The complex, multilayered land swap between The Broadmoor and the city of Colorado Springs has its passionate proponents — and equally passionate opponents.
The proposal: The city transfers 189 acres of park land in North Cheyenne Cañon Park to The Broadmoor hotel, subject to multiple conditions. The Broadmoor will build riding stables and a group picnic area on roughly 9 acres of the property, leaving the rest in a natural state, protected by a conservation easement. The city will also transfer .55 acres located near the Cog Railway depot in Manitou Springs to The Broadmoor.
In return, The Broadmoor will transfer to the city 155 acres at the top of Ruxton Canyon including segments of the Incline and Barr Trail, nine acres adjacent to Bear Creek Regional Park on 21st Street, three trail easements near Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and 208 acres along the southwest boundary of Cheyenne Cañon Park.
Supporters argue these points:
Enhances the land stewardship and conservation of the South Cañon area. The Broadmoor has committed to additional and ongoing fire mitigation, property cleanup (removal of trash, debris and spray paint), and increased stewardship of the property. Additionally, within 10 to 12 months, a permanent conservation easement will be placed on about 180 acres of the189-acre Strawberry Fields parcel.
“Among other benefits of this public-private partnership to the city, the proposed land exchange will secure public access to the Manitou Incline and Barr Trail for years to come. Further, for those who are concerned about the disposition of the ‘Strawberry Fields’ property, a deed restriction and conservation easement will be in place to limit and restrict use of the property, protect conservation values, secure public access and ensure its continued use as open space.”
– Jeff Greene, Chief of Staff, Colorado Springs
Secures public access and public ownership of Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline. The Manitou Incline currently traverses hotel property. The city of Colorado Springs currently holds an agreement with The Broadmoor that permits public access for the Manitou Incline; however, city ownership of the tract would secure its future, result in management and operational efficiencies, and public ownership of all the Manitou Incline.
Provides for a future North Access Trail to the Incline. The Manitou Incline Management Plan identifies the need for an additional access trail on the north side of the Incline to alleviate heavy trail use on Barr Trail. Transferring the land from The Broadmoor provides a public-owned corridor for the connection.
Secures public ownership for the Daniels Pass Trail and the western end of Muscoco Trail to Gold Camp Road. The western end of the historic Daniels Pass Trail and western end of the Muscoco Trail currently traverse hotel property. The trade secures public ownership of these important trails and provides a key trail link to Gold Camp Road.
Secures public ownership of the Mount Muscoco Overlook. The popular overlook, located just south of the summit of Mount Muscoco, currently is located on [Broadmoor property. This tract will guarantee public access to the hiking destination.
Preserves property as public open space and extension of North Cheyenne Cañon Park. Transferring the land expands public open space along the Gold Camp Road corridor, enhances connections between existing city-owned park land and Pike National Forest and provides opportunities for future public recreation opportunities.
Protects open space and the mountain backdrop. Additional mountain property will preserve and protect these resources for future generations.
Secures trail easements for future development of Chamberlain Trail and Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Trail. These easements (across Broadmoor property near Cheyenne Mountain Zoo) support key segments of Chamberlain Trail, providing a back-country trail along the foothills, ultimately connecting Cheyenne Mountain State Park, North Cheyenne Cañon, Stratton Open Space, Bear Creek Regional Park, Red Rock Canyon Open Space and Garden of the Gods Park.
It’s an intrinsically good deal. Because The Broadmoor has a strategic need, the city ends up with more land worth more money.
Here’s how the opponents see it:
It’s basically flawed. Because the land to be exchanged by the city was acquired by a vote of the people in 1885, any sale or transfer should also be subject to voter approval. The city might not be legally required to put it to a vote, but it is ethically obliged to do so, especially for a parcel that has been part of the park system for 131 years. Putting the measure on the April 2017 city ballot would be appropriate and basically cost-free.
“It’s a bad public policy precedent to trade open space that’s been a part of Cheyenne Cañon Park for 130 years when the Broadmoor has presented no specific plans for public access, promised improvements or what impacts the 100-seat retreat/events center/horseback-riding facility will have on the property.”
– Richard Skorman, former city councillor
Slow down. What’s the hurry? Council shouldn’t rush the process. There are many unanswered questions and transaction details that have yet to be resolved.
The city might be acquiring liabilities, not assets. According to reports in the Colorado Springs Independent, some of the land is in the landslide area. The mountain backdrop parcels are steep, relatively inaccessible and vulnerable to wildfires and erosion.
Why give away the property adjacent to Bear Creek Park? It’s not on any park master plan and it’s zoned for residential development. Complaints from Skyway residents apparently forced The Broadmoor to back away from building stables there, but why hand it over to El Paso County and leave at least $1 million on the table?
The Strawberry Fields meadow that The Broadmoor will develop should be treasured and preserved, not developed. It’s accessible, calm and peaceful, a small wilderness within the city. It’s absolutely not a trash-filled, graffiti-marred vacant lot, as proponents have claimed.
The deal will strain the resources of the Parks Department. The parks budget is the first to be cut and the last to be restored. The actual and potential costs of the swap are certainly higher than the status quo. It makes sense to resolve the department’s structural funding problems before doing the swap, not after.
The development of the interior of the land will change the character of the land conserved around it. Strawberry Fields supports a thriving wildlife community that might be harmed by development.
Why transfer the land at all? If all the hotel wants is picnics and pony rides, then why not consider other options such as leasing the land?