Who is running in Your District?
Two seats up for grabs on Board of El Paso County Commissioners this November.
District 1: Holly Williams vs. Ryan Lucas
District 5: Cami Bremer vs. John Jarrell
- In addition to County Commissioner races, voters will decide Pikes Peak Transportation Authority Ballot Issue 7A. TOSC has taken a position in favor of Issue 7A. Although primarily a road and bridge program, the 10 year initiative will provide @ $10 million for trails related projects throughout Colorado Springs. Nearly all the city’s system trails used for recreation and transportation will be improved as a result of PPRTA dollars.
TOSC asked candidates to answer three important questions:
1. When it comes to county services how important are our county parks?
· Holly Williams: The natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and open space provided by our parks system are crucial to the quality of life of our residents. Black Forest and Fox Run Parks (as well as other county parks) are tremendous assets for the residents of El Paso County.
· Cami Bremer: Many of you know that El Paso County is a steward of over 8,000 acres of land and open space, 130 miles of trails, and (currently) two award-winning nature centers. I am dedicated to building the legacy of El Paso County Parks and being mindful of our responsibility to be stewards of the resources and lands that have been entrusted to us. Our Parks systems are extremely important to the quality of life for our community. People love living here because of our amazing outdoor climate and ability to spend time outdoors, so supporting our parks and ensuring a vibrant park and trail system is paramount to preserving our quality of life here. The County’s Strategic Plan specifically outlines our priorities to Infrastructure, Service Quality, Community Trust and Health & Safety. And our Parks play a significant and very public facing role in EACH of these areas. Simply put, the County wouldn’t be the County without a commitment to Parks, trails and the outdoor recreation that makes our region so unique.
· John Jarrell: County parks are an essential part of our county services. One of our biggest needs in the county is to end sprawl and increase the density of new housing development. County parks are an essential supplement to new development, as we need enough natural, healthy space for all of our residents. As an avid hiker, I know how amazing our local spaces can be, and how easy it is for them to fail into disrepair when they are neglected.
2. Why are well-maintained and adequately resourced county parks, trails, open spaces and nature centers important to the health of county residents and the economic health of the county?
· Holly Williams: Our quality of life and our economic vitality depend on well-maintained parks and trails. From soccer to pickleball and from biking to horseback riding, citizens of our County enjoy our parks and trails system. Our Nature Centers provide education to our youth and a place for many parks volunteers to participate and dedicate their time. Both of our sons’ Eagle Scout projects were in our county parks. We love where we live because of our beautiful outdoors and maintaining our County Parks is important to
· Cami Bremer: Until recently, Colorado was the lowest state in the nation for obesity. Coloradans live healthy lifestyles that involve movement and activity outdoors. This is good for our citizens physically, mentally, and emotionally. Time outdoors increases Vitamin production, which has been linked to substantial positive health outcomes. Over the past few years, I think we all have a greater awareness and appreciation for these spaces and the intangible value they provide for us to explore and recharge. And I can personally attest to the impact trails and open spaces have on our physical and mental health, as our family can be found biking, hiking, running and occasionally riding (on horseback) the trails so uniquely connected in our region.
On the economic front, people flock to our community to experience the Great Outdoors and our amazing family-friendly outdoor community. Tourism dollars are an important part of our local economy; and our parks, trails, and open spaces contribute to the worldwide allure of our amazing community.
· John Jarrell: This question hits the two main points: resident health and economic health. One of the most important contributions to health that we can make as county commissioners is to make sure that we have enough well-maintained natural space for every resident without falling behind due to growth. And our economy benefits from these investments because our natural spaces are one of our region’s biggest draws, putting us above places like Denver.
3. The proposed 2023 general fund budget provides $2,910,384 dollars to the parks department. That means the average county taxpayer support for his/her county parks is $3.94 per person, among the lowest of front range counties. If elected, would you be willing to explore ways of increasing financial support for parks? Especially as we anticipate continued population growth, a need for a northern Nature Center, potential purchase of Black Forest Section 16 and ongoing security concerns at the Paint Mines?
· Holly Williams: El Paso County runs on the lowest cost per citizen on the Front Range. Our El Paso County Parks system operates very efficiently with many partnerships with local volunteers, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Preserving, protecting, developing, and maintaining our parks system is an increasing budgetary need despite this support. Black Forest Section 16 is a prime example of an increased cost for an area that I would like to protect and maintain as open space. Last year I worked to provide citizens the opportunity to vote on whether funding for transportation and parks could be increased including funding for a Nature Center in Fox Run Park. The economy’s downturn led to the issue’s defeat. I am in full support of dedicating additional one-time revenues to our parks system and supported additional funds for wildfire mitigation. This year I worked with my colleagues in the City of Colorado Springs and other communities to place an extension for the Pikes Peak RTA on the ballot. In addition to providing critical funding for roads, it also includes significant funding for our trail system. I’ve also worked to oppose mandates from the state that put additional strain on the county budget and threaten funding for local priorities like parks and roads.
· Cami Bremer: I’m a big supporter of our parks, and plan to approve the proposed budget listed above. Moreover, I’m supportive of the additional $160,000 in Parks critical needs requests that will specifically address several of the issues listed above. We must continue our commitment and put in place a long-term plan to ensure our Parks and Trails remain able to serve our growing (and gratefully outdoor- loving) citizens.
In addition, the County Budget is one way we support Parks, but working with key partners to bring other types of support is just as critical. I’ve worked and volunteered with groups that help preserve our amazing parks, and there are also numerous public-private partnerships that we can continue to engage to support our parks systems. Regardless, our citizens want and need a vibrant and beautiful system of parks and trails, and I am committed to supporting these vital parts of our community.
· John Jarrell: The county is underfunded and we are failing to make the investments necessary for sustainable
growth. We have to find a way to increase revenues without putting any new burden on working
families. For all the reasons described above, increasing the budget for our county park system is an
investment in both our people and our economy. We can’t wait for our park system to become
overloaded before we make these investments.