WALDO CANYON FIRE: Residents help improve local park

RYAN MAYE HANDY Updated: January 9, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 9, 2013

What does success look like in Mountain Shadows?

For the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association, which has heavily monitored the rebuilding of the neighborhood after the Waldo Canyon fire, success looks like reaching 88 building permits this month, and the completion of three new homes. But for residents who attended Wednesday’s Mountain Shadows Park Renovation meeting, success is a bit simpler. It’s about green grass, trees and creating an outdoor space where the community can reunite.

Chris Lieber asked the nearly 40 residents to list their favorite aspects of the Mountain Shadows park, along Flying W Ranch Road and near Chipeta Elementary School. Lieber and other representatives from the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services departmant are planning to redesign the park, which did not burn in the fire, over the next several months. To gather suggestions for what makes a successful park, the city planned two meetings this week, with the second set  for 9 a.m. Saturday.

Seated at tables in the Chipeta gym, the residents were equipped with maps of the park and survey forms. The park’s budget was set at $300,000, with some wiggle room for community suggestions, said Karen Palus, director at the parks department.

The building association along with Colorado Springs Together, the non-profit founded during the fire, is pulling funds together, some from private construction companies, to transform the park. Completion is set for the end of August, with a ground breaking ceremony on June 26 — the day the firestorm destroyed at least 346 homes.

Aaron and Jolene Butler, whose house on Linger Way survived the Waldo Canyon fire, miss the outdoor summer concerts at the park. They say the concerts stopped when the city stopped watering the grass a couple of years ago; as for last summer, they knew that a good portion of city water was spent saving their home, Jolene Bulter said.

The Butlers sat with Bob King, who watched crews break ground on the park in 1988 and has long hoped to see the park regain some of its usefulness — it’s now basically a dog park, with rarely-used horse shoe rings and a sand volleyball court, he said. Their suggestions — watered grass, shady spots, permanent restrooms — joined other requests for a fire memorial and, from one Chipeta student at the meeting, a series of underground tunnels for kids to explore.

“You might as well as ask for the moon,” Aaron Butler said.

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