Updated: August 28, 2009 at 12:00 am
When poet, author and Native American advocate Helen Hunt Jackson convinced Colorado Springs residents to vote to buy park property in 1885 under its first bond issue, did she envision that Cheyenne Cañon Park would be the jewel that it is today?
The park, which has grown from 640 to 1,600 acres, draws hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and sightseers every day.
Philanthropist Mary Starsmore donated much of her time and money to Cheyenne Cañon Park. In 1990, the Mary Starsmore Fund and the city parks department acquired the Jim and Mary Starsmore House and moved it to its present location at the park entrance. In 1992, the house opened as the Starsmore Discovery Center.
In the same year, Friends of Cheyenne Cañon was established as a nonprofit to “preserve, protect, and enhance the natural, scenic, and historical resources of the park.” According to the organization’s 2008 annual report, the Cañon was the No. 5 attraction in the Pikes Peak region, with 538,249 visitors.
Deemed “non-essential” by the City, the parks department has suffered the biggest budget cuts during this economic crisis, forcing the Starsmore Discovery Center to close two days a week during its busiest season. The center at Helen Hunt Falls has also reduced hours, and will close after Labor Day.
The Friends have been critical during this crisis by reinstalling closed port-a-potties for the busy summer season, covering staff salaries, paying for educational/safety programs and art classes, and lobbying City Council in 2007 and 2008 to keep the park open.
Continuing the Legacy
In 1901, then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rode the Shortline Railroad along present-day Gold Camp Road along the cañon. Upon discovering the panoramic views, he exclaimed, “This is the trip that bankrupts the English language!”
The residents of Colorado Springs can’t afford to let this Park fall by the “cañon-side.” Now more than ever,
Cheyenne Cañon Park needs your help!
Two fundraisers are being held in the coming weeks. Today’s Springs Foam Fest in Antlers Park will feature live music and samples from 25 breweries for a $25 ticket.
On Labor Day, at the fifth annual Canvases in the Cañon Art Festival, artists will donate 15 to 100 percent of their sales to Friends of Cheyenne Cañon. Works of all sizes are being solicited so that everyone can take something home.
Of course, opportunities to volunteer or donate to the cause are available year-round. For more information, visit the Friends’ Web site at www.cheyennecanon.org.
Cheyenne Cañon fundraisers
More information at www.cheyennecanon.org or 385-6086
Springs Foam Fest
When: 1-6 p.m. today
Where: Antlers Park, Pikes Peak Avenue at Sierra Madre Street
Canvases in the Cañon Art Festival
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 7
Where: Starsmore and Helent Hunt visitor centers, North Cheyenne Cañon Park
Free shuttles: Run between two sites every 30 min.