Fountain Creek Regional Park Plan

(Note: most recent news is at top of page.)

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Many of you have likely either received an email from Ross Williams at El Paso County, or have seen Steve Getty’s recent letter. We’ve been informed that, due to an overwhelming response, the proposal for a dog park in Area 2 has been rescinded. The dog park is now slated to be temporarily placed in the Duckwood area. Aiken Audubon took a position against a dog park in any riparian habitat within the park, and that has been accomplished. Well done, all!

On another note, management of the riparian area will no longer be handled by county maintenance workers, but by “natural resource specialists” (most like the county’s environmental services dept.) This will hopefully be of significant benefit in keeping cottonwoods and the understory intact.

That said, there are still some areas of concern. Overall, a great deal of development is proposed in the park, including a creekside beach in Area 6, and a possible re-routing of Fountain Creek through essential riparian habitat in Area 7 (south end of the park). Both would disrupt wildlife and further erode some of the remote areas of the park.

Therefore, I’m asking you to consider attending the EPC County Park Board meeting to voice any concerns you may have. It will be held this Weds, June 8th, at 1:30 in the Centennial Hall Hearing Room (200 S Cascade – next to the Pikes Peak Center).

The latest draft of the master plan was due to be on the EPC Park Planning website by June 3rd, but I haven’t been able to access it.

http://adm.elpasoco.com/CommunityServices/planning/Pages/FountainCreekRegionalParkPlanning.aspx

Thank you, one and all, for your efforts in keeping the dog park out of Area 2. I am most appreciative!

UPDATE:

The deadline for providing citizen input has passed, but the decisions have not yet been made. Continue to monitor the situation and the city’s website, and attend any meetings as they come up.

http://adm.elpasoco.com/CommunityServices/planning/Pages/default.aspx or http://adm.elpasoco.com/CommunityServices/planning/Pages

UPDATE:

Hello, Christmas Bird Counters,

El Paso County Parks has proposed to develop a number of the natural areas within Fountain Creek Regional Park (FCRP). A public meeting on April 28, 2016 presented the plans, which include: dog park in sensitive riparian habitat, singletrack mountain biking trails, disc golf course, amphitheater, new athletic field, playgrounds, a creekside “beach” recreation area in an isolated riparian grove, new parking lots, creek realignment through Area 7 (Hansen Natural Area), and additional “forest management” areas. A number of these development plans will adversely affect important bird and wildlife habitat.

This email is to request that you send quickly to park personnel your impressions and comments regarding the proposed development plan. We need a substantial response, as they don’t seem to appreciate the importance of undisturbed habitat, both canopy and understory, in a major riparian corridor. The development plan is available at http://adm.elpasoco.com/CommunityServices/planning/Pages/default.aspx or at http://adm.elpasoco.com/CommunityServices/planning/Pages/FountainCreekRegionalParkPlanning.aspx. Figure 36 on page 42 shows the scale of proposed development.

The window to respond is narrow before the County Park Commissioners will review the proposed development plan. The deadline for public comments is MAY 19, but we need momentum before then so that they aren’t thinking that they have a green light. We offer some ideas to highlight below, in your words. In particular, we focus on two specific developments that we think will most significantly compromise habitat for bird residents and migrants.

Summary of key points:

  • Proposed location for dog park would damage sensitive primary habitat and fragment the corridor
  • Other proposed management areas are primary cottonwood groves that don’t need management.
  • “Management” invariably disturbs important understory elements of riparian corridor

First, a dog park is planned for the forested area known as “Mile Marker 18” or “Area 2,” abutting “The Spa.” The dog park will cover the habitat between the creek and the adjacent private land to the east, extending from the Willow Springs Ponds south to the Mile 18 marker (6 acres). This area hosts some of the richest bird life in the regional park, especially during migration. It is also a region where species seek refuge and nest away from the regional trail. A dog park, with a network of trails, tree removal, understory and grass degradation (e.g., see Bear Creek dog park), bathrooms, and expanded parking would severely compromise the quality of habitat. We think that this is a priority. We are not against a dog park, but it should not be in this valuable habitat and in the floodplain. They can re-organize proposed uses outside of the floodplain, or acquire land adjacent to the park that is already compromised.

Second, the development plan targets several primary riparian tree clusters for “forest management.” The park planners indicated that this involves the removal of dead cottonwoods, which are a major resource for nesting birds and other wildlife. For example, cottonwood groves such as the proposed “creekside recreation area” (“Area 6”) currently are relatively undisturbed, remote, primary cottonwood groves. Such management invariably damages understory. Similarly, a proposed realignment of the entire creek would transect Area 7, at the south end of the regional park.

Amazingly, none of the $1.65 million planned for park development has been allotted toward restoring or reclaiming wildlife habitat, or for controlling invasive species.

We ask that you write an email to share the importance of maintaining Fountain Creek’s riparian corridor (canopy and understory) and avoiding development in sensitive areas. We hope that an overwhelming response from the birding community will be hard for the county planners to ignore. Describe what the park means to you, how often you visit, where you live, and how far you travel to visit. If you would like to highlight some of your experiences or bird sightings in the park, that’s great, too! In particular, a priority is not turning key parts of Area 2 into a dog park, and further fragmenting the riparian corridor.

At your soonest convenience, please send your comments to Mr. Ross Williams, Park Planner, at RossWilliams@elpasoco.com. It is good to be as specific as you can, if even in a short message.

Also, please also forward to us the email you send to Mr. Williams so that we can record the scale of response from the birding community. And feel free to contact us with any questions.

Tyler Stuart
Steve Getty

Colorado Springs, CO
FCRP Bird Count Leaders

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

El Paso County Parks is asking for the public’s input in developing the master plan for Fountain Creek Regional Park for the entire 460-acre area, including Willow Springs Ponds, active use areas, and the Hanson Trailhead area. Citizens are encouraged to participate in a community-wide survey regarding Fountain Creek Regional Park. The survey questions address favorite features of the park, satisfaction with existing facilities and maintenance, and what additional improvements or activities the community would suggest.

Results from the survey will assist El Paso County in managing this County property, determining existing and future needs, and developing plans for improvements, upgrades and additions to Fountain Creek Regional Park.

Please Take the Survey Here:
http://www.peaksurveys.com/ncprojects/fountaincreek/Content/fountaincreek_1.htm

After the completion and analysis of the survey in late January 2016, citizens will be invited to participate in the first of two public meetings, both to take place at Fountain Creek Nature Center (dates and times to be announced). The January meeting will present the results of the online survey and information about the park, and ask for further input from the public. The second public meeting, scheduled for March 2016, will present the findings of all public and stakeholder input, as well as alternatives for the Master Plan and proposed future improvements for Fountain Creek Regional Park. The master plan is scheduled to be completed in June 2016, with the first improvements to follow soon thereafter.

A link to the survey can be also found on the Planning Division of the Community Services Department website along with other project information at: El Paso County Park Planning.

For more information contact Ross Williams, El Paso County Community Services Department Park Planner at 719-520-6984, or via email at rosswilliams@elpasoco.com.

 

 

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