Report shows outdoor recreation’s economic worth to Colorado Springs area

0 View Comments Long considered a nice backdrop, the Colorado Springs area's outdoors is now bringing in the green. During its second annual State of the Outdoors event, the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance revealed that locals spend $2.14 billion every year on their activities on trails, open spaces and waters. That's according to the Outdoor Industry Association report that will be released in its entirety next month, showing spending across the nation's congressional districts. The 5th Congressional District, including Colorado Springs, is "an economic powerhouse" for outdoor recreation, said Alex Boian, the association's vice president of government affairs. "Really, one of the strongest outdoor recreation economies in the entire country." Related: Modest in elevation, these 7 summits around Colorado Springs worth the hype In an economy better known for the military, Boian said many might forget the number of servicemen and women, both active and retired, who love the mountains. Local interest in outdoor recreation is likely in line with the 71 percent of Coloradans who participate, the Outdoor Industry Association found, based on an independent firm's survey of 1,100 people. "These numbers tell me A, it's not being paid attention to close enough and B, it's an underutilized resource," Luis Benitez, head of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said after Thursday night's gathering of outfitters and nonprofits in City Auditorium. "With everything that's unique around this region, the numbers are a clear indicator there's more to do." He used the example of the Ring the Peak Trail, designated by Gov. John Hickenlooper two years ago as a high-profile project to finish. The loop around America's Mountain is mired in land disputes, but, Benitez said, maybe advocates can make a stronger push with the economic evidence released Thursday. The Outdoor Industry Association's upcoming district-by-district report will be the most comprehensive yet Continue Reading

Colorado Springs students say, I like “Green Eggs and Ham” on Dr. Seuss day

0 View Comments Whether kids are having trouble getting the hang of reading or are pretty good at it, Dr. Seuss is at their service. "He has rhyming words that are very challenging to your tongue - it's like a tongue twister - but it's easy to read," says 7-year-old Anabelle Fields, a second-grader at Wildflower Elementary School. The popular author would have turned 114 years old on Friday, and schools, libraries, bookstores and literacy centers across the nation are marking his birthday with special events. At Wildflower, a two-time National Blue Ribbon Award winning school in Harrison School District 2, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey was among the guests who read to students as part of the Read Across America Day promotion by the National Education Association. Related: Colorado Springs students put on their astronaut hats for a day The annual reading motivation and awareness program calls for every child to celebrate reading on Dr. Seuss' birthday. The program also supplies resources and activities to make reading a daily activity. Theodor Seuss Geisel, an American political cartoonist, poet, animator, book publisher and artist, was best known for writing and illustrating 44 children's books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. "His books are so playful and fun, which is why he's relevant today," says Pamela Polke, program director for the Children's Literacy Center, which provides free tutoring at 13 sites in the region to students who read below grade level. Among his most popular books are "Green Eggs and Ham," "The Cat in the Hat," "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" His fantasies brought to life such characters as Horton the elephant, Thing One and Thing Two, the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who of Whoville. Polke has a collection of Dr. Seuss books in her office. She likes that the stories weave life lessons into the frivolity. "He uses nonsense words but imparts such wisdom," Polke said. Roman Patik, also a Continue Reading

Colorado Springs leaders get citizen comment on Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement

0 View Gallery  View Comments Many Colorado Springs leaders and elected officials agree that the 30-year-old annexation agreement for the Banning Lewis Ranch property must be changed. What those changes will be, however, remains the subject of some debate. Part of that conversation was held Tuesday night during a town hall at City Hall where concerns were raised about a lack of equity for residents and exacerbating the city's sprawl. At least two City Council members, Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray, said they oppose the proposed changes. The changes aim to reduce financial requirements for developers, constraints often blamed for the property's decades-long stagnation. Doing nothing will inevitably result in more stagnation and development leapfrogging the ranch into places such as Falcon, said Bob Cope, the city's economic development manager. But making the changes will spur development within city limits and allow Colorado Springs to capture tax revenue from that growth. "The fact of the matter is, growth will occur," said Peter Wysocki, head of the city's planning department. "And if it doesn't occur (at the ranch), it will occur east and south and eventually even north in the Black Forest area, and we will still result in sprawl." A new agreement "offered as it is, is better than not making a change at all," said Councilman Dave Geislinger. The council will decide, perhaps as early as February. And it will have multiple opportunities to tweak the changes before then, said council Administrator Eileen Gonzalez. Geislinger said it's too early to say whether or how he might want to change the proposal. But several residents told the council it was bending too easily to the will of developers. They expressed concerns about a possible lack of parks, trails and open space on the property as well as a stress on city services. Lee Milner, a founder of the city's Trails, Open Spaces and Parks program and a longtime open space advocate, questioned why the Continue Reading

Colorado Springs leaders seek feedback tonight on proposed changes to Banning Lewis Ranch plan

0 View Gallery  View Comments Concerns about parks, open space, taxpayer burdens and more will be up for discussion Tuesday night in a town hall meeting on proposed changes to a 30-year-old annexation agreement for Colorado Springs' Banning Lewis Ranch. The changes aim to reduce financial requirements for ranch developers, constraints often blamed for the property's decades-long stagnation. And while a new agreement is meant to spark new development, outdoor enthusiasts, residents and elected officials have raised concerns about possible impacts to the rest of the city. Peter Wysocki and Bob Cope, heads of the city's planning and economic development departments, respectively, alongside city council members, will begin Tuesday's meeting at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., to offer details on the proposed changes and to hear public comments. Related: Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement raises concern about parks, open space The decision of whether to adopt the changes is ultimately up to the council, which is expected to vote on the matter as early as February. The group will have multiple opportunities to tweak the changes before then, said city spokeswoman Eileen Gonzalez. Reached in 1988, the current annexation agreement absorbed the ranch into the city and ensures that future developers would either build whatever new infrastructure the land needed or pay the city in lieu of the work. But because the 24,000-acre ranch - which sits east of Marksheffel Road and stretches from Woodman Road south to Colorado Springs Airport - was so far away from the city's existing infrastructure at the time, Wysocki said the planners who wrote the agreement went above and beyond their normal practices to protect taxpayers from footing the bill for new projects. The agreement "really treated (the ranch) as its own city," Wysocki said during a presentation he gave last week to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. "It was really an Continue Reading

Colorado Springs man removed from sex offender registry in ‘unusual’ case

0 For more than a decade, David felt "like trash" having to register as a sex offender because he had consensual sex with his girlfriend when they were both minors. Now, with the help of a local attorney, those days are behind him. He was officially removed from the registry Jan. 2. "Now I feel like everybody else," David said. The Gazette agreed to use only his first name to protect his identity. David previously shared his struggle as a registered sex offender for a Gazette story about the impact the registry has on offenders. At the time, a U.S. district judge had ruled the Colorado Sex Offender Registration Act unconstitutional. State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is appealing that ruling, arguing that the registry protects the public. David offered his story as proof of how the registry can do more harm than good. He described the struggle he faced finding a place to live, earning a living, falling in love and starting a family because of the label. Friday, he leaned back in a comfy chair at The Gazette, rejoicing in life as a free man. "I cried," David recalled of the moment he was approved for removal. "I was like, (being labeled a sex offender) is not me, you can take that (expletive) away. "I don't have to worry if I want to go see a basketball game now." The moment was two years in the making. That's how long David had been trying to get off the registry. After reading David's plight in The Gazette, local attorney Daniel Kay took his case and quickly found out why: There was no precedent for a case like this. Then 17-year-old David's Missouri relationship with his girlfriend, who turned 14 while they were together, was a misdemeanor sex crime because in that state the age of consent is 17 - no exceptions. But Colorado honors the "Romeo and Juliet" exception, which protects young people from criminal charges in consensual sexual activity with other teens over age 14 but under age 18. Federal law also shows leniency toward sexual relations between two Continue Reading

Opponents of affordable housing project trying to overturn Colorado Springs planners’ OK

0 View Comments The lawyerly list of grievances with The Ridge apartments paints a picture of city officials ignoring building codes, zoning regulations and disabled access laws, potentially putting residents of the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood at risk. To Lee Patke, however, the complaints represent a thinly-veiled attempt at keeping low-income families from moving into his proposed affordable housing complex. "We believe the core issue continues to be the nature of the people who are going to live there," said Patke, executive director of the nonprofit Greccio Housing, a partner in the development. Nearly a year after resistance surfaced to the 60-unit apartment complex, the project remains mired in dispute amid opposition from the surrounding Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood. Related: Habitat project makes a dent in Woodland Park's affordable housing shortage On Thursday, the Broadmoor Bluffs Neighborhood Association is expected to take its fight to the Colorado Springs Planning Commission. The neighborhood group immediately appealed a development plan and final plat for the project, which city planners approved in mid-December. If the Planning Commission doesn't side with the group, its leaders plan to take the fight to City Council - and possibly further. "We'll pursue all of our options," said Dan Martin, the group's chairman and a longtime Broadmoor Bluffs resident. The group has raised $2,800 through a GoFundMe page and more through private donations, though Martin refused to say how much the group has raised or spent. "We've raised enough money to do what we need to do," Martin said. Patke, however, says such maneuvering only delays much-needed housing for low-income families amid a severe affordable housing shortage in the Pikes Peak region. "The neighborhood opposition doesn't want those people in their neighborhood," Patke said. "And that's how they were characterized - 'those people.'" The dispute centers on a project that local nonprofit leaders Continue Reading

Loss of homeless students leads to enrollment decrease in one Colorado Springs-area school district

0 View Comments Manitou Springs School District 14 has recorded the largest drop in student enrollment among the Pikes Peak region's 17 public school districts this academic year - a decline attributed to a change in city policy that restricts the amount of time homeless people can live in motels. Manitou Springs schools have 88 fewer students this school year, for a total of 1,400. That's a 6.29 percent decrease over 2016-2017 and more than 100 students less than in 2011-2012, according to official enrollment numbers released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Education. Assistant Superintendent Tim Miller said district leaders anticipated this year's decline, after the city of Manitou Springs began enforcing a 30-day limit on residential occupancy in city motels, in which up to 65 students have lived in previous years. Related: Monument school district to discuss changing start times Miller also cites as a factor road construction that began last March and will continue through this year on a 1-mile stretch of Manitou Avenue where such motels are located. "This causes major delays every day and has effectively prevented homeless families from living in these motels for any length of time," he said. D-14 also weathered enrollment losses following the Waldo Canyon fire in the summer of 2012 and subsequent flooding of Ute Pass and Manitou Springs in 2013. Click here to see the entire data set from the state Although this year's drop is significant enough to be noted by the state education department in its enrollment compilation of the state's 178 school districts, Miller said D-14's budget will not be significantly impacted due to the allowance for "declining enrollment averaging." Under the state's school finance laws, districts with declining enrollment can base pupil count on an average of up to four prior years' counts, along with the current year, to soften the impact. Classroom headcounts are conducted every October as a calculator in the Continue Reading

Colorado Springs real estate broker gets probation for stealing from tenants, landlords

0 View Gallery  View Comments A disgraced Colorado Springs real estate broker who admitted to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from landlords and tenants was sentenced Monday to probation, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office announced. Holly Jeanette Dalton, 45, was arrested March 10 and pleaded guilty Oct. 2 to theft between $20,000 and $100,000, a felony, court records show. Police said Dalton, owner of local property management and real estate firm Encore Properties LLC, stole the money by withholding rent money and damage deposits to use for her own benefit. She was sentenced to four years of economic crime probation, the DA's Office said. She also was ordered by Judge Theresa Cisneros to submit to a substance abuse evaluation, pay restitution, complete 100 hours of community service, maintain full-time employment and write letters of apology to her victims. Also: Ex-county GOP chairman hit with wrongful death suit in auto-pedestrian crash While on probation, Dalton may not work in the real estate or property management fields, the judge said. In December, El Paso County agreed to a $15,000 payout after Dalton threatened to sue over an alleged assault in a courthouse holding cell. Two sheriff's deputies placed Dalton in a holding cell with a "mentally unstable person" who nearly choked her to death, according to a letter from her attorney that the county received Nov. 3. The alleged assault happened in early May, after Dalton, who was out on bail on the theft charge, was rearrested on suspicion of an additional count of theft between $2,000 and $5,000. Her attorney, Alison Ruttenberg of Boulder, told The Gazette the second charge was due to a clerical error, and records show it was dismissed on May 3. - Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198 Twitter: @lemarie Continue Reading

Discover: Getaways are bountiful in the Colorado Springs area

0 View Gallery  View Comments CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO It's easy to see why the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was recently ranked No. 6 in the Top 25 Zoos in the United States by TripAdvisor - a lot of work has been put into the zoo on the side of a mountain. New in 2015 is the Australia Walkabout, which includes indoor and outdoor budgie viewing and feeding, newly renovated emu habitat, wallaby walkabout, indoor/outdoor alligator exhibit and even a tree kangaroo. In lieu of an expensive safari to Africa, check out the zoo's 10-acre "Encounter Africa" exhibit with elephants, a lion pride, male eastern black rhinoceros and meerkats. It's the biggest addition in the zoo's history, ringing in at $13.5 million. From the skyway, visitors can watch the elephants play in the mud, shower under the 20-foot waterfall and swim in a pool deep enough for the zoo's largest resident, 10,000-pound, 9-foot-5-inch Kimba, an elephant, to submerge. You can watch Jumbe, the rhino, in his training area or the four-member lion pride (including three cubs born June 25) in their own enclosure. Details: 633-9925, NATURE IN THE CITY, DENVER Skyscrapers loom, cars zoom and pedestrians bustle, but that doesn't mean you can't find a quiet spot of nature in the big city of Denver. Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York St., 1-720-865-3501, is home to an exhibit of cattle-scattered panorama paintings by Theodore Waddell through Nov. 8. Works by the Montana native abstract expressionist artist were influenced by time he spend in New York in the 1960s. From Nov. 22 to Feb. 14, there will be a juried botanical illustration exhibit highlighting species from Plant Select, a nonprofit cultivator, distributor and educator of plants designed to thrive in the high plains and intermountain region. The exhibit is free and open to the public but requires an RSVP to [email protected] Even if you miss the exhibits, the gardens are a good place to breathe in some chlorophyll. Continue Reading

Gazette exclusive interview: Colorado Springs double-murder suspect obsessed with his own death

0 View Gallery  Double-murder suspect Glen Law Galloway thinks of death "pretty much every waking moment of my life." "How can I not think about it?" he asked in describing the anxieties of facing a trial where his life hangs in the balance. "How can any sane person not think about it?" Days before what would have been the start of El Paso County's first death-penalty trial in a decade, Galloway invited a Gazette reporter to interview him at the county jail. Speaking into a phone through a video visitation screen, he complained about his prosecutors and judge, emphasized his lack of criminal history and described conditions at the jail as "cruel and unusual punishment." Related: Judge delays ex-Fort Carson soldier's death penalty trial But when it came to discussing the allegations, Galloway drew a line: "Right now, I am not talking about the murder case," he said. Galloway, 45, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond pending a trial scheduled to begin March 5 with two months of jury selection. The Gazette interviewed him Dec. 19, a day before a judge postponed a Jan. 2 trial start. Opening statements aren't expected until May - delayed by an extensive jury selection that will begin with a pool of 1,200 county residents, believed to be the largest in county history. Court administrators have prepared by enlarging a courtroom jury box and spending just under $50,000 on courtroom audio-visual upgrades, a work order showed. Galloway is the first person to face the death penalty in the county since cop-killer Marco Lee, who avoided trial in the December 2006 shooting of Colorado Springs Officer Ken Jordan by pleading guilty to murder in exchange for a life sentence without parole. Galloway - a former Fort Carson helicopter mechanic who then worked for semiconductor manufacturer Atmel Corp. before it as bought by Microchip Technology Inc. - is accused in back-to-back fatal shootings in May 2016. Authorities say he killed a homeless man Continue Reading