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Hurry up and wait: Future of Jimmy Camp on hold

An article in the May issue of the NFH examined the history of the Jimmy Camp Creek area. This follow-up article discusses the future of Jimmy Camp, which lies east of the intersection of Highway 24 and Constitution Ave. and north of Highway 94.The future of the Jimmy Camp area depends on the two main stakeholders: Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc., the Calif.-based development company that owns a large part of the land; and Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), which is planning the controversial Southern Delivery System (SCS) to supply water to the city and outlying areas. The SDS would deliver water from the Arkansas River near Pueblo to a proposed reservoir at Jimmy Camp. The project grew out of the 1996 Water Resource Plan, a study of water delivery options for Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.SDS would consist of a 43-mile long, 66-inch diameter pipeline, two new pump stations along the route of the pipeline and a water treatment plant and reservoir at Jimmy Camp Creek. The system would increase the city’s available water supply by 50 percent in an attempt to satisfy the water needs of rapidly growing Colorado Springs, including the proposed 50,000 new homes in the Falcon area. CSU was required by federal law to consider numerous options for the project, but they consider the SDS their best option from a technical standpoint. The project is now going through environmental review by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is expected to present its findings in the spring of 2006.The proposed Jimmy Camp Creek Reservoir would cover 30,500 acre-feet (about 10,000 acre-feet smaller than Rampart Range Reservoir) with a surface area of 600 acres of water. The area surrounding the proposed reservoir would become a city park, managed by the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department. “Currently, all of the recreational access has not been fully identified,” said Bob Robler, CSU’s SDS project manager. But both CSU and the parks department anticipate offering fishing and boating (probably non-motorized) and picnic areas.One of CSU’s challenges will be negotiating with Capital Pacific to buy land for the reservoir. “We anticipate that there will be difficult negotiations at best,” said Steve Berry of CSU’s public affairs division. And then there’s the public outcry, with the loudest protests coming from Bill Rawlings, publisher of the Pueblo Chieftain, who accuses CSU and the city of Colorado Springs of trying to dry up the Arkansas River and grab water from its southern neighbors. CSU has accused Rawlings of spreading misinformation and violating journalistic ethics.”There are some major and critical benefits of the SDS to the entire customer base,” said Berry. “It’s a project that uses water rights that were purchased back in the 1980s. Those investments were made by existing or previous customers [of CSU]. This project maximizes the efficiency of delivering water rights to the community.”CSU anticipates that the pipeline will be completed by 2010-2011. The design for the reservoir should be finished by 2012, and it is expected to take three to seven years to fill it to its capacity. “In reality, it probably won’t be a functional recreational site until about 2017,” said Robler.While sparks fly over the SDS pipeline project and growth continues to threaten more and more of the eastern plains, the Jimmy Camp area lies quietly to the east of current development, protected by rocky cliffs and pine trees. It is not only a grazing area for the few remaining Herefords that were part of the huge Banning-Lewis herds.Every other summer, archaeology students from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs come to the area to learn about the people who passed through hundreds of years ago. The UCCS Archaeology Field School, supported by a grant from the Colorado State Historic Fund, has conducted digs at an area near Jimmy Camp Creek for three seasons. Overseen by UCCS archaeology professor Bill Arbogast, the students have uncovered a wealth of Native American artifacts, including pottery shards and stone tools. They have also found fire pits and the interior floor of a temporary structure, probably a teepee, which was carbon-dated at around 1750 A.D. Charcoal from the fire pits was carbon-dated at approximately 665 A.D.Arbogast reports that 13 undergraduate students participated in the project in 2004. He explained that he could not reveal the exact location of the dig to prevent poaching on the site.Another group with an interest in the Jimmy Camp area is the Trails and Open Space Coalition, headed by Dan Cleveland. A proposed extension of the Fountain Creek trail would go through the Jimmy Camp area and connect to the Rock Island Trail farther north. “But we’re waiting to see what happens with the Southern Delivery System,” said Cleveland. “The SDS pipeline will have a subsurface easement, and it would be great to have a surface easement for a trail.” The coalition envisions a multipurpose trail that could be enjoyed by hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders.And then there’s the little 35-acre site of the old homestead established by Ruth Banning and her husband Raymond “Pinky” Lewis, which lies near the old Jimmy Camp. The home, built by moving two existing Victorian houses from North Nevada Ave. in the late 1950s, is now owned by Walter Drake’s widow, Alberta Drake, who lives in Falcon and employs two caretakers to watch over the property. Also on the property are several smaller houses, a large garage and the old barn, adorned with the Banning-Lewis brand. A small pond greets visitors to the ranch, where Drake runs about 50 cattle on the surrounding pastureland.Although the Jimmy Camp area is quiet and serene today, the future is uncertain. Change appears to be inevitable, and in a few years, the little valley as it is today may only be a memory.

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