The city’s park land is one of its most treasured assets. What other city cultivates so much open space, so many parks that aren’t just fresh-cut grass and soccer fields — but actually preserve alpine meadows, mountain mesas and canyons?
Those cities are hard to find — and the voters of Colorado Springs have given every indication that they appreciate and support open space inside city limits.
Hence the great concern over the land exchange with The Broadmoor hotel. One city councilor says his mail runs 40-to-1 against swapping park space known as Strawberry Fields for other land The Broadmoor owns in Manitou Springs, the Springs and El Paso County.
It seems Mayor John Suthers — who called every member of the Parks Advisory Board to encourage their approval of the deal — really believes it’s a good idea. But he hasn’t really said publicly why he thinks it’s good for the city.
The land the city owns has been appraised at $1.4 million. That’s all we know. No one has been permitted to see the appraisals — where that number came from — not even the people who sit on the Colorado Springs City Council. Requests under the Colorado Open Records Act have gone unanswered, as have demands by councilors for more information.
If it’s such a good idea — why isn’t it more transparent?
Why are city leaders intent on this exchange with The Broadmoor? It seems like such a small thing to expend so much political capital and residents’ good will to push it through.
Is it a good deal for the residents of Colorado Springs? People around the city — and the majority of those who live near Strawberry Fields — think it isn’t. They say it sets a bad precedent: Once the city gives up land, it can’t get it back.
Proponents say The Broadmoor will be good stewards of the land, that they’ll use just a tiny portion for riding stables and a picnic pavilion and that the public will always have access to the rest of the land.
Still, if it’s such a good idea — why isn’t it more transparent? Why are questions going unanswered and why is city staff dodging questions from city councilors?
It’s clear that The Broadmoor needs land to continue its ambitious plans to expand its offerings and create an upscale mountain experience for its guests. But it doesn’t seem like a fair exchange — some of the land the city will receive is inaccessible. The land near Bear Creek Park will actually be transferred to El Paso County.
The Broadmoor is one of Colorado Springs’ most high-profile assets. It brings in hundreds of tourists and business travelers, as well as thousands more for conventions and business meetings. Assisting The Broadmoor in its continued success benefits the city as a whole.
It’s not an easy decision.
Perhaps the solution is to delay the proposal — for longer than two weeks — and put it on the ballot during the next municipal election. Allow the people of Colorado Springs, the ones who provided the money to purchase the land in the first place, to decide whether they want to exchange property with The Broadmoor.
A vote ends the rancor between residents and city leadership, allows the conversation to continue in a more open, transparent manner and lets people know their voices are being heard by city council and the mayor’s office.
So in April 2017, residents in Colorado Springs should have the opportunity to do what democracy is all about — decide whether the land exchange is in their best interest.