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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 11 November 2019  

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  Proposed nature center narrowed to two sites
  By Pete Gawda

   Interested citizens who gathered at a public meeting Oct. 7 at the Black Forest Fire Station voiced their opinions on two proposed sites for a nature center in northern El Paso County – Black Forest Regional Park and Fox Run Regional Park.
   
   The audience heard Todd Marts of the El Paso County Community Services Department and Jeff Webb of Altitude Land Consultants explain the process of how several proposed sites were narrowed to the two under consideration.
   
   “We need to know where to put it,” Marts said of the proposed nature center. Whichever park is chosen, the preferred location would be in a more secluded area of the park away from most of the traffic, he said.
   
   “Your input is really important to us,” Webb told the audience. He said a nature center can encourage children to spend more time outdoors. He said the objective of his organization is to connect people to their natural and cultural resources and inspire them to become stewards for the environment. He noted that county plans have nature centers as a priority. He said trail loops, regional trail networks and diversity of plants and animals are preferred traits of a nature center. He said that county-owned public land would be preferable over buying private land.
   
   As Webb explained, both sites would work well for a nature center. His organization came up with a rating system by assigning points to each desirable quality. When that scale was applied to the two proposed sites, they both scored close with 45.69 points for Fox Run and 45 points for Black Forest.
   
   Webb said that Black Forest has 382 acres and 14 miles of existing trails. He noted that the fire that destroyed part of the park several years ago is a “blessing and a curse.” Through the coming years, the public could see how an area recovers from a forest fire.
   
   Fox Run is the most visited park in the northern part of the county, Webb said. It consists of 409 acres and has 6.8 miles of existing trails. It is conveniently located near I 25, making it accessible from the north and the south. However, there is not as much wildlife diversity as Black Forest.
   
   When asked about facilities for disabled persons, Webb said that issue will be part of the deciding factors.
   
   After the presentation, which included several photographs of both proposed sites, the audience was divided into small groups and asked to discuss several specific questions dealing with each proposed site; including which site they would prefer. A spokesman for each group reported on the group’s consensus.
   
   Marts said a decision will be made regarding the site at the end of November. Then, plans will be drawn up and presented to the county commission — how to fund the center also will be determined. In addition to county funds, Marts said they will be seeking grants and corporate sponsors. He said the nature center could be completed in late 2022 or early 2023.
  
At the public meeting Oct. 7 at the Black Forest Fire Station, the idea of a nature center for northern El Paso County was the topic; presenters and attendees discussed the pros and cons of two different sites proposed for the center. Photo by Pete Gawda
 
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