Challenging our new leaders 

Good Dirt

Two new City Council members have been elected. We'll have a new mayor in about a month. The spring weather taunts us with the promise of warmer days. And it's time for change.

City Hall, this is my challenge to you. Change the way you think about our outdoor community of hikers, cyclists, runners and climbers, and the organizations that support them. They define Colorado Springs as surely as our military institutions, Focus on the Family, large-scale developments and The Broadmoor.

Your leadership in helping to open the Incline is appreciated. And thumbs-up to the Emerald Necklace project. But more can be done. Here are some ideas collected from the community.

• Emphasize cycling infrastructure, and build more bike lanes and a safe east-west passage through town. Look at cycling as transportation, as well as recreation. Reach out to our cycling advocates. Listen to Al Brody's "Complete Creeks" idea, which would connect trails by using stormwater drainage infrastructure. Clear the red tape and make Jon Severson's Urban Singletrack Project happen sooner rather than later. Build purpose-built directional mountain bike trails with banked corners and jumps. And consider Allen Beauchamp's idea: Create a community that embraces bicycles.

• Support our longtime local events, cycling and running, as you do the U.S. Pro Challenge. It's great having the pro peloton here for a day, but Andy Bohlmann at Sand Creek Sports has produced bike races for our citizens since 1991. And he's gearing up for 2015. Throw him a bone or two.

• The Ring the Peak Trail around Pikes Peak: Help punch it through. It'll be a challenge with private-property owners in the mix, but Friends of the Peak believe that $500,000, perhaps a little more, might fix all problems. In the meantime, your efforts to educate the public and to keep this project in the news will be invaluable. Gov. John Hickenlooper gets it. He mentioned the Ring the Peak Trail in a recent State of the State address.

• Build more hiking trails, maintain them, and set aside resources to keep them safe. Some folks no longer feel safe on the Pikes Peak Greenway, the city's most important non-motorized artery. That must be addressed immediately.

• Keep event permit charges low, and drop them altogether for the Pikes Peak Road Runners' monthly Nielson Challenge, a free event for the public. This organization has promoted running and healthful living in Colorado Springs for nearly 40 years. Give it a break.

• Keep the restrooms in our parks open year-round.

• And please thank the city's Parks and Cultural Services Department staffers. They're the best.

Now, about the City for Champions downtown stadium. Let's face it, we're in for a long slog, and we'll likely never see it completed. So here's another idea. Build a "City of Champions," a downtown Olympic Village for the people who live and play here. Build something for our kids, for the real champions: our neighbors, our citizens.

What would our Olympic Village include? Start with the best aquatics center in the West, an Olympic pool for competitions, and a water park where I can paddle around with my floaties.

Build playing fields and a quality running track, a facility with enough seating to host a state championship football game, or a big track meet. (Track people know about Colorado Springs. Elite runners live and train here, and years ago the men's and women's 100-meter dash world records were set at the Air Force Academy.) Include outdoor basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, a BMX track, an archery range. Name your sport. Light an Olympic flame for everyone to see.

Market our City of Champions — or "America's Olympic City" as some have suggested — as the place to live your dream. Families and young professionals don't move here to buy sports tickets. They come to pedal our trails, to climb in the Garden of the Gods, to summit our backyard 14er.

By now you may be thinking, "This guy is a daydreaming nut job." And to that I say, OK, fair statement. There are challenges, like funding, that come with such ideas. But your outdoor community will help you find solutions.

It won't all happen at once, but you can change your thinking today.


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