The new year comes with good news for El Paso County outdoor lovers.

“I think by the end of 2021, we’re gonna have a couple of new open spaces,” said Ross Williams, the county parks officer who has been overseeing plans for Kane Ranch and Santa Fe open spaces.

Kane Ranch, he said, could open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians in the spring. The 440 acres of prairie east of Fountain beside Squirrel Creek Road has been in the public trust since 2003, when the land was willed to the county by the former owner.

A 4-mile loop trail has been under construction in recent weeks, Williams said. It’s being called the Lariat Trail, a nod to the property’s ranching legacy.

“Primarily the focus at Kane Ranch Open Space is for horseback riding,” Williams said. “I would be tickled pink if guys on mountain bikes found it’s actually a really fun place to ride, but the primary focus has always been on the more equestrian side.”

Views of Pikes Peak and Rampart Range rolling south to north dominate at Kane Ranch. On a clear day, one looks far south to the Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The vista is similarly the calling card at Santa Fe Open Space.

“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.”

Acquired by the county in 2017, the 65-acre tract was formerly known by a curiously shaped outcrop seen above the oak-covered hillsides: Elephant Rock. But since that landmark is not accessed from the open space, planners decided on a name recognizing the adjacent, historic railway.

The open space is reached along Santa Fe Trail — about a half-mile from the shores of Palmer Lake and about 2 miles from the Santa Fe trailhead along Colorado 105 in Monument.

The preserve’s relatively small size will mean limited trail mileage. But the plan is a stacked, multi-use loop system of singletrack offering “a backcountry feel,” Williams said.

Fences will block the way to Elephant Rock and the privately owned Ben Lomand Mountain.

“For the time being, Ben Lomand is a backdrop, but that doesn’t mean we’re (not) always keeping an eye on it,” Williams said. “Our goal is always to increase our open spaces, to create buffers around them.”

Contact the writer: seth.boster@gazette.com

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