Opinion: Colorado Springs continues Palmer’s vision

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Some days, we can’t help but to wake up on the wrong side of the bed and see nothing but cloudy skies.

I’m guessing that’s what might have happened to John Hazlehurst the day he composed  the “Trading our hometown for tourism bucks” piece. John’s lovely wife, Karen, is the proud owner of a free, regional, tourism-focused publication that caters to our tourism audience. Which made me think, Karen would never pen such an anti-tourism article.

Local historian Matt Mayberry consistently points out that General Palmer’s vision in created our charming city, was to be the preeminent destination of the West.

Colorado Springs was built, grown and flourished on wellness tourism and was designed to be a resort town from its very start. The Antlers Hotel and The Broadmoor have been economic icons of Colorado Springs for more than 100 years and were built solely to entice visitors to come from near and far to spend their tourist dollars and go home.

We continue to always welcome travelers to return, and they often do, in some cases even deciding to call Colorado Springs home. One could argue that our destination’s charm wouldn’t exist without a tourism investment from the very start. One small example, Palmer planted thousands of trees throughout the city to help portray an inviting vision to travelers, that I’m sure residents appreciated and enjoyed as well.

I was concerned John may have been enjoying too many of our area breweries or craft distilleries when he wrote about not wanting to open our parks to visitors.

Part of the promise of Garden of the Gods Park was that it would be free and open for all to enjoy, not just for those with a Colorado Springs zip code. The last time we faced an economic downturn in 2009, where tourism was off substantially due in part to less sales tax collections, we had to voluntarily mow our own intersections, sell our police helicopter, stop watering parks and shut off street lights.

It is easy to cite several initiatives that residents benefit from that were based on enticing our visiting audience such as Great Wolf Lodge, the rebuilt Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, and rebuilt Broadmoor Seven Falls. The new Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame will be a special attraction for both residents and visitors to enjoy. We should be thankful for so many attractions, restaurants and hotels that thrive in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region due to visitors that we invite, as well as our own visiting friends and family. They are temporary taxpayers!

I will agree with John that we are at an inflection point. Therefore, we have undertaken a 10-year destination master planning process to effectively plan for both residents and visitors.

Sorry John, but we have passed the point of managing the city for only residents. We’re all in for advancing our destination, together. Here is to The Broadmoor’s 100-year anniversary —and to many more.

Doug Price is the CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.