Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance Holds Local Listening Sessions

Group Aimed at Conserving Popular Spots For Outdoor Buffs

Trevor Phipps

The problems associated with fire mitigation, trail deterioration and potential user and growth conflicts capped the local meetings of an initiative to conserve and  improve key recreation areas.

  The Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA), has held a series of listening sessions, including several meetings in Teller County.

The alliance was first brought up during a previous Woodland Park City Council meeting, and has been cited by other local officials.  Plus, area hiking/outdoor groups have been informed about the newly formed alliance, which received a boost with the help of state funds.

Council members and other officials across the region met in January in Cripple Creek to discuss the goals of the Outdoor Pikes Peak Initiative. The initiative came about after state grants allowed for local areas to focus on conservation of outdoor recreation areas.

Governor Jared Polis also passed an executive order in 2020 to support regional partnerships between local governments and stakeholders. The PPORA partners up with Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office to help with funding and technical resources to develop a strategic vision and plan.

The purposes of the initiative are to increase climate resiliency, balance conservation and outdoor recreation, and ensure equitable and sustainable access to outdoor recreation. The PPORA is specifically focused on Fremont, El Paso and Teller counties, areas known for their access to outdoor recreation and a plethora of trails.

The initiative came about after the region  experienced an increase in population and people recreating in the outdoors. According to a video posted on the PPORA.org website, changes in the climate have also put a strain on the state’s outdoor recreation lands.

The first step in developing the plan was for the group to hold several listening sessions across the region. The sessions were open to the public and residents and community leaders had the chance to voice their recommendations and concerns.

The purposes of the listening sessions included hearing from the public about the opportunities and challenges of recreation areas being under stress. They also wanted to hear ideas from the public about how to conserve popular recreation hubs.

All of the listening sessions held had both in-person and virtual options on Zoom. The group held a listening session at locations in Cripple Creek, Woodland Park, Florence and various areas across Colorado Springs.

Local Recreation Concerns Voiced

During the listening session in Woodland Park, one participant mentioned fire mitigation as a big concern to prevent wildfires in the area. According to the leaders of the meeting, forest mitigation has been brought up at every meeting they have held.

Water resources were also named as a top concern from the public. Another person said that their main concern was the ability of the forest service to conduct controlled burns and forest thinning operations in areas that did not have roads including the Rampart Range area.

Educating the next generations of people about nature preservation and water conservation were also topics that came up. One speaker mentioned that there are many ways in which the public can be educated.

Others brought up trails around Woodland Park that are not officially marked “system” trails. Some participants believed that better markings and mappings of “social” trails could be one step to make recreating outdoors better.

Residents at the meeting said that trails should be designated for certain types of recreation. They said that having trails set for only, hiking, mountain biking, or ATV-use could help improve the safety of the recreation areas.

Better maintenance of the city’s Centennial Trail, which follows Highway 67 from Woodland Park to Manitou Lake, was also cited as a key issue during in-person and virtual meetings. Many said that there are sections of the trail that are worn out, and have potholes, making it unsafe for mountain bikers to ride.

According to the Outdoor Pikes Peak Initiative website, this new plan differs from other studies that have been created in the region since it does not focus on just conservation or recreation. “It is a thoughtful approach to bring all of the available, credible data to the table along with stakeholders, land managers, and the public to ‘to ensure the resiliency of the region’s public lands, water, wildlife, working farms and ranches, as well as sustainable world class outdoor recreation opportunities for all,’” the website reports.

The planning process for the initiative is slated to take a total of three years. The process started in 2021-2022 and this next phase is expected to be completed by summer 2024.