Council Seeks to Purchase Avenger Area to Preserve Popular Trails
In December, the Woodland Park Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) introduced a grand proposal to purchase a large 120-acre chunk of open land, calling it a “once in a generation opportunity.”
The plan was cited for a chance to preserve and protect a major corridor for trail and outdoor recreational use.
Now, that opportunity has arrived, with WP elected leaders taking a big step towards embarking on the most ambitious land purchase of any local entity since the Catamount Ranch deal in the 1990s. That earlier effort involved Teller County and resulted in the development of one of the more popular hiking spots in the region.
During their initial meeting in 2024, the Woodland Park City Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the Avenger Open Space land, contingent on grant approval by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). The city has already applied for a $500,000-plus grant from GOCO, a critical part of the project.
According to all indications, city officials say the project is right on track.
At the recent council meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Keating said that she has had discussion with several community members and local government officials, including the local fire department and representatives from El Paso County, where some of the land lies, and the National Forest Service. She also said that the city has already secured about $47,000 in committed donations to help with the project.
But even with much council support, the open space pursuit has raised a slew of technical and legal questions.
Councilwoman Carrol Harvey recently asked about which first responder agencies would have jurisdiction to the land in the event of an emergency or criminal activity, since the land lies in both Teller and El Paso counties. Keating said that she spoke with Northeast Teller County (NETCO) Fire Chief Tyler Lambert, and he said that the fire department would need access to the area because NETCO covers that region for fire protection and emergency services.
“It depends on what jurisdictional boundaries anything would happen in,” answered Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler. “We have certain portions of that area. El Paso County has a big portion of that area, but we all overlap. And oftentimes, we can get there faster than they can. So, if there is an emergency, we are sending a uniform and we will work out the details later.”
Under the project’s plans, the city will own the property, but part of it will be in El Paso County’s jurisdiction. The city could annex the property in the future, but that has not yet been discussed.
Councilwoman Catherine Nakai asked how much money the open space would cost for the city to maintain over time. “I did research with the National Parks and Recreation Association on that and it’s really hard to say because every wooded area is a little different,” the parks and recreation director replied. “But they said that the average costs to maintain for woods and forests is about $315 per acre. So that makes it about $38,000 per year.”
Harvey asked if the city’s proposed portion of the Avenger grant deal had been included in the 2024 budget. Keating said that it is not currently in this year’s budget since the GOCO grant has not yet been approved. However, she said council approval of the city’s proposed $150,000 commitment to the project will take place.
Councilman Robert Zuluaga clarified that the purchase of the property is contingent upon the approval of the GOCO grant. According to City Attorney Nina Williams, the contract states that any earnest money given to the seller of the property will be returned ,and the contract will be void if GOCO does not approve the grant application.
There are other contingencies that would allow the city to pull out of the contract as a buyer as well.
A Big Undertaking
The Avenger deal is one of the most ambitious open land purchases ever proposed by a local government.
The total purchase of the land will cost around $650,000 with the city coming up with $150,000, outside donations accounting for $80,000 and the GOCO grant covering the remainder. Since the city has raised only $47,000 of the $80,000 proposed from outside donors, Zuluaga asked how confident the parks and recreation director was that the rest of the donations would come in.
“After talking with the advisory board, I feel very confident that we will be able to raise the full $80,000 and potentially more,” Keating said.
Resident and PRAB member Jerry Smith spoke in support of the ordinance to purchase the property. He said that the Avenger Open Space project meshes well with the Parks and Recreation’s master plan, which was drafted using community input.
PRAB Chairman Jeff Webb thanked council and city staff for the large amount of work it took to get to the point where council could approve the purchase. “This is not an exaggeration, this is a once in a generation opportunity for our community to create a lasting legacy for our citizens today and future generations,” Webb said. “We can’t understate how exciting this is.”