New life for Beidleman Center
Friends group may also aid new CS Utilities center on mesa

       After a major program cutback in 2003, the City of Colorado Springs’ Beidleman Environmental Center is poised for a comeback. Pending formalization of a public-private arrangement that’s been agreed to in principle, the 1,500-square-foot facility in Sondermann Park may once again be a hub of nature-oriented activity on the Colorado Springs Westside.
       Partially in conjunction with that effort, the Colorado Springs Public Utilities Department is expanding a public facility near the Mesa water treatment plant beyond its traditional offering as a xeriscape demonstration garden. Called the Center Development Project (CDP), the facility is scheduled to open to the public in limited form this June, according to Diane Walker, Utilities’ general manager of market planning who is helping direct the effort.
       A link between the plans for both centers is the Friends of Beidleman Foundation, a 100-member non-profit group that has traditionally helped the paid staff at the Beidleman Center and is ready to provide the same service for CDP.
        Martin Thrasher, president of Friends of Beidleman, told the Westside Pioneer that while “details have yet to be worked out,” Public Utilities “is going to have quite the environmental center up there (and) we see the chance for joint programs on that.”
       At the same time, the Friends have hardly forgotten the entity from which their name derived. Thrasher, who is also municipal judge for Manitou Springs, said his group was “thrilled” to learn that an informal agreement has been reached between the City Parks and Recreation Department and a private agency to run programs at the Beidleman Center later this year. “This year’s been pretty slow,” he said.
       The agency, which has asked that its name not be publicized until a lease is signed, would occupy the center and staff it. With support from the Friends of Beidleman, the center would likely be open regularly, allowing a return to the days of nature displays and frequent school/public programs – with no cost to the city except utility bills.
        “It will carry on the spirit of Dick Beidleman,” said Paul Butcher, director of Parks and Recreation, speaking of the long-time Colorado College environmental professor for whom the center was named.
       Asked for an update on the plan this week, Matt Mayberry, Cultural Services director for Parks & Recreation, said he hopes that “by Feb. 1” the details will be worked out. “It’s just a paperwork process,” he said.
        A similar sentiment was offered by a representative of the private agency.
       Mayberry said the agency expects to partition the building space to some extent for its staff, but no building-permit work is slated.
       The public-private arrangement was previously approved by City Council, he said.
        The Beidleman Center, located in a renovated former nursery, is accessible from Caramillo Street, off Chestnut Street. That’s also the access for the 100-acre Sondermann Park, a rolling, open-space parcel which spreads out west, north and south of the center.
       Last year, despite objections from supporters, City Council, in a budgetary move, reduced the scope of the Beidleman Center. The action included transferring the program responsibility from Parks to Utilities.
        Butcher said the cutbacks should not be seen as a reflection on the popularity of the center. “It’s been going great guns since it opened (in the late 1980s),” he said. “It was just one of the victims of the budget crisis we’ve faced.”
        Utilities relocated the center’s two employees and eliminated most programs that did not relate to the services the department provides. This situation has continued into this year, Walker said, with Utilities expecting to reduce its role even further with its own center opening and the anticipated new arrangement at the Beidleman Center.

Westside Pioneer Article