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EDITOR'S DESK: Bancroft joins list of moving targets

By Kenyon Jordan

Oct. 10, 2018
       Sometimes it's not easy to wrap news stories up in a bright, shiny bow. Headlines like “Bridge opens” or “Parade planned” don't always work when the subject matter is a moving target.
       In one story I've been working on, there have been multiple moving targets, all overlapping one other in some way.
       So if it's that complicated, why bother? Because what's happening will result in changes affecting the Westside in various ways, with the big one being

Bancroft Park. And I kind of look at it as my job to sort through such things.
       I'll introduce the moving targets one at a time.
  • The Welcome Center - That was the name given to the 19th century house just west of Junior Achievement (formerly owned by Goodwill) that the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group purchased back in 2014. At the time, the house was to be like a chamber of commerce for tourists while supplying needed space for OCCA offices, meetings and storage.
           Except that the plan didn't work so well. The concept called for volunteers to man the welcome center, and few stepped forward to do that. Also, the center was east of Old Colorado City's core (so out of the way), building upkeep was an issue, and the OCCA board has since found other places for its meetings and storage. So in August the organization sold the building to…
  • Front Range Barbecue - For 18 years, this popular restaurant/bar/nightclub has been packed tightly into a converted house at 2330 W. Colorado Ave. But change is in the wind. Owner Brian Fortinberry had previously bought the vacant house next door to him - the one beside the former Welcome Center - and was finally able (after years of trying) to buy his current house.
           Now with all three buildings, he is working with Colorado Springs Planning to figure out how he can use them to expand his restaurant. Plans are still in the concept stage, with the possibility of construction in 2019, Fortinberry said.
  • The Bancroft Park cabin - With the Welcome Center in the rear-view mirror, the OCCA board recently came up with a different plan for meeting and greeting
    This stump near the cabin was left after a crew removed several trees at the south end of Bancroft Park last summer. The area where the crew is working in the background is roughly where the future restroom is to be built.
    Westside Pioneer file photo
    tourists/shoppers. The cabin is not only closer to Old Town's “core,” it is one of the most historic buildings in the Pikes Peak region. So it has genuine appeal.
           Other groups who would like to piggyback on that paradigm are the Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF), an OCCA-started nonprofit that fundraises for Old Town; and the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS), whose History Center is just across 24th Street but is too often overlooked by visitors.
           Unfortunately, the cabin lacks heating or air conditioning. So the place is nearly unbearable in winter or summer. Just ask the OCCHS, whose members routinely dress in old-time (meaning much hotter) clothing for special events.
           Last Christmas season, the OCCA moved its Santa out of the cabin, where he had met kids for many years, because of the cold. But that was when the group still had the Welcome Center. A question now (which I haven't asked yet) is where OCCA will put Santa this Christmas.
           And this all leads up to…
  • Bancroft Park renovation - and the cabin. Colorado Springs Parks has announced plans to start construction in January on a major project that will re-do much of the park. (See Westside Pioneer article at this link.) A cost estimate hasn't been released, though it appears certain to be over half a million dollars.
           Yet somehow in all that spending, it now turns out, City Parks has no plans to put heat or A/C into the cabin. It was never really studied, but Parks Maintenance Manager Kurt Schroeder just announced that now that the idea has popped up, it's too late to consider anyway, and it might impinge on the “historical integrity” of the cabin. Besides, people volunteering there can use space heaters, he observed.
           I told him I can't totally disagree about the integrity thing - although it's interesting that the OCCHS people didn't seem to find that a problem. In any case, if people volunteering inside the cabin are supposed to greet the public with space heaters (or fans in the summertime), that's not so historic a look either... nor, for that matter, is the plexiglass the city installed over its windows last winter after the two break-ins.
           Speaking of history, let's look back on how this all started. The renovation project came about because of an arson fire in the bandshell in January 2017. Before that (and I have e-mail proof), the city had no plans for improvements in Bancroft, let alone a major master-plan project. After the fire, City Parks claimed it was working hard to figure out repairs, but one thing it wasn't doing was communicating with Old Colorado City. We often hear about “stakeholders” on projects around town - such as the Garden of the Gods shuttle program - where various affected people and groups get to weigh in for months before the general public is brought in. Not with Bancroft - even though the OCCF has been fundraising for years to help the city pay for improvements in it.
           Finally, when City Councilmembers criticized Parks for moving too slowly (as they saw it) on the bandshell repairs, the department said OK and swooped in with a “master plan process" to overhaul the entire park - a process that consisted of two public meetings in less than a month (April 2017). This was followed by Parks Board approval that May… and then it was back to minimal communication and missed deadlines. That's right. We're told this cabin climate control idea is coming up too late - well, the timeline the Parks Board approved was for project completion in April of THIS year. Even last June City Council was told by a Parks official that dirt would be moving at Bancroft by this September. Parks is the last entity that should be criticizing people for being late with stuff.
           OK, time to move on. This column was supposed to be kind of fun, with there being at least a chance (when I started writing) to upgrade the cabin's interior for the groups that do so much for Old Colorado City, in terms of economic development and preserving its colorful past. But apparently that's not happening... unlesss the Bancroft Park moving target moves again. Not unheard of! For now, what's fun is to put my sights on the future menu at the expanded Front Range Barbeque.

    (Opinion: Editor's Desk)

           Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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