A proposed land acquisition using Colorado Springs' Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) tax money will expand Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and eventually open new trail opportunities for non-motorized users.
The purchase of the 200 acre Watkins property for $980,000 needs only Colorado Springs City Council approval, having passed unanimous muster with the TOPS Working Committee and the Colorado Springs Parks Advisory Board. The parcel, bordering the far southwest corner of the state park, is remote and back country, and not easily accessible according to Chris Lieber, TOPS Program Manager for the Colorado Springs Parks Department.
Though the land will be purchased and owned by the city of Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park staff will be responsible for it's development and management. According to Lieber, similar arrangements have been made with other land parcels purchased by the city and then included into the state parks boundaries. The Watkins family approached Colorado Springs a few years ago and offered to sell the property and negotiations have been on-going ever since, culminating with the current offer.
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Parks Department
The Watkins parcel and surrounding area
Lieber says the 200 acre parcel includes canyons, stone cliffs, steep terrain and lots of wildlife — along with Rock Creek flowing through it. But, as alluring as it sounds, don't plan on visiting it soon. Plans for building a non-motorized, multi-use trail through the area are part of “long range plans” according to Lieber. The Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Trail which is envisioned as a 30-mile loop around Cheyenne Mountain, similar to the Ring the Peak trail around Pikes Peak, will likely be the only trail traversing the parcel. Lieber says the land will eventually become accessible from the still-under-construction Dixon trail that will go to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain when complete.
The segment of Cheyenne Mountain Heritage trail planned for the park will not finish the project, but it will serve to fill a gap in the planned trail, “75% of the Cheyenne Mountain Heritage Trail already exists,” says Lieber, with parts of it utilizing the section of Gold Camp Road that is closed to auto traffic, along with parts of Old Stage Road and North Cheyenne Cañon Park. But more importantly, the land will provide an essential link to the nearby Pike National Forest.
The Watkins land purchase, which is exactly what the TOPS funding is intended for, will eventually make for an exciting new experience for hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians. If you're like me, it'll be hard to remain patient while waiting for it to open, but it promises to be worth the wait.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: email@example.com.