Garden of the Gods Colorado

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

While living in Cleveland, I got into sailing small boats on Lake Erie. I crewed under several different skippers. Each had their own style of managing their boat and crew. My favorite boat was a J-22 skippered by an intelligent introvert who was firm, fair and strategic.

She was always three steps ahead of the rest of us. We won a lot of races.

Good leaders are smart, collaborative and visionary. When times are rough they inspire, but don’t sugarcoat. They respect your ability to problem-solve, innovate and cope.

One hundred and 50 years ago, our founder looked over this barren, brown landscape and saw “green.” Some of that green was in the form of a thriving railroad and successful community. Some of it was trees, parks and greenways that would draw new settlers and tourists from all over the world.

What would Gen.Palmer say about this global pandemic? He certainly had knowledge and experience with deadly diseases. The ravage of tuberculosis was the reason many people came to Colorado Springs as tourists and then stayed. We were considered a healthful destination.

We still are.

If you’ve been trapped in your home for the past couple of months in Texas, Nebraska or Kansas, where are you likely to drive? Someplace where the scenery is beautiful, outdoor recreation is safe and plentiful and you can spread out from others and put fears of the pandemic behind you.

I imagine visitors will begin trickling in over the next few weeks in increasing numbers.

We need them. Without them, our economy will not thrive and sales tax revenues, which support our parks, trails and open spaces, will continue to plummet.

What would the general do? My guess is he’d find a way to welcome and accommodate tourists in a way that keeps everyone safe. A hundred years ago they separated the sick by building sanatoriums. Clever entrepreneurs are already finding ways for us to maintain physical distance in bars and restaurants and enjoy art and theater in new and innovative ways, and giving us the tools to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Next year is our city’s sesquicentennial and we will celebrate. Between now and then, we should keep Gen. Palmer in mind as we plan for our recovery and stay true to the vision that created all of this.

Davies is executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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