This is a developing story.
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Paul Vondergathen loves hiking through the Strawberry Fields area of Cheyenne Canyon.
“I hike here maybe three, four times a week with my dogs,” Vondergathen said.
The 190-acre open space is on the trading blocks. The Colorado Springs city council approved a trade with The Broadmoor Hotel in exchange for other trails and open space. They plan to use it for horse stables and riding trails but say they will still leave some area open to the public.
In exchange, the city would receive 155 acres of land – called Ruxton Canyon – that includes the heart of the Manitou Incline.
Opponents of the transaction say deal violates the whole spirit of the law that made the land a park in the first place.
“That park has been in the family for 131 years and it was voted on by the voters in 1885,” Richard Skorman of the Save Cheyenne group said. “We think the voters should have a chance to vote on whether to sell it or trade or not.”
Skorman has filed a lawsuit to stop the transaction and is trying to collect a little more than 15,000 signatures by January 4th to put the proposal (Protect Our Parkland, or POPS) on the April ballot. But the mayor’s office doesn’t support the measure.
“The city goes through regular land transactions all the time,” Jeff Greene, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff said. “It could be public right-aways, easements or utilities. You’re just basically going to disrupt any kind of activity that will benefit the city or community.”
Skorman goes back to a battle he waged in 1998. The developer wanted to build hundreds of homes where the Stratton Open Space now sits. “We don’t want to set a president where the city sells or trades an area of open space.”
In 1997, the group convinced voters to approve a sales tax to help pay for open space and avoid developments like the 1998 attempt.
Back to Vondergathen, the German native who moved to the area more than four decades ago, said he supports The Broadmoor.
“There are plenty of open spaces I hike all the time,” he said. “I think they have always done good things for the community and trust they will do the right thing.”
The issue may wind up in the hands of the voters. Then, we’ll see where this path leads.
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