El Paso County appears ready to ride to the rescue of the Pioneers Museum, but the City of Colorado Springs views the offer as “pie in the sky.”

The city has said that the museum might have to be closed because of continuing budget shortfalls.

Jim Bensberg, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, said senior county officials have had informal talks about the county taking over the museum with City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft, but, “They’ve not acknowledged or responded to our offer.”

City spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg was dismissive about any proposal from the county.

“That’s one of about three dozen options, including proposals to relocate the convention and visitors bureau in the museum,” she said. “It’s not being taken seriously by the city – it’s a pie in the sky option. To say that it’s something that we’re seriously investigating would be way overstated.”

However, Vice Mayor Larry Small said that he welcomes the county’s interest.

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“I’d like to see us do that,” he said, “I think it’s pretty positive.  We’ve been encouraging joint ventures with the county, and I’m eager to learn more.”
Museum director Matt Mayberry also was supportive.

“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Mayberry said, “I’m intrigued by the idea.  Our first priority is to figure out how to preserve the collection and get back to being a viable institution.”

Commissioner Sallie Clark said that the museum is a vital community asset.

“Right now, the museum is closed so much that it’s not really open to the public,” she said. “It’s a benefit to the county, not just the city.  It’s our history – it’s too important to lose.”

The building, formerly the El Paso County Courthouse, was transferred to the city by the county to serve as the home of the Pioneers Museum during the 1970s.  Prior to the transfer, the county had considered tearing down the iconic structure and replacing it with a new courthouse.

Residents, led by retired Army Gen. Ken Curtis, persuaded the county to abandon the plan.

Noting its history, Clark said that she would want some assurance of protection for the building if the county took it back.

“I wouldn’t want there ever to be discussions about tearing it down,” she said.

Neither Culbreth-Graft nor County Administrator Jeff Greene could be reached for comment this morning.


  1. “Encouraging joint ventures ….” Here’s a novel idea how about a Metropolitan Form of government like Mecklenburg County/Charlotte, NC.

    Re-write the City Charter and have ALL Tax revenues flow into a single coffer for distribution/services. It would be more Cost Efficient to combine:
    * City/County Public Safety – Law Enforcement
    * City/County Road Crews
    * City/County Parks
    * City/County Administration

    Oh that would mean abolishment of City Council – what a loss! Commissioners with real power & a sense of duty – sorry Amy that leaves you out – would do a better job.

    Sorry Penny …. that’s the solution to years of mismanagement. Too simple … but don’t complain … make a change!

  2. I agree with Commissioner Clark that the Pioneer’s Museum is, “a vital community asset”. It’s representative of our entire region. I commend the the BOCC, city council and staff for their headship with regard to this. This historic landmark could be the catalyst for a model of intergovernmental cooperation.

    While many don’t realize it, discussions have progressed regarding joint services between the city and county since Mr. Greene and Ms. Culbreth-Graft took their relative positions. Now, the nay-sayers will respond that talk isn’t action – but the path to action takes planning and that journey begins with first steps.

    Citizen groups have considered the concept of the city and county of Colorado Springs and there is general agreement that this isn’t likely. However these same groups have insisted on broader and deeper collaboration and encourage the unification of services, assets and infrastructure where feasible and viable.

    That said, El Paso County also continues to face budget challenges so I’m not convinced that shifting ownership from one government budget to another is the answer. Something that comes to mind, however, is the recent discussion of regional parks – joint ventures between the city and county that benefit the entire community. We could categorize the museum as regional parkland and share ownership and responsibility. And… we could STILL house the CVB there as well – seems like a logical place to draw visitors to.

  3. During this time of revenue short-fall, I think it’s an idea looking into. It is positive in this matter for the City and County to work together.

    George James
    Former Colorado Springs City Councilman

  4. Of course they are dismissive…it’s not their idea so it’s not in their control. The Museum is like the City’s toy that they want to put up on the shelf and not play with anymore. But if anyone else wants to play with it…whoa, watch it, mister.

  5. What a snotty, haughty city spokesperson. I’m going to look up her salary in the Gazette — she makes too much for sure.

  6. I’m grateful for Sallie Clark and others who know and appreciate the history of our town to keep the Pioneer Museum an icon for those seeking history and not office space. The Pioneer Museum is an asset to our children and to many memories for those who have made Colorado Springs their home. The Pioneer Museum has documentation on display that helps the visitors know what our town is all about. Can’t our City Council look somewhere else to get funding instead of seeking out the history of our town to destroy and buidl fancier new buildings. We are not a Denver nor are we built to be like California or New York. We are a tourist town and people come here to enjoy history and our beautiful mountains and our children come back and bring their children here. I think it is terrible that the City thinks they can hit our history to make progress successful with new developments and renovations that strip our heritage. I think this decision should be on a vote that the citizens of Colorado Springs have the right to make a stand in what should be destroyed or renovated by scraping our history as a town.

  7. I persoanlly welcome the discussion with the BoCC to look at ways both the city and county can contribute to the operation of our community’s Pioneers Museum. This is a regional asset and its viability belongs to the entire community, not just Colorado Springs residents. I think this is a great step toward more city-county cooperation and it should be looked at!

    Bernie Herpin
    Colorado Springs City Council

  8. Please consider re-opening our public restrooms in our city parks. I have seen tourists being toured without a place of relief. Vistors from all around America and other countries are one of our greatest sources of revenue…not only this…I believe we should provide relief for our residents, the elderly, our young and anyone in-between.

    The essentials must be in place to preserve the integrity of what Coloradans know how to do best, “pull ourselves up by their bootstraps” and “make things work’. The beauty of keeping Colorado Springs, recreational parks, discovery trails and essential visitor centers open are not luxuries, but venues of learning, healing and spiritual renewal.

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