City Parks ices RRC master plan, starts new process to gain back ‘trust’
Amid growing concerns about losing the trust of citizens, Colorado Springs Parks has temporarily suspended the Red Rock Canyon Open Space master-planning project.
Interim Parks Development Manager Sarah Bryarly said that in its place the city will start a process intended to develop more effective ways for the city to work with various parks and open-space user and friends groups.
The next Red Rock meeting, which had been scheduled at the Westside Community Center Nov. 16, has been cancelled.
Some trail-related friction surfaced in the Red Rock meetings that had started in September - the goal is to create an updated master plan to meld Red Rock with the new, neighboring Section 16 and White Acres parcels - but Bryarly emphasized in an interview this week that the department's decision was based on experiences in the entire open-space system over a longer period of time and does not relate just to trails.
“It's something that's been simmering, and is beginning to boil,” she said. “We have to have trust. That's the reasoning behind it.”
Bryarly said the Parks Department plans to hire a consultant to act as a “non-biased third party” and “facilitate” the discussions between the city and the groups. For that purpose, a request for proposals will be prepared and bids sought. She expects that a consultant will be hired by January. Her estimated time frame is four to six months, dependent on how the as-yet-unscheduled meetings go.
As Bryarly explained it, these will not be full-blown public meetings, like the ones in the Red Rock master-planning effort, but an attempt to work out differences with representatives of groups that use open spaces or do volunteer work on them. The thinking is that everyone wants what's best for city open space, but to accomplish that there may need to be individual compromises.
“If everyone comes to the table willing to participate, then we can restart the Red Rock master plan sooner, but if not, then it's going to take a little longer,” Bryarly said. “I'd rather do it right than suffer the consequences.”
She did not want to delve into the specific problems that have occurred between the city and different groups, but she did say that one issue that's come up is meeting the needs of bicyclists on trails. Such a conflict occurred last June in Section 16. A city-sponsored maintenance project, timed for National Trails Day, was meant to be a fun start to the city's new ownership of the 640-acre parcel off Gold Camp Road. Instead, it led to bad feelings when the project resulted in numerous wood steps that cyclists have trouble negotiating.
Jim Yount, a cyclist who led the ensuing dissent, is still disappointed about that outcome, but took a philosophical outlook in an interview this week. He thinks a big problem for City Parks is “not having as many resources anymore” - a situation that is complicated by the numbers of groups (including cyclists) that can provide input on projects. So he's hopeful that the city's efforts to reboot the process will prove beneficial.
“All groups need to step back and look at it from a bigger-picture view so we don't run into these instances all the time,” he said.
Regarding the friends groups, during the Red Rock process a source of friction was the city-hired consultant's proposing reroutes and closures of various trails in Section 16 and Red Rock Canyon without discussing such ideas in advance with the friends groups that maintain them.
“We have to get a good understanding of the friends groups' expectations, and they need an understanding of ours,” Bryarly said.
The decision to put the Red Rock master plan on ice will not affect the contract between the city and Tapis Associates, the project consultant, she said. A city press release Nov. 9 explained that although the meetings are on hold, “the planning consultant will continue to formulate the draft plan for the Red Rock Canyon Master Plan. Input previously received from the public will help shape the future plan. Once the master plan process is restarted, the public will have the opportunity to view the draft plan and make comments and suggestions. There will be future public meetings on maintenance, operational practices, biological and cultural preservation and forest health and management.”
The city's Red Rock website is springsgov.com/RRC.
Westside Pioneer article