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Rebecca Jewett

Do you believe land is essential to our quality of life?

In this sesquicentennial year, a coalition of eleven outdoor recreation and land conservation nonprofits have launched Elevate the Peak, a community visioning initiative charged with the development of a 10-year implementation plan to guide current and future land conservation and recreation efforts in the Pikes Peak region.

And the initiative wants your two cents.

The goal is to better understand how Coloradans of all ages, backgrounds, and identities use our outdoor spaces to work, play, escape, engage, and connect. Elevate the Peak wants to learn what neighbors love about calling the Pikes Peak Region home, as well as what excites, inspires, and concerns Pikes Peak residents as our region enters a period of unprecedented change.

North Springs is no stranger to the importance of land conservation. Originally part of a 16,000-acre cattle ranch, the Pineries property was owned by the Farrar family since 1958. In 1985, Palmer Land Conservancy worked with the property owner to conserve 1,040 acres of the original ranch. In 2006, the landowners transferred the property to El Paso County, who envisioned eventual public access. In 2020, an 8.5-mile loop trail was opened to the public through diligent efforts by local organizations.

Today at the Pineries Open Space, you’ll find a smooth loop with minimal elevation gain that winds through both meadows and densely wooded areas. Tall, old-growth pine trees provide ample shade and various ponds provide swaths of riparian oases. The trail is great for beginner to intermediate bikers and hikers who watch for wildflowers, a diverse array of birds, and deer throughout.

Because local voices spoke up, Pineries Open Space came to be.

Elevate the Peak is asking the communities of El Paso, Fremont, Park and Teller counties to share input on regional priorities forecast over the next ten years. Community members are invited to participate and connect to the effort by going to Elevatethepeak.org to register and take a short five-minute survey and sign up for updates.

Once a week through September, Elevate the Peak will randomly draw a survey participant to win prizes including rafting trips, fly fishing expeditions and gift cards to Downtown Colorado Springs, local farms and more.

Elevate the Peak is led by an 11-person Leadership Council and will bring together the conservation, outdoor recreation, and the public, private, and philanthropic sectors through a multi-tiered, six-month, engagement initiative. It will include web-based community engagement and a series of geographically targeted conversations to listen and learn from all corners of the community.

The regional Leadership Council represents El Paso, Teller, Park, and Fremont counties and includes Catamount Institute, Gold Belt Byway Association, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, Palmer Land Conservancy, Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Fremont Adventure Recreation and Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates

Now more than ever, as our region experiences unprecedented population growth, we collectively recognize the importance of safeguarding and stewarding the land. Together, with the community’s input, we can create a new vision for the future, prioritizing and aligning projects, earmarking funds, and protecting the region’s crown jewel – our great outdoors.

Rebecca Jewett is president and CEO of Palmer Land Conservancy.

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