2021 May Become Pivotal Year For Ute Pass Community
Trails, parking, signs, fires and artistic attractions may sound like a weird combination.
But for Green Mountain Falls, and the lower Ute Pass, these issues could gain top billing for 2021.
The new year will kick off with a bang, as town leaders will grapple with one of the most ambitious annexation bids ever proposed locally. On Jan. 5, the GMF Board of Trustees is scheduled to have the first public hearing regarding the annexation of the Red Devil Mountain area and the former Joyland Church parcels, proposed by the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation and the Green Box Arts group. Altogether, this represents a 30-plus-acre area.
If approved, this could set the stage for a multimillion-dollar tourist attraction, capped by a James Turrell Skyspace installation. This installation, representing an observatory-like facility, allowing visitors a rare glimpse into the skyline and stars, with special lighting effects for sunrises and sunsets, would become the first one of its kind in Colorado. There are 85 of these structures across the globe. The attraction could attract many visitors and art/star buffs on a year-round basis.
The project also will include nature trails, restroom facilities, a viewing area and an equestrian grazing hub.
To date, the annexation effort has proceeded with little opposition. The Green Mountain Falls Planning Commission gave the annexation bid an enthusiastic thumbs-up last month, but didn’t really permit public comment, beyond technical aspects of the application. On Jan. 5, residents will get a chance to express their views regarding the project and the overall annexation effort.
Jesse Stroope, a key representative for Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation, says the project will help improve Green Mountain Falls and stimulate more tourism opportunities and help local businesses.
He maintains that the town won’t have to worry about maintaining the artistic installation, as those details will be handled by the Green Box Art group. He also cites the year-round draw this attraction will create.
However, some residents are concerned about potential impacts and worry about problems associated with a big influx of people and probable maintenance headaches. Former trustee and long-time resident Mac Pitrone previously raised a laundry list of questions regarding the proposed attraction. He questions why the group even wants to have their land and prospective development annexed into the town.
These questions could be addressed this week, but the annexation process will take a number of meetings to resolve.
Stroope says the group hopes to debut the project this summer.
This could start a busy year for Green Mountain Falls.
Paid Parking in GMF?
The town hopes to finalize a resident survey regarding parking, signage and trail use. Orchestrated by consultant Jonathan Cain, who has done work for Idaho Springs, this project could lead to a more comprehensive plan regarding these issues. One idea mulled is to have paid parking in GMF for visitors.
This effort is a byproduct of the big boom the town experienced last year in trail use, during the pandemic. For years, GMF has been regarded as a secret hiking paradise in the Pikes Peak region. But apparently, the secret has been discovered.
As a whole, Colorado encountered an outdoor recreational boom in 2020, resulting partially from stay-at-home orders and restrictions for indoor dining and entertainment.
During an earlier virtual community forum, residents appeared to oppose this idea about paid parking. However, the prospects of the town generating possibly more than $150,000 a year from a paid parking system received much attention.
Residents, though, strongly endorsed the idea of better signage for directing visitors to trailheads. The majority of trailheads are located in residential areas, which often presents its own form of challenges. Initial findings from a newly-formed trail ambassador group have indicated much visitor confusion regarding trail access in Green Mountain Falls.
As a result, trails and handling the influx of hikers, and manning current routes, will again become big issues. With a bombardment of hikers and recreation buffs, town leaders briefly considered shutting down the trail system on a temporary basis in the fall of 2020. But this effort encountered strong opposition. Instead, leaders opted for stronger hiker education efforts, spearheaded by a trail ambassador group.
Also, a new advisory group, trails, parks and recreation, has been formed to address these issues from a long-term perspective.
Another newly-formed group, the fire mitigation committee, is expected to start meeting and coming up with detailed plans. Town leaders and many residents agree that the town has a big problem with diseased trees and hazardous vegetation and see GMF serving as a wildland fire disaster waiting to happen.
The work of these new groups could take center stage in 2021. Plus, the coming year will serve as another pivotal point for a constant headache for town leaders: road maintenance. Road woes continue to dominant the agenda in GMF.