Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Blue frame, we hardly knew ye — but, like Argentina, we won’t cry for you. According to Colorado Springs City Communications Director Jamie Fabos, we haven’t seen the last of the big blue rectangle, a marketing ploy erected in the Garden of the Gods overnight, to much consternation from locals.
“While the initial execution was flawed,” Fabos noted in a masterful understatement, “we are excited about the opportunity to eventually relocate the frame to a spot where it can meet its original objectives and become an amenity for both our visitors and our local residents to enjoy.”
We could join the throngs on social media with snarky location suggestions, but instead let’s think about our city’s visitor-oriented mindset.
The 19th-century entrepreneurs who came to the Pikes Peak region looked upon its extraordinary beauty, and had but a single thought: How can I make a buck out of this?
Within a few years, they had given birth to our still-flourishing visitor industry.
A nice little limestone cave near Manitou Springs? Enlarge the entrance, call it the Cave of the Winds, charge admission and watch the money roll in. An overhanging rock ledge of no particular interest? Dismantle some real cave dwellings near Mesa Verde, ship ‘em to Colorado Springs and reconstruct them below the ledge, charge admission and watch the money roll in. A run-of-the-mill waterfall at the head of Cheyenne Cañon? Acquire the land around it, build a rickety staircase to the top, call it Seven Falls, charge admission … OK, enough!
And what about Pikes Peak? Mines, reservoirs, railroads, tunnels, roads, trails, souvenir shops, a ski area, logging, the hill climb, the marathon, the bike race, the Summit House and the doughnuts — hey, we were just trying to build things, have fun, make a buck. Gen. William Palmer founded Colorado Springs on a treeless tract of barren prairie because he sensed that the clear air and spectacular views would draw rich Easterners to his exclusive little “colony” on the east bank of Monument Creek. Thus did our canny founder create our city’s DNA.
As Springs native and longtime business icon Chuck Murphy once said, recalling the days when the city was a placid little town of 50,000 souls, “In those days we sold to the tourists from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and sold to each other for the rest of the year.”
Efforts to boost visitation may sometimes seem crass and tasteless, but so what? Restrained and tasteful doesn’t always pay the bills. And the blue frame was far less intrusive than previous park concessionaire structures, including the 1915 Hidden Inn, a restaurant/curio shop on the west side of north gateway rock and the 1951 Camera Obscura building at the top of Ridge Road. They were torn down in 1998, in conformance with a 1994 park master plan that called for the removal of all man-made structures from the park. I miss them. They were quaint, fun reminders of a different era.
But the world changes. You can’t impose the tastes and traditions of one generation upon the next. It may be that a future master plan will ban cars and parking lots, restoring the Garden to a more nearly pristine state. It also seems possible that the now-derelict Antlers Park might be repurposed as a soccer stadium. And as for the blue frame – well, it wouldn’t have been out of place if one team of 19th century entrepreneurs had been able to realize their dream.
“Around 1895 a group of eastern businessmen organized the Garden and Glen Electric Road with the intention of building a two-mile streetcar line from Colorado City to the Garden of the Gods,” according to Richard Gehling’s Garden of the Gods timeline. “At the Garden terminus they planned a casino, a restaurant, and a magnificent botanical garden to be called the Palm Palace.”
The deal fell apart for lack of investors. Too bad — as a Westside resident, it’d sure be fun to board a streetcar at 31st Street and Colorado Avenue and ride to the casino. So much easier than the drive to Cripple Creek!