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Commentary: Is deal for 'world-class' bike park in Colorado Springs worth it?

April 6, 2018 Updated: April 6, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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A rendering of the bike park that Transit Mix Concrete has said could be built on the Pikeview Quarry property in northwest Colorado Springs. The company has said the park is only possible if it's able to build another quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch property south of Colorado Springs. Rendering produced by FlowRide Concepts.

A "world-class" bike park sounds like a good idea.

"But there's baggage, right?" said Susan Davies, executive director of Trails and Open Space Coalition.

Yes, baggage in the ugly shape of a quarry.

The city of Colorado Springs can have the Pikeview Quarry at "a discounted rate" if the owner gets the OK to mine part of Hitch Rack Ranch to the south near the sensitive, bird-teeming Aiken Canyon Preserve.

If the company gets its way, we can take that sad eyesore in the northwest hills and turn it into a cycling dreamland of flowing, winding tracks and downhill trails galore, as seen in artist renderings attached to a news release Wednesday.

The exciting photos came with Transit Mix Concrete's clear attempt to curry political favor over its controversial desire. After turning down one application, the Mined Land Reclamation Board is set to decide in two weeks on the company's follow-up attempt for a permit.

A rendering of the bike park that Transit Mix Concrete has said could be built on the Pikeview Quarry property in northwest Colorado Springs. The company has said the park is only possible if it's able to build another quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch property south of Colorado Springs. Rendering produced by FlowRide Concepts.  

So take some time to decide how you feel about this. Raise your voices, as some in relied-upon organizations won't.

Davies talked with me, unlike other local conservationists I called but never heard back from this week, including representatives of the Palmer Land Trust and Catamount Institute, which considers Aiken Canyon "one of the last high-quality examples of the southern Front Range foothills ecosystem."

If the groups are like TOSC, they won't take a stance on the matter.

Read between the lines in Davies' "baggage" comment. As for an official TOSC stance, "What do we have to gain?" she asked.

A rendering of the bike park that Transit Mix Concrete has said could be built on the Pikeview Quarry property in northwest Colorado Springs. The company has said the park is only possible if it's able to build another quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch property south of Colorado Springs. Rendering produced by FlowRide Concepts.  

That's an honest, troubling remark from the head of a trusted nonprofit that plays tricky politics, not unlike other influential advocates. This situation spotlights that inconvenient truth.

Support the bike park, and you displease El Pomar Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, foes of the mining with nearby land interests. Oppose Transit Mix Concrete, and you might upset vital partners at city parks.

Department officials declined to comment, but a bike park has been sought since it was made a priority in the 2014 park system master plan.

The silence speaks loudly at a time Davies recognizes as ripe for conversation. "It's about values," she said. "What does this community value?"

A rendering of the bike park that Transit Mix Concrete has said could be built on the Pikeview Quarry property in northwest Colorado Springs. The company has said the park is only possible if it's able to build another quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch property south of Colorado Springs. Rendering produced by FlowRide Concepts.  

The issue challenged the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, the 2-year-old nonprofit gaining visibility in its push to improve outdoor access across the region. After consulting her board of environmental stewards and business leaders, Executive Director Becky Leinweber said the organization does not weigh in on private land matters.

Far less reticent is Cory Sutela, president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, who said the idea of a bike park has been the "shining star" followed by the cycling group since 2014.

He said parks officials approached him last year about the proposed deal that came to light this week.

"We were just like, 'Oh my God, that would be amazing,'" Sutela said.

Pikeview Quarry would have ideal access and boasts ample space and elevation, he said.

As for that "baggage"? "Look, for me it gets real simple," Sutela said. "My job as president of Medicine Wheel is to examine our mission and look at opportunities. We have no position on Hitch Rack Ranch. I don't want to talk about Hitch Rack Ranch. Hitch Rack Ranch has nothing to do with mountain bike trails. We're not a conservation advocate. We're a mountain biking advocate.

"For Medicine Wheel, it's black and white. It's very, very suitable land that would become the best bike park in any city park system in the world."

The ground of a blighted site is "very, very suitable?" The city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) working committee was assured so during a site visit last May. Members checked out the area to see whether it would be worth an investment from TOPS' tax-built funds.

That's right, your tax dollars could be involved later. What better incentive to say how you feel?

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Contact Seth Boster: 636-0332

Twitter: @SethBoster­­

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