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Outdoor recreation symposium kicking off in Colorado Springs

March 20, 2017 Updated: March 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm
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David Leinweber, owner of Angler's Covey, and the rest of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance will be hosting the State of the Outdoors at City Auditorium. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

David Leinweber was sitting around with local stakeholders whose hope had recently been shot down: The Colorado Springs City Council had decided against passing a measure that would have allowed voters to decide on putting some tax money into parks.

Leinweber and others in that room months ago understood the council's wanting to keep the focus on funding stormwater treatment. But: "Really, it was like a funeral ceremony," he recalled. "We were like, 'What are we gonna do next?'"

Leinweber, owner of fly-fishing retailer Angler's Covey, had an idea. To showcase the importance of the outdoors, what about a symposium that would bring businesspeople such as himself together with other advocates and community leaders?

So he went to Karen Palus, the city's parks director who could set up the event in City Auditorium. Now, on Monday, the first of what organizers anticipate will be an annual event comes to fruition.

State of the Outdoors will feature booths set up by businesses and nonprofits. Mayor John Suthers is expected to be among the speakers, along with Luis Benitez, the director of Colorado's Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.

"It's a great time to have the dialogue," Palus said.

Leinweber considers it like a coming-out party for the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, the coalition he formed in 2015. This month, the alliance's five-person board agreed to appoint co-directors who will develop the organization and apply for grants. Also, it agreed to move into office space on Tejon Street, in the building where another alliance, Colorado Springs Forward, is located.

"When we can improve the climate of our city and expand on outdoor recreation, it makes us competitive with other communities," said Becky Leinweber, David's wife who is filling one of the two co-director roles. "It helps our business, yes, but everybody else benefits too."

Along with acquiring 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, a top priority of the alliance is establishing a website that will serve as "a hub," as the Leinwebers put it, for outdoor play around Colorado Springs and the greater Pikes Peak region. The Leinwebers said they have received requests for proposals from website builders, to be paid with donations received on top of $10,000 from the city's lodgers and automobile rental tax fund and $5,000 from the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Colorado Springs Chamber & Economic Development Corporation is helping present Monday's event. "It's certainly something we want to support," Hannah Parsons, the chamber's chief economic development officer, said of the alliance. "Especially when you consider talent recruitment and retention, you can't ignore outdoor recreation."

The alliance feels especially buoyed by a January study from The Trust for Public Land that found the city's parks, trails and open spaces added hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy. Within the study was the finding that sales by sporting goods stores amounted to $178 million.

Outfitters and retailers make up the majority of the alliance board, with Jennifer Peterson the lone nonprofit member as head of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. Council members include Susan Davies of the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

"It's our job to make sure we're not forgetting that piece, that if our public lands go without maintenance they stop becoming the economic drivers everyone is touting," Peterson said. "Care and protection have to be prioritized."

The vision for the alliance's website is for it to include information on volunteer opportunities led by various advocate groups.

"It's really about pulling the whole tribe together," David Leinweber said.

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