COLORADO SPRINGS — With the number of people and the amount of public land in Colorado Springs on the rise, new parks aren’t coming as quickly as parks officials would hope.
“We do have a backlog of some great lands and great parks still to be developed,” said Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director Karen Palus.
To understand why that backlog she’s talking about exists, you’ll want to start by looking at the city’s code.
“We do have a park land dedication ordinance,” Palus said.
In a nutshell, that ordinance requires developers to provide the city a certain amount of public park space within their development proportionate to the number of houses they’re building.
“To help make sure those new residents will have the same level of park service that the rest of the city already receives,” she said.
For example, the master plan for the Wolf Ranch neighborhood calls for numerous parks, including Valemount Park.
Today, the neighborhood is almost completely built out, but the land set aside for Valemount Park remains undeveloped.
The same can be said for Grey Hawk Park off Northgate Blvd. Despite the neighborhood being fully built out, the only sign of the park is just that–a sign reading “future park site.”
”Our goal is to build those sites,” Palus said. “We want all our residents to be within a 10 minute walk.”
In the case of Valemount Park, plans are getting underway. The city released its master plan for the park in June 2020 after holding several community feedback sessions.
But with new developments sprouting up so quickly, the city’s resources are having a hard time catching up.
“It is those initial capital dollars that it takes to build facilities and put them into service for our community,” Palus said. “And then you do need to have the resources available to be able to maintain that property.”
Now, it’s taking some creativity to get funds in place.
“We are looking at ways for sustainable funding,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of support from philanthropic efforts.”
Even though the city is facing the park land backlog, there are still some new parks on the way.
Palus says thanks to some retained TABOR dollars, the city is putting a master plan together for Coleman Park on the city’s east side. The park is currently home to the stadiums for the Rocky Mountain Vibes and Colorado Switchbacks. The Switchbacks will be relocating to a new downtown stadium later this year.
The improvement plans will coincide with the redevelopment of the nearby Springs Ranch Golf Course, where the city plans to retain some green space.
Palus said the city is also about to start a major overhaul of Panorama Park on the city’s southeast side. She says when it’s complete, the park will resemble the recently completed John Venezia Park on the city’s northeast side.