brand of motivation may log their exercise time at Evergreen Cemetery (1005 E. Hancock Ave.). It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its 220 acres are open to walkers, runners and bikers.

Also worth a mention: Some of Evergreen's residents surely played one of the oldest golf courses west of the Mississippi River, the Patty Jewett Municipal Golf Course (900 E. Espanola St.). The par-72 course (plus an extra nine) is affordable and challenging, and has been open continuously since 1898. Stately trees lead to the pro shop, clubhouse and restaurant — the latter of which is now run by the folks behind the locally lauded Famous steakhouse downtown.


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