by Pam Zubeck
Officials at the Air Force Academy reopened the six-mile stretch of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail running through the base to non-Defense Department ID card-holders June 6.
Col. Troy Dunn, commander of the 10th Air Base Wing, said senior officials understand the importance of the trail to the local communities, but must balance openness with safety and security.
"Only through an outstanding partnership with the County were we able to get here," Dunn said. "The support of El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities is vital to the success of our mission. Together, we can ensure the Academy continues to accomplish its mission while minimizing the impact to our community."
Academy officials closed the trail in May 2015.
"We closed the trail to non-DOD ID card-holders due to security concerns, and it remained closed while El Paso County completed ground maintenance on the trail for public safety and could guarantee the trail was safe for pedestrian and cyclist traffic," Dunn said.
El Paso County is responsible for trail maintenance under an agreement with the Academy. The County completed trail maintenance and plans to make major repairs once it receives confirmation of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, which County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said is expected soon.
"We continue to be thankful that the Air Force Academy allows this critical section of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail to pass through the Academy," Glenn said. "We also have appreciated the patience of trail users as we addressed both safety and security concerns."
Along with the trail maintenance, the County will lead efforts to organize a trail watch group to report suspicious activity or problems on the trail. Interested citizens are encouraged to visit elpasocountyparks.com for more information.
"The citizens who enjoy the trail on a regular basis and who have offered to be additional, consistent, watchful eyes on the trail show this community's commitment to our military partners in fulfilling their mission," said County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.