New book tells history, seeks future for city parks

       A new book tells the story of the Colorado Springs parks system, from William Palmer's initial vision in 1871 through the major funding slashes in the year 2010.

Nancy Lewis (right) with Deborah Odell, a co-author of "The Parks of Colorado Springs," during a December book signing at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “The Parks of Colorado Springs: Building Community, Preserving a Legacy” was chiefly written by Nancy Lewis, a former city parks director (1987-1994).
       Including photos of and text regarding Westside parks and open spaces, the book also looks at possible solutions for the overall “preservation of an exceptional and enduring public park system,” as Lewis describes it.
       People - estimated at more than 200 over a four-hour span - stood in line to meet the author during a signing at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center in December. On hand were Lewis and a co-writer, Deborah Odell. (Another credited writer is Judith Rice-Jones, who was the book's “principal researcher,” according to Lewis.)
       “People care about parks,” Lewis said, when asked about the interest at the signing, “and there had not been an 'in-depth' history written for a long time.”
       As for what she hopes readers will mainly think about after reading the book, she said: “Under-standing where we have been is necessary in order to better predict the future of our parks system.”
       The printing was 3,000, with more than 200 already sold, Lewis said in mid-December. There are 254 pages, including appendices, endnotes, index and bibliography. Copies are available at the Visitor Center.
       Westside-related segments include the story of the gift of the Garden of the Gods to the city of Colorado Springs by the Perkins family; the purchase of and upgrades to the “White House Ranch” (renamed Rock Ledge Ranch in 1995); and the purchases in recent years of the Red Rock Canyon, White Acres and Section 16 open spaces.
       “I strongly agree,” Lewis said, when asked if she thought the Westside is fortunate in its diversity of parks and trails. “Westside parks are extensive and open space is indeed nearby. Folks could always do 'more' to take care of parks, but it is significant that Westsiders exhibit an autonomy for their surrounding community that includes appreciation for their parks and outdoors.”

A photo from the book shows how cars parked for the first Sunrise Service at the Garden of the Gods in 1921. As parks director, Lewis oversaw the creation of the present master plan that limits parking in the Garden interior.
Courtesy of Nancy Lewis and Special Collections - Pikes Peak Library District

       The book does not suggest a specific future course to restore the city's park system to past glories, but suggests that partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors could prove efficient and effective. The book notes that over time “the best public servants of Colorado Springs were people who identified with the city, who loved it as their home, who saw the big picture and embraced the whole community - not just one neighborhood, not just one interest, not just one aspect.”
       Lewis is also the president of the Garden of the Gods Foundation, which over 15 years has helped the city fund the maintenance of the nationally famous park. Proceeds from book sales will also support park preservation, according to a note in the front.

Westside Pioneer article