Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cheyenne Mountain State Park awaits

Cheyenne Mountain State ParkCheyenne Mountain State Park has everything a state park should have: 1600 acres of open space with more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas (including a group picnic pavilion), camping sites (both RV-compatible and hike-in tent spots), a lovely visitors center, flora, fauna, and a whole lot of America the Beautiful. I went there the other day expecting to see plenty of weekend athletes; instead, except for a few construction workers and a handful of maintenance guys, I had the place pretty much to myself. What's up with that?

Here are a few possible reasons people are staying away:
1. No dogs on the trails
All I can say is YHGTBFKM. What pencil-pushing couch potato came up with this idea? This is Colorado Springs, Dog Fancy's choice as the most dog-friendly city in the country. People here love their dogs. People here not only walk their dogs daily, they hike their dogs daily. They love big athletic energetic dogs, and those dogs need 1600 acres of open space and 20 miles of hiking trails to be happy.

Park signs explain that the ban protects our precious pooches from predators and rattlesnakes. Well, if this is the case, why aren't they concerned about ME? And shouldn't pet owners be allowed to determine what risks they are willing to assume? Post a sign warning of potential dangers and leave it at that.

2. $6 day pass
I understand that state parks need to generate revenue, but couldn't there be some wiggle room here? An annual park pass is $60, which isn't
crazy expensive, but, still, there is something sort of offensive about having to cough up money to visit a park that's in our back yard. Especially when we have so many free trails nearby. Couldn't the park provide locals a discounted pass, or offer free entrance for walk-in traffic? In any case, they need to do something to make local day trippers feel welcome.

3. Campsites and most picnic areas are NOT OPEN yet
Despite the fact that the park opened in 2006, the park isn't very open. How is CMSP expecting to lure out-of-town visitors -- visitors with campers and tents and zillions of other outdoorsy choices -- when the park is basically unusable?

A park ranger told me that they hoped to open the park to campers at the end of September. He also said that they might have to scale back certain phases of the park's development plan because of budgetary concerns. Let me get this straight. CMSP missed the whole summer season, their entire annual revenue season, to focus on construction, and now they have to cut back construction because they have no money? The word mismanagement is on the tip of my tongue.

4. Zero community outreach
How many of you know anything about Cheyenne Mountain State Park? Do you know how to get there? Do you have a map of the trails? Do you
know that their visitors center is set up to host parties and wedding receptions? Do you know about the prairie-to-peak ecosystems unique to CMSP? I'm guessing you don't.

Yes, the park is short on funds and can't do big slick marketing campaigns. But until CMSP is open to the Airstream set, shouldn't they be targeting us locals? They could get the word out to thousands of Colorado Springs residents by having an inexpensive booth at Springspree, Pridefest, or the Diversity Fair. They could host an annual picnic at the park to draw in the community. They could set up tables outside high-traffic retailers, like the Girl Scouts do, and hawk shirts and hats, hand out information, and sell annual park passes. There is no shortage of open-space do-gooders willing to do the legwork.

Okay, bitchfest over. Now the plea. CMSP is a community jewel. A few noble souls fought the good fight against developers aimed at turning the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain into a sea of little boxes. Wide open space is a gift, better than Prozac, more fun than Mr. Biggs. It keeps us grounded. It keeps me sane. If budgetary pressures mount, we will see the state parceling off the park for sale. We'll see a cutback in hours, services and personnel, which will only make things more precarious.

So go! Go to the park. Skip the fast food lunch and pay the $6. Better yet, cough up $60 for an annual pass and go any time you please. When it opens for camping in a few weeks, do an overnight just for fun. It's a great way to enjoy camping without the usual hassles. Grill some steaks. Make s'mores. You can even bring Fido if you keep him off the trails.

This park needs local support to survive. It's a work-in-progress. Express yourself to the powers-that-be. Tell them what you like, and what you'd like to see changed. I think they'll listen. They want us there. So let's be there.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Cheyenne Mountain State Park near NORAD
Cheyenne Mountain State Park wild turkeys
Cheyenne Mountain State Park wildflowers
Cheyenne Mountain State Park Visitors Center


suesun said...

We love it for the very fact that dogs AREN'T allowed! I am so sick of all the dogs off-leash and all the dog shit all over Red Rock Canyon, that we go to Cheyenne Mt. to escape them. Keep it that way.

We coughed up the 60 bucks. Have never regretted it.

Best moderate mountain biking trails around.

Downside to me is its proximity to Fort Carson....if I'm needing to sleep peacefully in a tent, CMSP isn't where I'll be going - too much noise.

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