If you haven’t been to Stratton Open Space in the last few months — or years — you’ve missed a lot of improvements the City of Colorado Springs and partners have been steadily completing.
So far in 2020, five projects are complete: a connector trail from Cresta Trail to Preserve Drive; the Ridgeway Trailhead parking lot expansion; the Chamberlain Trail connection from Stratton Open Space to Pegasus Drive; and Stratton Springs Path and Ridge Trail re-routes and improvements.
The work, which was recommended in the 2018 North Cheyenne Cañon Park Master and Management Plan, has been completed by the City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department along with key partners.
Construction on two additional projects — improvements to the Meadows and Wildflower Trails — has just begun.
“It truly does take a village,” said Scott Abbott, regional parks, trails and open space manager. “Rocky Mountain Field Institute and City Forestry play large roles not to forget local advocacy groups Friends of Stratton, Medicine Wheel, and Trails and Open Spaces Coalition. And a big shoutout to our design and development team. All individuals and groups play roles that get us to a sustainable product.”
For the most recent project, the City re-routed multi-user Ridge Trail away from the South Suburban Reservoir along the hillside, in and out of scrub oak. A new trail junction was created at the reservoir road, and the trail was re-routed from the reservoir west to the Chamberlain Trail.
According to Abbott, the City’s goal is to design trails in a way that can handle the amount and style of use it gets while being able to shed water quickly.
“We have a large contingent of not just hikers and nature seekers but mountain bikers. We try to create a trail that can handle multiple uses and sustain itself for years to come,” he said.
Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain Field Institute closed rogue trails and this fall re-routed sections of the hiker-only Stratton Springs Path to avoid travel on areas where icy conditions form each winter. In addition to the re-routes, three wooden bridges were installed.
On a recent hike, area resident Art Jacobson gave his approval of the changes to Stratton Spring Path.
“It’s terrific. This has been one of the more common sense improvements they made,” Jacobson said.
But, because of all of the diverse users, sometimes trail improvements receive mixed reviews.
“We do get met sometimes with push back,” Abbott said. “We all have a different idea of what our open spaces should look like or how they should function. It hits people personally.”
Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates has worked with the City to include language in their trail contract bidding process, so new trails include natural elements such as rocks that are interesting for both mountain bikers and hikers, according to Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates Executive Director Cory Sutela.
“There are going to be some places where unsustainable sections that are fun for some riders are going to be removed,” Sutela said. “We say a green trail doesn’t have to be boring. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be features. We advocate for the inspiring experience — build, share and protect inspiring trail experiences. Part of that means at any skill level.”
This fall, Colorado Spring Utilities drained the South Suburban Reservoir for maintenance, and as the City repaired damaged trails near the Ridgeway parking lot, it added swales and culverts to divert water the next time it needs to be drained, Abbott said.
In 2019, The Ladders Trail was realigned and improved, Gold Camp Path was re-routed to include a new connection to the Gold Camp Road Trailhead, the Chutes Trail was converted to a downhill mountain biking trail, and the parking area at the trailhead on Gold Camp Road was improved. Additionally, Cresta and Ponderosa Trails were re-routed and improved.
And, in 2021, the Parks Department plans to install new trail signage and wayfinding in the open space.
The projects are funded by the Trails, Open Space, and Parks tax. Total costs for 2019, 2020, and upcoming 2021 improvements are estimated at $640,000, according to David Deitemeyer, senior landscape architect with the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department.
Abbott encourages users to follow Leave No Trace principles and to give back in a way that fits them, whether that’s picking up trash, volunteering at a trail maintenance day, or getting involved with an advocacy group like Medicine Wheel, Friends of Stratton Open Space, or Trails and Open Spaces Coalition.
“Look how fortunate we are to live in an amazing place with amazing places to recreate,” Abbott said. “Let’s do the right thing to be mindful and take care of it. Take only photographs. Leave only footprints. We have too many people using our parks to not be responsible and caring for them.”