Opinions on land protection, outdoor recreation wanted | Guest column | The grandstand

Do you think that land is essential for our quality of life?

In this anniversary year, a coalition of eleven non-profit nature conservation and landscape protection organizations launched Elevate the Peak region.

And the initiative wants your two cents.

The aim is to better understand how coloraders of all ages, origins and identities use our outdoor spaces for work, play, escape, engagement and networking. Elevate the Peak is keen to learn what neighbors love about calling the Pikes Peak Region home, and what inspires, inspires and preoccupies Pikes Peak residents as our region enters a time of unprecedented change.

North Springs is no stranger to the importance of land conservation. Originally part of a 16,000 acre cattle ranch, the Pineries property has been owned by the Farrar family since 1958. In 1985, Palmer Land Conservancy worked with the landowner to preserve 1,040 acres of the original ranch. In 2006 the landowners transferred the property to the El Paso district, which envisaged possible public access. In 2020, through the diligent efforts of local organizations, an 8.5 mile loop trail was opened to the public.

Today, at the Pineries Open Space, you will find a gentle loop with a minimal difference in height that meanders through both meadows and densely wooded areas. Tall, old pines provide sufficient shade and various ponds offer wide oases on the banks. The trail is great for beginners to advanced hikers and hikers looking for wildflowers, a variety of birds, and deer.

Because local voices had their say, Pineries Open Space was created.

Elevate the Peak encourages communities in El Paso, Fremont, Park, and Teller counties to share contributions on the regional priorities that are forecast for the next decade. Community members are invited to participate and join the effort by registering on Elevatethepeak.org and taking a short five-minute survey and signing up for updates.

Once a week through September, Elevate the Peak will randomly draw a survey participant to win prizes including rafting tours, fly fishing expeditions, and gift cards to downtown Colorado Springs, local farms, and more.

Led by an 11-person leadership council, Elevate the Peak will bring together conservation, outdoor recreation, and the public, private and philanthropic sectors through a multi-tiered, six-month engagement initiative. It will include web-based community engagement and a series of geographic conversations to listen and learn from every corner of the community.

The regional leadership council represents El Paso, Teller, Park and Fremont counties and includes the Catamount Institute, the Gold Belt Byway Association, the Trails and Open Space Coalition, the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Palmer Land Conservancy, the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Fremont Adventure Recreation and Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates

More than ever, as our region is experiencing unprecedented population growth, we collectively recognize the importance of protecting and governing the country. Together with the contribution of the community, we can create a new vision for the future, prioritize and align projects, earmarked funds and protect the crown jewel of the region – our nature.

Rebecca Jewett is President and CEO of Palmer Land Conservancy.

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