State Land Board approves Section 16 plan

       Opposition was not expected, nor was any voiced Oct. 4, when the State Land Board voted unanimously to approve a purchase agreement with Colorado Springs for Section 16.
       The action moves the city's ownership of the 640-acre property as open space a step closer to completion. Aimee Cox of City Parks, who has been coordinating the city effort, said that although several details still remain, “at this point it's just procedural [and] we hope to close on the property by the first week of December.”
       The plan, as revealed at City Council Sept. 29, calls for the city to pay $3.8 million for the surface rights on the land, plus $321,000 to prevent state-authorized mining there for the next 99 years.
       Most of the cost is being covered by the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds.
       The Land Board owns different Colorado parcels, with a constitutional mandate to use them to earn money for schools.
       The mountainside parcel, which abuts Red Rock Canyon and White Acres open space, has been leased for recreation by El Paso County or the city for nearly 40 years. It has stayed pristine, except for several miles of trails.
       The city tried to buy the property in recent years, but never could strike a deal with the state until this year.
       Cox said the city's continuing effort was in large part due to the strong community support of the TOPS program, the people who have built and still maintain trails on the property and “the citizens who let public officials know how important this was. It wouldn't have happened without all that.”

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