Tag Archives: Colorado

Strawberry Fields Betrayal

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.

— SK

Now that you’ve heard the backstory, here’s Sue’s “Master Plan”:

* * *

“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

I sit with my notebook and write at a wobbly,
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion.  At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.
Through the scrub oaks, I see:  four
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…
that playground
you promised
the children
in 2003,
but never
built.

 

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Fracking Hell, Part V – Lucy’s Letter to Colorado Springs’ City Council

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I couldn’t agree more.

 

First, an important message: as obsessed as I am with the horrible fracking situation in my beloved Colorado, and as much as I want to help, as much as I can, I’m taking a break from that subject on Flora’s Forum after this  post.  I need to get back to sharing good news here–about art, about wonder, about beauty on this good earth. That’s what this blog is about.

But before I switch gears, I had to do one more post.

This environmental issue is one of the biggest facing our country. There are many lies being told. And so much at stake.

I’d like to share a powerful letter from my friend Lucy. She’s spoken to people she knew as kids (she was their elementary school teacher) who are now dealing with a fracking nightmare.

She was going to give this speech in December, and then the vote was delayed to February 11th, 2013.

* * *

Letter to City Council

December 14, 2012

My name is Lucy Bell. I want to briefly talk about the development of the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota.

Why would that be of interest in Colorado? The Bakken was first surveyed in 1995. They are roughly fifteen years ahead of where we are now. North Dakota is a window into our future, and while the economic boom captures headlines, the dark side is rarely reported.

In 2011 I made a pilgrimage to New Town, North Dakota, located on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation, fifty years after I began my teaching career there. My intention was to look up my first graders, now 56 years old. It was an unforgettable experience, but a surprise I had not anticipated was the vast change in the area, now dominated by huge trucks and tankers hauling sand, water, and chemicals to hundreds of drilling sites.

That led to my investigation into fracking.

Last week I read an article by the Food and Environment Reporting Network, published in Nation magazine that reports on the Schilke ranch near Williston in the Bakken formation of western North Dakota. Their cattle, healthy before fracking began, are now dying . Many calves are born dead. The cattle have swollen legs, infections and their tails have dropped off.

A big market existed for Jacki Schilke’s black Angus beef, but she’s no longer selling it or eating it. Since fracking began on thirty-two oil and gas wells within a three-mile radius of her ranch, Jacki, too, has developed health problems, diagnosed as neurotoxic damage.

Air testing revealed elevated levels of benzene, methane, cholorform, butane, propane, toluene, and xylene. Also arsenic and other heavy metals. Even her vegetables are not safe to eat.

I immediately thought of two of my students I’d met, both ranchers not far from the Schilke ranch. We’d renewed our acquaintance at a restaurant in Killdeer, North Dakota. I laughed when they pulled out their wallets and had as many pictures of their heifers as they did of their kids.

I called Annie* hoping she’d tell me that story was hyped and things weren’t that bad. Wrong! When she began talking, I heard the same story I’d heard from people in the documentaries Gasland and Split Estate. She and her husband signed with an oil company, which has not kept their share of the bargain. Numerous violations including the destruction of a dam on their property were ignored or inadequately repaired. When they went for help to the state, they were told “It’s not our jurisdiction , see your lawyer.”

A creek runs through the whole area. It has turned neighbor against neighbor as the oil company drains off the water and drills water wells. Fracking takes 3-5 million gallons for each well, and the drillers are desperate for water. Landowners are not treated equally—there is an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.

I asked Annie if she had seen the Schilke article. She said someone anonymously placed it where she works. People are afraid to anger the oil company because they may have to pay back money they no longer have.

Then Annie addressed a topic that sounded like it came from Ken Burns’ latest PBS special on The Dust Bowl. She said, “The worst thing is the dust. It’s constant.”(from

trucks going to the fracking sites.) “It’s in the air. It’s all over everything. It never goes away.” I told her that an autopsy of the Schilke cattle had shown they died of dust pneumonia, the same thing that killed people during the Dust Bowl.

Two points I want to leave you with:

1. We need clean air, clean water and clean soil to produce safe food.

2. Water is our most precious resource. The oil companies suck it up wherever they can get it. When the water comes back to the surface after fracking, it is poisoned. Forever. It is industrial waste that has to be stored somewhere—another problem. No form of life can exist on this planet without clean water.

Source: http://www.thenation.com/article/171504/fracking-our-food-supply

*Name changed to protect privacy

* * *

The next City Council meeting is on February 12th at 1 p.m. My personal opinion: the public needs to raise holy hell.

To send them a letter, or to get more information so you can attend this meeting, go here.

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