Years ago I had the opportunity to be part of a visioning process facilitated by none other than Pamela Shockley-Zalabak. The former UCCS Chancellor masterfully guided our small group of women to focus on what was great about our community. I was personally delighted when local parks, trails and open spaces made the short list. Then she challenged us to tackle what wasn’t great and make it better.
I would place Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP) near the top of that short list of popular and successful local parks. The CMSP campground fills to capacity regularly during the summer and shoulder seasons. The park brings in more revenue than it spends and actually supports other state parks around the state that are not running in the black. Some people may avoid the park because it requires either a daily or annual fee to enter, but it’s hard to argue with the “pay to play” model when it works.
Park plans for 2019 include building a few cabins perhaps as early as Memorial Day for park visitors who don’t wish to rough it in tents or recreation vehicles. In addition, there are plans to add additional campsites. The park is attracting visitors from throughout the country and could probably double the amount of camping if the terrain would support it. Now that the Dixon Trail is complete, Park Manager Mitch Martin is ready to begin planning a new stretch of trail for the top of the mountain that will provide great views of the city and surrounding peaks.
The Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, under the leadership of Pat Cooper, deserve considerable credit for the park’s ongoing success. They fundraise for special projects, build trails and help keep the park healthy. Friends’ group volunteers have the opportunity to receive free sawyer training if they are willing to commit hours and slash brush to improve forest health. The popular program has been around for nearly five years without a mishap.
Like most friends groups in our region, this one could use some additional help. New volunteers for 2019 projects plus a few new board members would keep this park on a course for ongoing success. The Friends group thanks its volunteers by throwing a party each fall with prizes and even jackets for those who spend the most hours giving back to the park. Friends will tell you, they do what they do for the camaraderie and shared love for the park.
As we enter the holiday season, take time to celebrate our regional successes and thank those who freely give their time to make our public spaces safe for all of us.
Susan Davies is executive director of the 30-year-old Trails and Open Space Coalition. Send any questions and comments to email@example.com.