Record crowds work, play at joint Rock Ledge, GoG Earth Day

       A warm day, a volunteering spirit and plenty of activities attracted record crowds to the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center and Rock Ledge Ranch for an Earth Day/Arbor Day celebration April 22.
       Rock Ledge manager Andy Morris estimated 600 to 700 people helped with tree-planting or just enjoyed the traditional free day at the city-owned, 220-acre, 1880s-era working ranch inside the Garden of the Gods. “This is the largest crowd we've ever had for Earth Day,” he said. “We're feeling really great about it.”
       At the Visitor Center, on the other side of 30th Street, lead interpreter Melissa Walker said 4,051 people were counted. There was no way to know if all came specifically for the event, but she reported that the number was 1,000 higher than during the same kind of count for the center's seventh annual Earth Day event in 2005.
       “The weather cooperated to make this Earth Day very successful,” she said. “Citizens had the opportunity to take care of our city park - the spectacular natural resource we know as the Garden of the Go ds - and to reflect on how our individual actions can make a difference in the quality of our environment.”
       Volunteers pitched in to pick up trash, work on Garden of the Gods erosion problems and - in the Arbor Day tradition - to plant trees in the Garden and at three different parts of Rock Ledge Ranch.
       Of historical significance were the 12 new apple trees that went in on the site of the ranch's original orchard, started by the Chambers family in the 1880s. The location is just southwest of the historically preserved Rock Ledge House that the family built and lived in. More than 30 people helped with the planting.
       The trees were donated to Rock Ledge by the Broadmoor Garden Club. This was the third straight year the club has given the ranch a dozen trees, Morris said. He's already looking ahead to future years, when apples from the ever-growing orchard could lead to a new “cider day” event.
       Walker said higher numbers were also noted for those who volunteered to do erosion work (including some tree-planting) or to pick up trash in the Garden - about 500, compared with 250 last year.
       Center visitors had options of taking guided hikes, checking out trained Air Force Academy falcons, watching the Sweet Water American Indian Dancers, attending a kid-oriented science demonstration, working on arts and crafts or getting hands-on fire safety experience through the Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department.
       The day got started with a ceremony outside the Rock Ledge entrance that included Colorado Springs City Council member Larry Small and City Forester Jim McGannon.
       This was the first year that the Garden and the Ranch have sychronized events for Earth Day.

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