UPDATE–Aug 20, 4:20 PM:
This afternoon the Colorado Springs Utilities Board of Directors followed CSU staff’s recommendation and voted (5-3) to donate Jones Park to the National Forest Foundation who will turn it over to the USFS.
It’s not over yet. On Sept 9th, city council will be asked to approve the donation.
One of the most exciting announcements made today – EPC Administrator Jeff Greene said the Board of County Commissioners will discuss next week putting a ballot initiative before county voters that would raise 2 million to support capital projects in parks (and help pay for their proposed Jones Park maintenance and management).
TOSC will monitor these developments and bring you more!
Jones Park, currently owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, is the subject of some controversy. CSU wants to give the land to the US Forest Service, with the help and financial support of the National Forest Foundation. This would protect CSU from any lawsuits which might arise as a result of the environmental study (NEPA), currently in progress, regarding the greenback cutthroat trout.
In the meantime, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to seek possession of Jones Park.
Why would the county want to assume ownership of 1000+ acres surrounded on 4 sides by US Forest Service land?
Local control, and the possibility for motorized trail use in the park.
Why is TOSC concerned?
EPC general fund support for its parks and trails remains low. There are maintenance needs not being addressed. Where will the additional money come from? (CSU estimates the trail and stream work required by NEPA at $400,000-$800,000). What won’t get done in county parks and on county trails as a result?
What about users – won’t they be better served by control? Not necessarily!
Under the current plan trail work could begin next summer and effects to users minimized. With a new partner (El Paso County), the Forest Service could decide to start the NEPA process all over again and close trails during the interim.
What if the county doesn’t live up to NEPA due to lack of resources?
They’re likely to be sued – costing county taxpayers $$$$.
For the sake of users and the threatened trout – Jones Park should be turned over to the well-financed National Forest Foundation and eventually the US Forest Service.
UPDATE–Aug 20, 4:20 PM: