Monday, February 29, 2016

Strawberry Fields Forever

I am sitting on the bench that overlooks the Strawberry Fields meadow. I say the bench, because there is only one, and I'm fairly certain the city didn't put it there.


It looks pretty bleak now on this 29th day of February.  The dry grasses are resting parallel to the ground, and the scrub oaks are gray.  But the sky is blue and the breeze is light and new life is waiting patiently below the surface.



The city, however, does not appear to be waiting patiently. Everything is happening way too fast.  Final City Council vote may be in April, they say.  April?!  Why, in April around here we have only yet just begun to see new buds, flowers, and grasses!  How can our city council vote to give away something they've most likely never seen up close in midsummer?! This decision will be HISTORIC, will affect the citizens of this city for centuries, and must be carefully and thoroughly dissected.  That takes time.

Do you know this land?  I do.  I know how sound travels in the canyon, and how I can presently hear a lone hammer working on a deck on the other side, and the chimes from Will Rogers above. Imagine the noises of a wedding pavilion/picnic area and horse stable, echoing in the Canyon.  The Broadmoor is trying to sell us on the idea of public access on the 180 acres they are not using, but I'm here to tell you: there will be horses on trails throughout that 189 acres, and that 8.5 acres that is only accessible by Broadmoor guests will include the loveliest meadow, the one where people can just meander up the hill and find, accidentally.



Last summer, I did just that. While exploring the area for the first time, I came of the woods into the meadow unexpectedly.  Upon seeing the tall grass undulating in the breeze and the mountains surrounding me, I instinctively opened my arms and did a couple of 360's.

In summer, the area of South Cheyenne Canyon around the Starsmore Discovery Center  is a cool haven from the heat of the city for many. I understand that Barr Trail and the Incline are also used by many, but they are athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, not families and toddlers.  It is still a scant few of our population who are able to or desire to do the incline, yet almost everyone is able to access Strawberry Fields.  To have this meadow off limits to everyone who can't pay is immoral.

I am especially angry at how this deal seems to be a "divide and conquer" strategy, pitting the trails people against the open space people.  We should all be on the same side.  That's why it's called TOSC:  Trails and Open Space Coalition, but it seems the almighty "T" is taking precedence.

Two men arrived down in the meadow while I was sitting on the bench.  I wondered whether they were city men, business men, or Sierra Club men.  Turns out, they were sort of all three, and were still undecided. They were there, hiking the land, even the steep terrain that I've never done, to check it out. They noted its appeal, and observed that not many people seemed to use it.  They wanted to see for themselves what the fuss was all about. I applauded them for their curiosity.



That's what I think we all need, a hike in the woods and some curiosity.




And now, a chill wind has come up, reminding me to put my down vest back on. A hawk soars.  The sun has traveled farther to the west, yet still warms the left side of my face, and I have to squint a little to write. My greatest hope is that this proposed land swap will turn out to be a good thing, simply because it has put Strawberry Fields on the public's radar.  Curiosity can lead to other possible solutions. Like purchasing parcels the city wants with TOPS money. No master city parks plan should ever include trading away a parcel it already owns, even if that parcel is largely unknown. Perhaps, since one of the major complaints is that it is not well taken care of,  part of a new master plan could be for Parks and Rec. to improve the trail markings and maintenance of Strawberry Fields. That's their job.  And ours.  There is no reason that the public couldn't raise thousands of dollars to help the city with maintenance.

This swap proposal is the product of a private corporation's greed, and the public's failure of imagination.
(no wonder the Broadmoor wants this land- just look at that gorgeous view of the hotel from up here)



Finally, an invitation.   Mayor and City Council: come walk Strawberry Fields with me.  Name the date, I'll meet you in the South Cheyenne Canyon Parking Lot.  Bring your layers and hiking boots;  it's still winter and the snow/ice patches are slippery. Or perhaps you'd prefer to wait until May, when you can wear a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I can show you my land, our land - green and growing. You might even be inspired to do your own Julie Andrews impression.










3 comments:

Sharron Toulouse said...

That was beautiful, Sue.............I have never actually been there and would love for you to show me around some day........Perhaps you could organize a hike and invite folks. Put me on your list! Interestingly, I was in the Garden of the Gods today just as that wind came up and I became so aware of how lucky I am (we are) to have such places in our own backyards. I say, "Strawberry Fields Forever"!

Suzanne Burkle said...

Well Said. The hillis are alive, and should be for everyone.

Dorothy Explora said...

hi sue! i'm glad i found your blog! :) i love living vicariously through other people's photos of the natural beauty around them..! you have a new follower!