Hikers, cyclists and equestrians enjoying El Paso County's newly unveiled open space this week, Kane Ranch, won't have to wait long to enjoy another.

Officials on Thursday announced an April 7 ribbon-cutting for Santa Fe Open Space near Palmer Lake, near the county's northern boundaries. Kane Ranch's 3½-mile loop trail recently opened on the county's southeast side near Fountain.

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"I'm very proud that we did it, north to south for the county," Todd Marts, the county's community services executive director, told The Gazette. "We all recognize that we need to have more open space, and it's nice to get it spread out. With that love for parks, we know we need more, and I think both of these are going to be great."

A single-track circuit covering 1.75 miles has been built in Santa Fe Open Space's modest 60 acres. That's compared to Kane Ranch's 495 acres of windswept prairie, deeded to the public by the late proprietor. 

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Santa Fe's aesthetics are much different — like a slice of backcountry, as county park planner Ross Williams previously described it to The Gazette. 

The trail meanders through oak, pine and meadows in the hills just off the New Santa Fe Regional Trail, under the gaze of Ben Lomand Mountain and aptly named Elephant Rock. Palmer Lake's rolling backdrop provides more views, along with Monument's Mount Herman and, to the east, Black Forest's recognizable tree line. 

“On top of that, it’s flooded with sunshine,” Williams said. “It’s south-facing, and it gets so much sunshine. So I think it’s really gonna offer that year-round hiking experience.”

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The county bought the land in 2017 for $340,000, seeing it as a way for New Santa Fe Regional Trail users "to experience a more natural foothills environment in close vicinity to urbanized areas and major trailheads," according to Thursday's news release. 

The purchase did not come with the commanding landmarks, Ben Lomand Mountain and Elephant Rock. Those are outside the open space's limits. 

Asked if there was interest in acquiring them, Marts said: "I think we're always open to it, but we're also very cautious. We want to make sure we're wise about what open space we get and we can manage it."

Kane Ranch and Santa Fe open spaces follow the addition of 1,000-acre Pineries Open Space, which the county opened near Black Forest in 2020. The growth comes as the county's general fund support for parks has hovered around prerecession levels. 

"We have enough staff and resources to manage the spaces we have, but we really need to think through taking any more on," Marts said. "It's just about doing it wisely."

Santa Fe Open Space is reached a half-mile up the regional trail from Palmer Lake Recreation Area in the heart of town. Or one could travel 2½ miles on the trail from the parking lot along Colorado 105, closer to Monument.

The April 7 ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the western entrance near Palmer Lake.

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