The Friends of Cheyenne Cañon first learned of the proposed land swap between the city of Colorado Springs and The Broadmoor hotel on Jan. 14, 2016. Since then, the board of directors has examined all aspects of the proposal’s details, as we know them.

We have viewed the land within North Cheyenne Cañon Park that is involved in the proposal and listened to the comments and concerns of our members, supporters and neighbors. Based on the disparities between the two parcels in the park, the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon Board of Directors opposes this land swap.

The proposal would give The Broadmoor approximately 189 acres that comprise the southeastern portion of North Cheyenne Cañon Park (Strawberry Hill, AKA Strawberry Fields) in return for land at the far southwestern corner of the park. It also includes land that bisects Barr Trail and the Manitou Incline, along with easements for future development of the Chamberlain Trail and some acreage adjacent to El Paso County’s Bear Creek Regional Park.

The inclusion of Strawberry Fields in this all-or-nothing deal is antithetical to preserving and protecting open space for the enjoyment of ALL citizens of Colorado Springs. This beautiful parcel of land is known for its wild, untamed — yet accessible — environment. As a result of a vote of the Colorado Springs citizenry in 1885 it was purchased and since then has been free, accessible and enjoyed by residents of Colorado Springs, visitors from across the U.S. and travelers from around the world.

The 208-acre southwestern parcel that is proposed as a swap for Strawberry Fields is distant, undeveloped and is void of city plans for development for public enjoyment and recreation. There is no equal value in this swap. This is not apples-for-apples.

The maintenance and enhancement planning for Strawberry Fields has languished for 13 years (since 2003) in the North Cheyenne Cañon Park master plan. One of the roles of the many Friends groups throughout the city is to help develop the long-range master plan for a park, trail, facility or open space. The Friends of Cheyenne Cañon have been lobbying for years for an update to take place.

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It is well-known that the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon have a long-standing history of maintaining the formal trails in the park and of partnering with the city to accomplish its master plan as evidenced by our funding of the new Helen Hunt Falls visitor center, the Mount Muscoco trail reroute and our constant, continuing efforts to repair erosion on Mount Cutler and other trails.

With this record for enhancement of the park, the Friends feel confident that — along with our members and supporters and with an updated master plan for Strawberry Fields — we will see this cherished and irreplaceable open space, which is currently and should remain part of North Cheyenne Cañon Park, gets the attention it deserves.

It has been said that The Broadmoor will be a better steward of Strawberry Fields. This is a disappointing commentary about the park department’s current capacity and in part reflects the bigger issue of insufficient levels of funding. If the theme persists that private entities are better stewards of our parks than the city, then we hope one outcome of this public dialogue is that today’s citizens and city council — and future citizens and councils — re-examine funding levels for our parks and open spaces. Parks and open spaces are the signature features which place Colorado Springs nationally on lists of best places to live. Let’s all live up to that.

The vision of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon is to preserve, protect and enhance the North Cheyenne Cañon Park for future generations.

Friends of Cheyenne Cañon is a nonprofit established in 1992 as an advocacy group for North Cheyenne Cañon Park in the southwest part of Colorado Springs. In partnership with the City of Colorado Springs and our stakeholders, our mission is to preserve the natural resources of North Cheyenne Cañon Park. The organization raises funds and sponsors park improvements, enrichment programs, community events and opportunities for citizen and visitor involvement. Christine Beyer is president of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon.