Recreation fight brewing in Green Mountain Falls

Local trails champion outraged by new organizational move

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Green Mountain Falls is known for its multi-varied trails, with access to the American Discovery route, Pikes Peak, Ring the Peak, Catamount Reservoir and other pristine lakes, not to mention the more pedestrian links to Crystola, Woodland Park and the Ute Pass Elementary School.

For many visitors, GMF is regarded as the trail mecca of the Ute Pass, a reputation more solidified with closure of the Waldo Canyon trail.

Many of these local routes are completed through the work of an aggressive trails committee that now includes about 11 members. At various times throughout the year, the group conducts work days and cleans up and expands certain trails in the area. They also partner with other larger trails-building organizations, such as Volunteers of America.  

But according to GMF trails leader Dick Bratton, that work and high profile status is now being challenged by a new reorganization of the town’s recreation system.  A meeting is scheduled for next month to discuss the fate of the trails committee and to set the pathway for a parks and recreation master plan.

Last week, the town approved a new resolution, establishing a parks and recreation advisory committee, which would oversee the trails group  functioning  as a subcommittee. A public hearing is set for July 18.

This proposed move outraged Bratton, who has played a key role in developing trails in the area for several decades, along with publicizing GMF’s link to the American Discovery route and the Ute Pass regional trail. The trails chairman said he was completely taken by surprise by the actions of the trustees, who never consulted him or any other leaders of the trails group.

Moreover, he views the board’s actions as an insult. He noted that this trails group has functioned for 35 years and has achieved much success. “We have a problem with this,” blasted Bratton, in describing what he classifies as too much micro-management by town leaders. He sought a delay of the trustees’ approval action regarding the chances in their recreation system. “If it is not broken, why fix it,” said Bratton, following last week’s meeting.

Trustee Dave Cook agreed, noting, “To me, it (the current trail committee system) is working very well.”

But Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Thorne told Bratton that the new idea was introduced by a group, partially organized by former Town Manager John Pick, to review all of the committees established by the town. One of their conclusions, according to Thorne, involved a proposal to develop an overall parks and recreation advisory committee. This group would review all aspects of recreation in GMF, including the pool and parks.  An end-result would call for the creation of a trails subcommittee.

Mayor Jane Newberry agreed with the recommendation, citing the importance of developing a strategic plan. “We need to be mindful of our idea of these public properties.”

She mentioned the importance of removing trash, installing signage, and having a more welcoming image for GMF.  Thorne said the town needs an overall recreation-based master plan. As part of this effort, the plan would clarify the direction of the trails committee, one of the more active organizations in GMF.   

But under the reorganization, plan, according to Bratton’s interpretation, the number of trail committee members would be reduced. Bratton equates this plan with firing hard-working volunteers.

The reorganization plan, though, does have its supporters. During last week’s meeting, long-time resident Mac Pitrone noted that many trails, while starting in GMF, really aren’t part of the town’s property. “I don’t see why there is a conflict,” said Pitrone, in supporting the board’s plan. He sees the new plan as a more engaged approach for GMF residents.

In any case, the meeting on July 18 could generate a few verbal fireworks. Besides the heated trails and recreation issue, the town will grapple with its new rules for short-term rentals.