Dick Bratton, a tireless advocate for trails, parks and open spaces in the Pikes Peak region, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Green Mountain Falls last Thursday. He was 84 years old.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, he grew up in Cooperstown, New York, where his father was employed by the U.S. Forest Service. As Cooperstown is the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Bratton developed a love of baseball and he became a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. A professional architect, he settled in Green Mountain Falls in 1982, after retiring from the U.S. Air Force.
While in Green Mountain Falls, Bratton created and led the Green Mountain Falls Trails Committee, which built the more than 12 miles of trails in and around the town, all without taxpayer dollars. Bratton also chaired the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board, and while there initiated the first county Parks Master Plan in 1997. He was also a director of the American Discovery Trails Society for 20 years, and served on the Colorado State Trails Committee for five years. I'm barely scratching the surface of all his accomplishments, and to mention them all would take a very long time. Needless to say, he was dedicated to outdoor recreation, and if you have hiked a trail in or around Green Mountain Falls, it's a safe bet that Dick Bratton had a hand in creating it.
Via e-mails and phone calls, Bratton's friends and associates shared their memories of him.
El Paso County Community Services Director Tim Wolken said, "I will always remember Dick as a passionate trail advocate with great energy and enthusiasm. His efforts to establish and expand trail systems in the region will be enjoyed by not only our generation but future generations. May he rest in peace."
"He loved the town and gave of his heart, soul and resources to continually care for it. He will be so dearly missed!" said Green Mountain Falls resident, and GMF Trails Committee member Dorrie Guyan.
Gordon Wines remembered Bratton not only for the physical part of building trails, but also the political. He recalled how he got involved with Bratton to get the Mount Dewey Trail approved — a process that took half a year and many, many meetings — which Wines considers to be "now one of the crown jewels in our trails network." Wines and Bratton also represented Ute Pass locals who supported the county's plans to build the Ute Pass trail to connect Manitou Springs to Cascade. According to Wines, he and Bratton attended every county Parks Advisory Board meeting, county commissioners meeting and every public meeting to support the plan, which was eventually approved by the county commissioners. During the process, Wines recalled how they were subject to personal insults by those who opposed the project, but that Bratton never let the insults get to him. "In fact, the only time I ever saw him get emotional during this lengthy ordeal was when the County Board of Commissioners gave the final approval for this project," said Wines.
Rocco Blasi recalled not only Bratton's work on trails but also how "Dick reveled in social settings, often stopping to chat with neighbors or to make new friends, handing out hiking maps as he made his way to and from his second home, GMF's Pantry Restaurant. His love for GMF was incalculable and many will miss his friendly "whoop" to passersby headed for the trails, as he sat on his deck with a martini, feeding peanuts to the jays."
But, this story is more than just a recounting of Bratton's accomplishments with trails and parks, since his influence in his adopted town encompassed much more than that. The long list of positions he held include one on the town's planning commission, the position of town trustee and also mayor from 1996-2004. He was a "Champion for the town" said current mayor Jane Newberry, adding, "He was my introduction to small-town government. Even when we disagreed, he was always a gentleman and respectful. His legacy will show where his heart was — trails, parks and community events. I will miss him."
Having only met Dick Bratton a couple of times, I can't say that I knew him nearly as well his friends in Green Mountain Falls. However, I was, and remain, keenly aware of his contributions to, and stature within, the outdoor recreation community in the Pikes Peak region. "He also has been wise enough to train others to step into his shoes..." Dorrie Guyan told me. We should all be as wise.
Plans for a memorial or funeral for Dick Bratton are pending.
Special thanks to Rocco Blasi for his assistance with this column.
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