Residents and Community Leaders Rally Behind New Equestrian Center in GMF

Leaders Worried About Storm Impacts

Rick Langenberg

Although most of the attention in recent weeks has hinged on a record-breaking storm, a fairly large group of residents and community leaders recently packed the GMF Town Hall to attest to a traditional reality:  “We are horse country.”

That message was conveyed loud and clear, despite changes that have occurred in the town in recent years with the arrival of more modern art displays.

Moreover, the residents wanted to rally behind plans for a new proposed equestrian center and horse wellness hub, planned near the GMF Skyspace project.

Their only complaint:  Why did this take so long?

With absolutely no debate, the GMF Board  Trustees, following in the recommendations of the Planning Commission, approved the Green Mountain Falls Horse Wellness Meadow, with plans submitted by Jesse Stroope, project coordinator for the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation.

The project was actually part of the overall plan for the GMF Skyspace and Red Butte Recreation annexation bid, proposed about five years ago.

As noted by Stroope in a letter to the town planner, “This proposed project brings horses back to our community, which has a rich history of horsemanship and the enjoyment associated with it. The project will provide additional educational and volunteer opportunities for Green Mountain Falls residents to enjoy, and existing hiking trails will allow anyone visiting Red Butte Recreation area the opportunity to hike among horses.”

Stroope also explained that the focus of the project deals with “rehabilitation of horses recovering from injuries.” In fact, many of these animals are no longer welcome at sporting facilities. The planned facility will also house a small group of horses permanently trained at the rehab center, who will “provide training and companionship to the rescue horses, many of whom have not spent time out of a stall,” explained Stroope, in his letter.

Besides the barn areas that already exist on the property, future plans call for a medical barn and riding arena.

During a meeting last month, Stroope didn’t have to do too much arm-twisting with the panel of elected leaders. If anything, the trustees slightly apologized for the delays involved in approving the project. “My hats off to the applicant,” said Mayor Todd Dixon. He admitted delays had occurred in the approval process and attributed these to the updating of its new codes.

He was referring to complaints by Stroope, who during public comment on the issue, stated that town leaders knew about this project since around 2018 and 2019, when the annexation bid for the Skyspace and Red Butte Recreation area was unveiled. He indicated that the process really needs to be less burdensome for applicants.

Brandy Moralez, a candidate for the board of trustees, went further and noted, “This is a wonderful idea. It is a very good project that will bring the community together.”

Other community leaders echoed similar sentiments.

The equestrian flavor of Green Mountain Falls is a tradition that is often revered by long-time community leaders. Decades ago, the town sported a horse-riding business that was quite popular with visitors and locals. In addition, GMF often featured many equestrian sites, and a few former marshals used to patrol the town from the top of a horse. This tradition is often missed, but leaders hope to bring back aspects of this equestrian flavor, which is often revisited during the annual Bronc Day festival.

A conditional use permit designation had to get approved to move the project forward as the property is currently zoned as open space, which doesn’t currently allow these types of facilities.

According to the plans, the facility would have the capability of housing approximately 10 animals per year. Current project plans call for a horse barn, corrals, two dry lots for horse feeding, a round pen and hay barn.

With the trustees’ action, the project is slated to move full-speed ahead.

No Funds for Internet Improvements

In other GMF news, the town got a somewhat  negative response from consultants regarding its bid for more infrastructure funds for internet upgrades. A recent study concluded that GMF is an adequately-served community regarding internet capabilities, with its main providers.

This many dealt with connection speeds that currently meet industry standards.

Still, service reliability is still a big question mark, based on comments made at a recent meeting.

But for projects that call for more fiber, extending between Colorado Springs and up the Pass, the town could be in the running. However, details were a little sketchy, and no tangible grant options are available right now.

Storm Aftermath

Also, despite the clear and sunny April skies (occasionally), the town is still reeling from the March storm, described as the worst snow carnage since 1997. GMF, Cascade and the lower Ute Pass got bombarded by nearly four feet of snow within a two-day period, and most residents were stranded for several days. On the upside, few power outages were reported.

GMF took the lead role is declaring the event as a local disaster, which could open the door for future funds. That is important, as no declaration was made by El Paso County, where the major of residents reside in.

Town Clerk Becky Frank cautioned that GMF and the lower Ute Pass bore the brunt of the recent storm as far as El Paso County communities.

The overtime hours invested into combating the storm are surmountable, with concerns mounting about the fiscal impacts for the town. Still, despite the hassles, the town remained open for business. Places to park cars, once their driveways got plowed, became the main issue for most residents.

Plus, the huge snow may lead to flooding and drainage woes later in the year. With its disaster declarations that follow other actions taken by officials in Cripple Creek and Teller County, GMF hopes to open the door for future fund dollars from the state Division of Local Affairs.