The city of Colorado Springs removed the widely criticized 12-foot-tall blue frame Monday from Garden of the Gods, where it had been drilled into rock last week.

From the park's highest point, atop red rock overlooking Pikes Peak and the rolling foothills, Jody Benson waved as the frame was driven away by the crane that uprooted it.

"Peg brought me here to be outraged," the visiting Benson said of friend Peg Shannon.

Shannon, a 44-year Colorado Springs resident, had gathered at the Garden's parking lot 9 with several other locals to say one thing: Good riddance.

In response to heavy backlash, the city ordered removal of the frame, which was donated by local construction company GE Johnson.

Olympic City USA task force members had predicted millions of people would pose with the frame - emblazoned with "#OLYMPICCITYUSA" across its 8-foot arm - and post pictures on social media, a perceived promotional tool heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But local fervor quickly intensified, with "#TakeDownThatFrame" the popular hashtag.


Celestino Loya, left, takes a photo of his wife Maria Loya at the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs on Friday December 15, 2017 as they are framed by a recent addition - A large blue metal frame that was installed at High Point near Parking Lot #9. The frame is an approximate height of 12 feet and has been gathering controversy from the local public. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

At least 20,930 signatures had been collected by Monday supporting the petition to "Remove the ugly Blue Frame from Garden of the Gods." City Council President Richard Skorman called the metal structure "an eyesore" Friday.

The city had planned to re-evaluate the frame late next year. But in emailed responses to critics early Monday, Mayor John Suthers' office said the frame would be removed at once.

"We recognize that while one of our goals is driving tourism, the concept focused too heavily on visitors, and was not well-received by local residents who feel a great deal of ownership of the Park. That viewpoint is extremely important," said a statement from the city and Olympic City USA task force.

The frame's "execution was flawed," the statement said. It could be erected at the new Olympic Museum once it is built, a city spokeswoman said.

Some members of the city's Parks Advisory Board spoke out against the process by which the frame was installed without their approval. Said member Ron Ilgen: "It somehow just happened, done deal."

"The OCUSA task force approached the Parks Department and asked for guidance on the process," city spokeswoman Jamie Fabos wrote in an email to The Gazette. "Parks requested a presentation be made to the parks advisory board, which occurred in February."

The presentation was by Janet Suthers, a task force member and the mayor's wife.

The Parks Advisory Board has purview over parks master plans, parks Director Karen Palus said.

"There was no change of use per our current master plan," she said. (She and parks operation manager Kurt Schroeder directed other questions to city communications.)

The city's website describes the parks board's role as meeting monthly to review "matters pertaining to the planning, development, improvement, beautification, equipping and maintenance of the public parks, playgrounds, programs, urban forest, recreation facilities and resources including golf courses and cemeteries."

Interpretation of the Garden's 1994 master plan is "a matter of debate," said Hank Scarangella, an advisory board member and president of Friends of Garden of the Gods.

"I'm not saying the master plan needed to be amended to have this installed," he said. But he did regard the blue frame as a potential infringement on the plan's "design with nature" guidelines. "The rock formations' color and shape should be the main consideration in selecting design elements for all manmade additions to the park," the plan reads.

By contrast, Charles Perkins' family, which deeded the park to the city on Christmas Day 1909 for free public enjoyment, had stipulated that "no building or structure shall be erected" in Garden of the Gods.

The city broke that pact by later erecting buildings, including the Hidden Valley Inn, on park land.

But a public process conducted in the 1993, with more than 400 people attending 51 planning meetings, resulted in all the buildings being removed, as the public's vision matched Perkins'.

"Had this frame remained in place for a year," Scarangella said, "I would've been very concerned about the precedent it set. But I'm not now. If we do anything similar in the future, I'm assuming there would be some lessons learned from this."

People celebrated Monday at the site where the frame had been planted.

"Congratulations to everyone who signed a petition!" shouted Frances Wadkins, a longtime Springs resident.

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