The post below is from a local woman I greatly admire. Sue Spengler’s a local middle school teacher who for many years ran her own school. She’s so many things to many people, one of those members of society who adds intellect and heart and sparkle every day of her life. She is also one hell of an activist. This year (and last year) she’s been very involved in trying to save one of our open spaces, a park right next to the mountains where the people of Colorado Springs can hike, bike, and enjoy Nature.
What she worked to save this land from was a billionaire (x 10.5), by the name of Philip Anschutz, who moved to our city some years ago. He bought the only local daily newspaper, bought a famous 5-star hotel (The Broadmoor), bought several of our biggest tourist attractions, like the Cog Railway that takes a couple of hundred thousand people up to the top of Pikes Peak every year, and Seven Falls (another attraction) . . . and then decided that wasn’t enough. He wanted our public park that happened to be right next to his hotel.
I don’t know how exactly the deal went down. He owned some land that the public was already using on a daily basis for hiking, so his lawyer-minions finagled a “swap”: The land (that we were already using and which would have created a public relations nightmare if he took from the public) in exchange for some pristine parkland that he wanted as place for picnicking and pony-riding for his rich hotel guests.
I don’t know what kind of razzle-dazzle went on to make the people of our city (who are supposed to be in charge of protecting our parks and our properties) make a swap/deal with this billionaire. But once word got out, the taxpayers, the people who have lived in Colorado Springs for many years, even for generations, became furious. How dare they swap our land without a public VOTE? These are our PARKS!!! They belong to us ALL!!! This has been a public park since 1885!
A group got together, and protested publicly, making their voices heard. To no avail. There was nothing to do but gather the money and sue. They did, and they lost (a District judge named Michael McHenry ruled against the people of our city). And so the people appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
This week we got word that the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.
Now that you’ve heard the backstory, here’s Sue’s “Master Plan”:
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“Panorama at Strawberry Fields” from KRCC.org
Well, heck, I finally did it. It took me all day. I’ve been crafting a letter to the editor about the North Cheyenne Canon Master plan in my head for weeks, trying to figure out how to pare it down into something digestible and understandable, when the Plan itself is a 130-page behemoth of a hodgepodge of ideas with no real substance that is basically a “blank check” of plans with nothing specific — it just has a “tool box” of things that they can choose from if/when they’d like, including: paving Gold Camp Road (so shuttle buses can drive on it), closing Mesa Avenue to only Broadmoor shuttle buses, closing down all the pullout parking at the picnic areas along S. Cheyenne Creek and making people walk in from a brand new trailhead/parking lot, and closing S. Cheyenne Canon Rd to all traffic. There ARE some good trail ideas up around Stratton Open Space, and plenty of carrots for our high-level mountain biking community (making the Chutes downhill only, e.g.), but overall, it’s a plan with a premise of: “How can we cram more people IN?” (yes, it includes a “Marketing Plan”… !!), instead of a plan with a premise of: “How can we make our city park great for the people we serve?” Anyway, I finally sat down to write my letter today. But what came out was a poem…
My Master Plan
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion. At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.
old ladies with hiking poles and sun hats,
three hardcore mountain bikers, a snake
of multi-generational hikers, two deer grazing,
a young couple from Palmer Park stringing
up a hammock, an elder couple with binoculars,
a mother and teenage daughter looking for a trash
can in which to place their pooch’s poop.
I scramble up a short social trail to the mesa
above the pavilion, and there it is: a spectacular
view of Strawberry Fields, where King Philip
plots his Broadmooresque stable and bbq party venue.
Up here, I watch a hawk hover, hear a bluebird
call, and discover a decomposing coyote.
Below, in the south canyon, I watch white whales shuttle
up and down, as a blaring ambulance struggles
upstream towards Seven Falls. The trails
on this wild and unnamed mesa below Mt. Cutler
are slated to be closed in the new Master Plan —
a plan meant to deflect from the city’s neglect.
What should a Master Plan have? What does a City Park need?
Closed public roads? More trailheads and parking lots for tourists?
Private-public partnerships where somebody profits?
Ideas that will never be funded because we can’t even afford to take care of what we’ve got?
Nah. What we really need is simple and more cost-effective than that:
picnic tables made from those newfangled recycled weather-resistant materials
pullout parking areas that make the creek and its coolth easily accessible to all
trail systems that respect and reflect the needs of the locals who use them
a limited number of cars, but only during peak summer weekends
a regular maintenance crew to keep the picnic areas beautiful
friendly city park rangers to enforce the rules
a budget that reflects our values
trash cans near picnic sites
clean, open restrooms
and above all else…