Strawberry Fields? Strawberry Hill? Strawberry Hills? You know that you’re in a nasty political clash when the warring sides can’t even agree on the name of the entity they’re fighting over.

Sorry guys, but you’re all wrong. The 189.5-acre parcel that the city proposes to transfer to The Broadmoor was acquired by the city on Aug. 22, 1885, as part of Cheyenne Cañon Park. Here’s what Colorado Springs Mayor John Robinson wrote in a letter to the future, which was placed in the Century Chest in 1901:

“The parks now owned by the city are ‘Acacia’ Park, South Park in which is now being erected the County Courthouse, the Antlers Park and the Cheyenne Cañon. Dorchester Park is owned but at present not used by the city. The same is true of certain lands lying along the ‘Monument’ Creek … I wish that we owned South Cheyenne, as well as North Cheyenne Cañon. I hope that the former may at an early date be procured by the city.”

Clearly, it should be considered part of North Cheyenne Cañon Park — not a separate parcel of land.

With that settled, let’s move on to the real issues at stake in the land swap deal that has garnered both supporters and opposition from the neighborhoods closest to the city-owned open space.

The question presented by the proposed land swap isn’t whether it’s a good deal or not, but whether it conforms to the shared goals of our community.

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Central Park has long been called the lungs of New York City, a place of refuge from the dirt, noise and clamor of that great metropolis. I lived a block from the park in the early ’70s and can attest to its importance. Weather permitting, I’d run around the reservoir every weekday morning with my big dog before putting on a suit and heading downtown to my Wall Street job.

Life was good, thanks in no small part to the park that generations of New Yorkers had preserved, protected, maintained and improved.

Last Sunday morning, we took our big dog for a walk in Red Rock Canyon open space. By 9 a.m. the parking lots were nearly full, but the trails seemed relaxed and uncrowded.

As we approached the old quarry wall, we were in a silent, meditative place. No city noise, no cars, no worries — just our fellow hikers and us, all recovering from the week and preparing for Monday.

It was a beautiful day and reminded us why the city embraces open space and parks.

Looking at the beauty around us, I thought of John Robinson, his predecessors and his successors. He, like Gen. William Palmer and thousands of others who have served our city, sought to expand our park system — not contract it.

Were it not for dedicated citizens such as Mary Lou Makepeace, Richard Skorman, Don Ellis, Shanti Toll, Randy Case and Lee Milner, we wouldn’t have Red Rock Canyon, Stratton open space, America the Beautiful Park and Blodgett Peak open space.

Supporters and opponents of today’s complex land swap tend to get mired in details — in appraisals, in acreage received and acreage acquired, in trail easements, in future access to Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline, in the language of the conservation easement that may or may not be placed on the exchanged land.

But the issue isn’t how much land the city’s getting or giving.  It’s about preserving the open space and being the best stewards possible. It’s about keeping the values of the city’s residents at the forefront of negotiations — and this city values its open spaces.

The issue also isn’t whether the city officials are capable of wheeling and dealing with the extremely able folks who work for Broadmoor owner Phil Anschutz. Admittedly, it’s probably not their strong suit.

When Colorado Springs voters approved the Trails and Open Space tax in 1997, they did so to protect, enhance and expand the city’s park and open space system. Historic parkland isn’t a municipal Park Place — a Monopoly card to trade, build hotels on or sell. It’s our heritage and our legacy.

Supporters are right when they list the many benefits of the trade, but wrong when they insist that a trade is the only way to realize them.

Can Strawberry Fields be transformed into a visible and accessible part of the park system?

Sure — we just need money for parking, signs and restrooms.

Do we need more open space and trails? Absolutely — especially given the post-fire closure of the Waldo Canyon Trail. It’s easy to understand why city officials, confronted with apparently permanent funding shortfalls, are attracted by a no-cash deal that solves some of the concern around the Incline as well.

But let’s stop demonizing The Broadmoor. Its leaders are acting in good faith, trying to make a fair and equitable deal. Anschutz believes that the swap will benefit both parties — and he may be right.

As for me, maybe I’ll host a séance to summon the spirit of John Robinson … but then again, why bother?

He’s already on the record.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Strawberry Fields is a distinct, placid area in South Cheyenne Canon, even though it and all the acres comprising North Cheyenne Canon were purchased by the City pursuant to a vote of the people in 1885. It is important for every citizen of our fair burg to understand the differences in land characteristics in this vast parkland in southwest Colorado Springs. To suggest that “the swap will benefit both parties” is ludicrous. The only party to benefit will be Phil Anschutz and his heirs. Everyone else who believes city parkland should be protected from commercial exploitation will suffer if this “deal” is consummated.

  2. Plenty of Manhattan and a few Wall Street (even fewer 30 Rockers) credentials in this town, John. Central Park is lovely, but Strawberry Fields is much more special as an open space because it’s wild and natural. No merry-go-rounds just a serene, easily accessible get away. CP lacks the lions, foxes, coyotes, etc. which Strawberry will too if 100 seat weddings with blaring bands get rolling. Had a longer point-by-point written, but I think the only question this raised for me was: “Is Anschutz buying the CSBJ too?” Could give a list of reasons why people are so very disappointed and frustrated — but for anyone who has been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious. Demonizing seems a little dramatic. Questions abound – you bet. A year and 3 months, and we got an outline of 8.5 acres and some vague possibilities. As the wise Will Rogers quipped, “A remark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.”

  3. Starting on the positive:”But the issue isn’t how much land the city’s getting or giving. It’s about preserving the open space and being the best stewards possible. It’s about keeping the values of the city’s residents at the forefront of negotiations — and this city values its open spaces.” Wholeheartedly agree….though sadly this has not occurred in the process.

    Moving to the questionable: “The issue also isn’t whether the city officials are capable of wheeling and dealing with the extremely able folks who work for Broadmoor owner Phil Anschutz. Admittedly, it’s probably not their strong suit.” Seriously, making a statement like this especially in this case where 9 leaders of this city will make a decision based on what the people they serve have passionately, thoroughly, logically and wisely, come together to fight for, our open space. Not the best way to encourage citizens to put faith in our City leadership!

    Finally the ridiculous: “But let’s stop demonizing The Broadmoor. Its leaders are acting in good faith, trying to make a fair and equitable deal. Anschutz believes that the swap will benefit both parties — and he may be right.” Let us remember that our City leaders have admitted to approaching the BroAdmoor to discuss the option to buy the said parcels the BroAdmoor would trade and Mr. Jack Damioli, CEO of the BroAdmoor said” you have to have a willing seller, we’re not”. Demonizing is a strong word to use here when the BroAdmoor is the unwilling seller but eager swapper. It might be said the BroAdmoor is holding random land parcels hostage and trying to negotiate the parcels releases in a swap for the real treasure, the south side of Cheyenne Canon!

    • I completely agree with Lara, but would add a bit more. After enduring yesterday’s final “dog and pony show” by the Broadmoor and City, I think we know what the Emperor is wearing… Just look at some of the “slimy” presentations, and presenters, that the Broadmoor foisted on us. It was shameful, AND NOW, worthy of demonization!

  4. Strawberry is priceless. It’s accessibility alone places it in the rarified company of our ever-dwindling urban/wildland interface. To suggest, even for an instant, that this 189.5 acre piece which will be carved out of the original 1885 purchase will be better off in commercial hands is laughable. Exactly how do you make pristine natural land “better”? According to the Anschutz Wilderness Endeavor, you plant perfectly shaped nursery grown Baby Blue Eyes spruces by the score, you landscape the once-natural land with lawn grass and non-native flowers, you exclude wildlife with fences, you pump water as necessary to improve the appearance of the waterworks and you by all means place a potential or real (not sure) 5-star restaurant at the top of a perfectly paved and maintained roadway. If that’s making nature better, I want no part of it for Strawberry.

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