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Push grows to reopen Blodgett open space
A group of Colorado Springs hikers, joggers and dog walkers is pressuring the city to reopen the Blodgett Peak Open Space, and it’s easy to see why.
The pine trees are green, and the trails are well-maintained.
The area has been closed since late June when flames from the Waldo Canyon fire roared over the ridge above and threatened this beloved hideaway.
Firefighters saved much of the open space, but the lower trails lead to burned forest, and parks officials say they cannot responsibly open Blodgett to users until spring or summer 2013.
“I totally understand why people want to hike there; there’s a portion of the open space that is unburned and it looks beautiful,” said Kurt Schroeder, manager of park operations and development for the city of Colorado Springs. “But we have miles of beautiful trails in the city; plenty of other options for hiking.”
City crews are working with officials from the adjacent Pike National Forest to monitor the land as it recovers from the devastating fire. Working with other agencies and dozens of volunteers they’ve reseeded the hillside and felled burned trees.
“We’re kind of playing a waiting game now, hoping Mother Nature will bring us some moisture and give those seeds a chance to take root and grow, to help stabilize” the earth, Schroeder said.
Neighbors say they support efforts to rehabilitate the area but do not understand why the untouched section of parkland remains closed.
“It doesn’t make any sense to keep the road to the water tank closed,” said Jerry Hendricks, who said he walked the dirt road five days a week before the fire. “The fire didn’t burn the road.”
Hendricks, fellow hiker John Sawyer and others say they will help raise money to post signs in the open space directing people to stay out of the burn area and will help monitor fellow users.
“It’s a good hike, a good walk, and this open space is funded by the people of Colorado Springs,” Hendricks said. “I know they have to draw a line to protect the area that was burned, I’m just saying they can draw that line at a different place.”
Parks officials say they’re following the best land-use management guidelines they know and will reaccess the land, the vegetation and the trails in spring. A large swath of the Pike National Forest north of U.S. 24, east of Rampart Range Road (but including the southern portion of the road) and south of Mount Herman is closed through winter, at least.
“We don’t know what winter will bring,” Schroeder said. “Rain? Snow? Erosion?
“The last thing we want to do is open the trails and then have to say, ‘sorry’ and shoo people out and close it down again.”
It’s tempting to open the lower trails and ask people to stay off the fragile, burned landscape, said Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and creating local parks, open space and trails.
“I totally sympathize with Jerry (Hendricks) and everyone who is eager to get back into the Blodgett open space, but we know from studying trail user habits what is going to happen. People ignore signs to stay out of rehabilitation areas already.”
Davies said the Trails and Open Space Coalition will work with the city to help rehabilitate the burned area and encourages Blodgett’s regular users to not only help with those efforts but to keep checking in with city parks officials.
“The city is responsible for looking at the big picture, and we support what they’re doing; they’ve done a lot of good work up there already,” she said. “But there’s nothing wrong with keeping a bit of pressure on. We all want the same thing. We want to get back on those trails as soon as it’s OK to do so.”
Schroeder said there will be plenty of volunteer efforts to get people involved in reforesting the hillside.
“Right now, we’re asking people to please be patient and let us see what we can do to get the area open in its entirety.”
The Pikes Peak region has hundreds of miles of trails. Four great sources of information:
• OutThereColorado.com — click on “Trail Finder.”
• trailsandopenspace.org — Trails and Open Space Coalition
• www.springsgov.com — click on “Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services”
• www.elpasoco.com — click on Park Operations
HOW TO HELP
• Sign up to volunteer on a rehabilitation work day: waldofire.org
• Join the Friends of Blodgett Peak Open Space: openspaceâ€¨volunteers.org
• Buy a $15 ReGrowCO reusable water bottle; $3.50 goes to reforest Colorado, $1.50 to support local firefighters: www.regrowco.org