NOVEMBER 2013 ADVOCACY REPORT
1. Bankers Loop Trail:
The Bankers Loop concept would create a network of mtn. bike/runner single track trail network along the Pikes Peak Greenway on City parks property. The network would be close to the downtown that would allow downtown ‘Bankers” to ride/run at lunch. The COS Parks Board has approved initiating the Pilot Project to see how well this concept works. The Pilot Project will include 1+ mile of gravel loop trails including signage. It will be built using existing social trails by a ‘rake and ride’ method. Citizen advocate Jon Severson was not able to attend.
The TOSC Advocacy Committee supports moving ahead with the pilot program. Long term maintenance of the loop trails needs to be addressed with a maintenance plan and people to implement the plan. Not a lot of maintenance will be required, but an organized group, such as a new or existing friends group and partners, such as the Downtown partnership, should assume maintenance responsibility.
2. Water for COS Parks:
Long term, the impasse between Council and the Mayor continues. City administration (Mayor) continues to push for a sustainable long term solution that would not only solve the water budget deficit for 2013 and 2014 ($1.13M), but would ensure that Parks receive sufficient water in future years. Four members of Council support the ‘surplus water ‘ solution that would essentially cut in half the City’s watering costs. TOSC is on record supporting a long term sustainable solution such as the ‘surplus water fund’ proposal by Councilmember Bennett and supported by council members, Snider, Gaebler and Martin. However, a majority on council feel that this is creating a PILT, (payment in lieu of taxes), which they find unacceptable. They also feel that this would result in a water rate increase. CSU says no rate increase is required. The Committee expects parks and trees to be adequately watered and anything less is unacceptable. There was discussion of requesting that an advisory question be placed on the April 2015 City ballot asking voters if they were willing to pay a bit more on their water bill to ensure that all our parks receive adequate water.
Short term, the $1.13M budget deficit (2013 carryover and 2014 budget), has to be resolved. On Nov 26, Council passed their version of a short term solution to cure the deficit. $400K would come from paring back the Mayors request for additional police officers and the remainder from general fund reserve. Many expect the Mayor to veto this. A council super-majority, 6 votes, would be required to override which would be considered on Dec 18. If the veto is overridden, the Mayor could then refuse to spend the money. Thus, Parks could be left holding the bag having to take the needed watering funds from current operations. At risk is the plan to refill Prospect and Quail Lakes, City Auditorium upgrades, match money for the Pioneers Museum grants, and adequate parks watering. Also if this occurs, expect some or all neighborhood parks to receive little or no water if this option is implemented as happened 2-3 years ago. The committee feels reduced parks watering or taking money from TOPS is not acceptable. The TOPS parks money is needed for playground equipment repair and replacement and should not be used to pay the water bill.
3. COS Non-motorized Bike/Ped Planner:
In spite of past promises, the Bike Planner position (Kristen Bennett’s old position). will not be filled this year or in 2014. Approximately $140k previously allocated to salaries will now be used for capital improvements projects. It’s not helpful to our goal of getting to Gold status. However, Brian Shevock, transportation planner, is working full time on bike/ped and on the Non-motorized plan. A ‘logical’ Kristen without the title. The title is important as most cities have a designated Bike Planner.
Traffic Engineering has also implemented a new philosophy for building bike lanes. They won’t be built/marked unless they connect with an existing bike lane ‘facility’. For example, the 8th street west side bike lane won’t be marked until curb and gutter is installed on south 8th street, south of Arcturus. Never mind that the bike lane already stops opposite Motor City Drive. We won’t have a bike lane in front of TOSC for awhile. The net effect of the new policy appears to be that bike lane implementation will be slowed down unless some of the new CIP money is allocated to bike lanes.
The committee feels that both of these approaches are unacceptable.
4. Forest Management in Parks and Open Spaces:
The consensus of the Advocacy Committee at the October meeting was that we are comfortable with COS Forestry’s approach of a moderate forest management prescription that provides a high level of fuels reduction and preserves the resource and recreational values of the property. Some concerns have been voiced since about the on the ground crews not following the prescription, but these issues have been resolved in discussions that TOSC Board Member, Scot Hume, had with Dennis Will, City Forester. The Forestry meeting with the Red Rock Canyon Open Space neighbors in the Crystal Hills neighborhood were productive. The consensus was to move forward with implementation.
5. Bear Creek Conservation Easement:
The El Paso County Parks Advisory Board at their Nov.13 meeting endorsed moving ahead with the Conservation easement process for Bear Creek Park. The small remaining easement item is to finalize the north line of the Athletic field active recreation area, which adjoins the passive area south of the Bear Creek Regional Trail. Palmer Land Trust and El Paso County Parks are working this and it is close to being resolved.
The next steps are:
Overview the easement with the BOCC
Raise $17,500 for the conservation easement. Palmer Land Trust is donating $17,500.
Prepare the conservation easement documents after successful fundraising
Return to the Park Advisory Board for their endorsement of the easement documents
Receive BOCC endorsement of the documents.
On Dec. 3, a formation meeting of a new Bear Creek Regional Park Friends Group was hosted by El Paso County Parks. Approximately 12 friends and neighbors attended and voiced support for forming the friends group. A County Friends Group Agreement was presented and potential fundraising was discussed.
6. Flood Recovery:
Work continues on reopening Gold Camp Road, which was washed out between tunnels 1 and 2. Opening date target: Dec 20th. Rock scaling, trail and road repairs continue in North Cheyenne Canon. Opening is expected in Dec.
7. Economic Benefits of Bicycling Study:
The Economic Benefits study continues and responses to the survey are slowly coming in. Survey forms, were emailed to 17 bike retailers, 4 manufacturers/parts suppliers, 3 bicycle tour companies and 4 bicycling organizations and non-profits including TOSC. To date, 6 retailers, 1 manufacturer, 2 Bicycle tour companies and 3 bicycle orgs and non-profits have responded. Follow-up phone calls and emails to encourage responses continue.
TOSC’s purpose in proposing and helping implement the study is to quantify the economic benefits of cycling in the Pikes Peak Region both in dollars and jobs. SRAM and PPACG (Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments) are major partners in financing the study. The goal is to have scientifically valid data to convince the public, city councils and county commissioners that investing in bicycle infrastructure has strong economic benefits.
8. Bear Creek Watershed:
The closure order continues in place but may be partially lifted in the spring. Just before the government shut down, the USFS issued a closure order for the Bear Creek Watershed system trails, effectively closing the entire watershed for one year, ending on September 30, 2014. The stated reason was to protect the public safety from the effects of flooding. When the USFS reopens, we may get some answers on why the long closure and what can we do to help opening the watershed sooner.
9. Trail Counting Program:
COS: Counters on the Rock Island, T-Gap, Greenway and Incline.
EPC: To be installed this summer on the Ute Pass Trail and New Santa Fe Trail at Baptist Rd.
11. COS Bike Master Plan:
The planning process has started. Focus group meetings, and four public meetings have been held. An intercept survey (asking en-route bicyclists to participate) will be performed.
12. Waldo Canyon Trail:
Unconfirmed rumors have it that it may be opened in the spring.Burn area flood mitigation and restoration efforts continue. The burn area wasn’t badly hit by the storms.
13. Williams Canyon Trail:
The Manitou Springs Flood Committee and the City of Manitou Springs are moving forward with engineering concepts for mitigating future Williams Canon floods to the extent that this is possible. Debris detention ponds, culvert expansions and environmental methods are being considered. FEMA Grants have been applied for. The Williams Canon Trail has been totally washed out and is now the creek bed. It will take concerted efforts to reestablish the trail. The trail is property of Cave of the Winds and opening is contingent upon the Waldo Canyon watershed being opened.
All things considered the Incline is in reasonable shape. The major flood damage is above the Barr Trail bailout point. Wood planks have been installed across some of the exposed drainage pipes above the bailout. The large rock in the middle of lower Barr Trail now has a well used path around it. The Manitou Springs City Council has allocated $40k to COS to support the Incline rebuilding effort and $40k for the Barr Trail. Users, and especially the running community have been assured that the trail will be rebuilt without using the dreaded steps like those on the lower Barr above the Barr Trail Lot. The COG RR has closed the original short lower section of the Barr Trail requiring users onto the more frequently used trail up from the Barr Trail parking lot. They have safety and liability concerns. The original trail will be reopened for the Ascent and Marathon in August 2014.
15. Banning Lewis Ranch:
It appears that discussions on the future of the Ranch are underway. At the Red Rock Canyon 10th anniversary celebration, Mayor Bach mentioned Banning Lewis Ranch (Corral Bluffs) in his remarks. TOSC continues to advocate for implementing the Corral Bluffs Regional Open Space and the Jimmy Camp Creek Open Space trail corridor.
16. COS Parks use of Conservation Easements for TOPS property acquisition:
Discussions between the City and Palmer Land trust have started. Getting the City to use conservation easements as an acquisition tool is a TOSC priority.
17. Watkins property adjacent to Cheyenne Mtn. State Park:
Acquisition of Watkins would provide a great hiking experience in the Rock Creek Canyon, which has a full year stream. It’s sort of a mini Cheyenne Canon Park. TOPS Working Committee toured the property several years ago and again on Oct 16 for the new members of the Committee. It’s likely that the Committee will discuss acquisition/easement in the near future.
18. Top of Cheyenne Mtn. and the Dixon Trail:
The top of the mountain trails have been designed and there is the possibility that the trails will be constructed summer 2014. Access however, is problematic, as the antenna road is closed to everyone but tower owners and agents.
The Dixon Trail work beyond the saddle will be on hold until the access issues are resolved. Cheyenne State park is discussing a trail easement or sale with the property owner. Acquisition of the property adjacent to Watkins would provide a better routing for the trail to the top. The grades on the present routing approach 20% and have resulted in the proposal that mtn. bikes stop at the saddle below the very steep section. The reroute would reduce the grade and may make the top of the mountain accessible to mtn. bikers and provide an easier trail for hikers. Cheyenne Mtn. State Park has looked into this possibility but at this point is not able to pursue purchase.
19. COS Parks Trails and Open Space Master Plan:
Roundtable discussions with invited stakeholders have started, chaired by the consultant, Design Workshop. Developing an encompassing vision for the future is a big priority. ‘Think Big’. Trail connectivity continues to be a major topic, with all agreeing that trails need to connect. Education//marketing, use of drainage ways, partnerships, interactive maps, wayfinding signage, integration of trails into stormwater projects were addressed during the trails discussion.
During the open space discussions, there was agreement that open space acquisition needed to address population growth and ‘get out front’ of development, especially due to the costs of open space in developed areas. There was also general agreement that providing a maintenance component and developing friends groups and business partners is a necessity for acquisition and long term stewardship.
The plan content is very important to TOSC and TOPS as the future candidate area and trails will be identified. The plan will identify TOPS Working Committee priorities for at least the next 5-10 years. It may also shape any future discussion about a TOPS extension and any future funhding apportionment between stewardship, maintenance, operations and acquisition.
20. Ute Pass Trail:
The Phase 1 trail from the Incline to the historic interpretive loop just short of Longs Ranch Road is under construction. The County has asked the State Trails program to extend the grant into 2014 due to the difficulties they encountered with the public process and flood damage. The extension is likely to be granted.
The Ute Pass Trail Committee, headed by Ute Pass resident Bill Hensley has been meeting to enhance the dialog between County Parks and the Ute Pass Community.
On Nov 13 the committee hosted a meeting in Chipita Park to discuss future plans for Phase 2 of the Trail from the historic trail loop to Chipita Elementary. County Parks is applying for a $25k State Trails grant to pay for consultant to lead the Phase 2 design and public process. Although the 20 or so local residents appeared to favor the hiring of a consultant, several expressed strong objections to building the trail at all. Hopefully an outside consultant will dispel these doubts and lead to an agreeable routing.
21. Windfarm proposed adjacent to Paint Mines Open Space and Interpretive Park:
Golden West Power Partners LLC (GW) has applied to build a wind farm south of Calhan. 147 towers/turbines will be put in service on 32,800 acres of leased and purchased farmland. The power will go to Xcel, which services northern and mountain country.
Several strings of towers will adjoin the El Paso County Paint Mines Open Space and Interpretive Park. The turbine towers are 437 ft high and the closest one is 810 ft from the eastern border of Paint Mines. Palmer Land Trust, who holds the conservation easement, and TOSC testified at the El Paso County planning commission meeting and asked that at least 6 of the most visually obvious and noisy turbines be relocated or deleted from the plan as they will significantly detract from the open space visitor experience and negatively affect the conservation values of the open space. The TOSC letter is attached. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the project. Planning staff is recommending that Golden West provide that $200K in mitigation money for El Paso County Parks as part of the draft development plan. The County Commissioners will consider the GW project later this month. TOSC has contacted the GW project manager and learned that GW has applied for 153 turbine sites and is only purchasing 147 turbines, thus there may be latitude to move/remove the closest turbines.