2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Hope flows for Tahama Springs restoration despite tainted water tests

    Sun, June 1, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers Paul Andersen, left, Jon Cockroft and David Mataipule clean out Monument Valley Park’s Tahama Springs on Wednesday in an effort to test the water that inspired the city’s name. The springs, named after a Sioux chief and scout who traveled with Zebulon Pike, was damaged in a 1935 flood and destroyed in 1965 after another flood. A local group is trying to bring back the historic springs, and cleaning the 50-plus years of debris from the springs is the first step.    Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers Paul Andersen, left, Jon Cockroft and David Mataipule clean out Monument Valley Park’s Tahama Springs on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, so the water could be tested. The springs, named after a Sioux chief and scout who traveled with Zebulon Pike, was sealed after Monument Creek flooded in 1965, destroying the pavilion. A local group is trying to bring back the historic springs. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    For the group working to restore Tahama Springs as a free-flowing source of water in Monument Valley Park, success is so close they can taste it.

    But they dare not.

    The well, on the west bank of Monument Creek, had been sealed since a flood in 1965 destroyed the well’s pavilion, depriving the city of its namesake and leading to envy and jealousy of Manitou Springs with its mineral springs that seem to bubble up on every corner.

    The Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs is determined to restore Tahama and is working with a coalition that includes the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, Colorado Springs Utilities and a group of young professionals.

    (I wrote about their efforts in March. Read that column here.)

    Already they hired experts to evaluate the site, locate the springs with an underground camera and take preliminary water samples for testing. Once they found a substantial flow, they hired Utilities to help dig a half-century of crud from the well to allow more detailed water sampling and analysis.

    Colorado Springs Utilities worker Frank Trujillo cleans out the well at Tahama Springs before flushing it out to take a water sample Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Colorado Springs Utilities worker Frank Trujillo cleans out the well at Tahama Springs before flushing it out to take a water sample Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    On May 21, utility crews spent hours digging trash and debris from the well. One lucky crew member was strapped in a harness and lowered through a manhole about 12 feet to hand fill bucket-after-bucket with trash, tree branches rocks and crud until a huge vacuum hose could be pushed down to suck out accumulated water.

    Finally the alluvial water was found, pouring from a layer of shale.

    Jeff Long, of the preservation alliance, watched the scene unfold.

    “They pumped it out to get the water off the bottom so only water flowing from the side was sampled,” Long said. “We didn’t want any bottom contaminants.

    Then they let the spring run several minutes.

    “Finally, they lowered the guy back down with water sample bottles. He had to get it quickly because water was coming up from the bottom of the well.”

    Long said everyone on the scene was buoyed by what the staffer brought back to the surface.

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers found items from the past in the Tahama Springs including old whisky bottles, hoses and a pair of boots while cleaning out century-old Tahama Springs Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park.   (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Colorado Springs Utilities workers found items from the past in the Tahama Springs including old whisky bottles, hoses and a pair of boots while cleaning out century-old Tahama Springs Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Monument Valley Park. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    “It was exciting,” Long said. “It was a very clear stream of water. And the water he brought up wasn’t turbid or cloudy. It was good-looking water.”

    But, as the cliché goes, looks can be deceiving.

    Long said he was tempted to taste the water, he opted to wait for an official analysis.

    Good thing he did.

    Lab test results came back last week with some bad news. Testing confirmed the presence of total coliform bacteria and specifically E. coli, a common form of bacteria that generally is harmless, according to the Mayo Clinic. But it can cause brief diarrhea and some strains can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

    It’s not something you want in your drinking water.

    “The eye-opening thing was the E. coli,” said Rick Johnson, an environmental specialist with Utilities’ water quality support group.

    Johnson said the lab tests also showed unexpected nitrate levels, which could indicate fertilizer is leaching into the water. And the fluoride levels in the water were high enough to require consumers be warned before drinking it, Johnson said.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    However, he gave the group hope, noting that one test is not definitive of the water quality.

    “A lot more testing needs to go into this,” Johnson said. “I’d suggest resampling after it sat there for at least a week. The sampling we did was right after we had stirred everything up. This was an initial test and not under ideal circumstances.

    There’s a good chance it could change. I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on the test.”
    The preservation alliance board agreed with Johnson that the news, while discouraging, was not a deal-breaker.

    “The board is as enthusiastic as ever,” Long said. “We’re still firm in our intent to proceed.”

    If further testing produced evidence of contaminants, one option is to install a filtering system on the spring. Two types of filters, UV and reverse-osmosis, could be used to ensure safe drinking water, Johnson said.

    Long said the board will investigate those alteratives and more, depending on future test results.

    “The point is, the spring has been opened, it’s clear and it is running,” Long said. “That is huge.”

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson's drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson’s drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    The coalition intends to raise $250,000 to finance restoration of the spring and well. The money also will pay for reconstruction of the historic Spanish pavilion built in 1926, severely damaged in the Memorial Day flood of 1935 and destroyed in the 1965 flood.

    Supporters also intend to replace three large, round bronze plaques, or medallions, that hung in the pavilion.

    They honored city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer; explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike; and Chief Tahama, the Sioux Indian from Winona, Minn., who befriended Pike and became famous as an Indian ally to the U.S. government and even fought for this country in the War of 1812.

    Finally, money will be needed to provide a trust for future maintenance — especially if a filtration system is installed.

    Long is optimistic issues with water quality will be worked out, the needed money will be raised and the spring and pavilion restored.

    “We have a lot of momentum,” Long said. “We’re gonna do this.”

    This octaganol concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahoma Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This octaganol concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahoma Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Commuting by bicycle in Colorado Springs a different experience

    Wed, May 7, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin and business writer Wayne Heilman celebrated their successful bicycle commute Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Dalton Walker / The Gazette

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin and business writer Wayne Heilman celebrated their successful bicycle commute Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Dalton Walker / The Gazette

    On Tuesday, I experienced my most pleasant commute to work in months.

    There was no one cutting me off, no one crawling along in the passing lane or scaring me silly as they texted on their cellphones while lurching down Interstate 25.

    I pedaled my bicycle to work Tuesday down the Pikes Peak Greenway trail.

    The only thing cutting me off was a bunny or two I scared out of the brush as I roared past at 60 mph. (OK, it was more like 16 mph but it felt much faster.)

    Rather than listening to drive-time radio dispatches of mayhem and traffic snarls, I listened only to the gurgling of Monument Creek as it splashed gently downstream alongside the trail.

    Down along Monument Creek near Roswell neighborhood. This is an August 2011 file photo.

    Down along Monument Creek near Roswell neighborhood. This is an August 2011 file photo.

    And the only honking I heard came from Canada geese swimming on Pikeview Reservoir along Garden of the Gods Road.

    (Click here to watch a video of my commute taped in August 2011.)

    Frankly, the ride was exhilarating. I try to commute to work by bike a couple days a week during the warm months. And I had extra motivation Tuesday because I agreed to be part of The Gazette’s team competing in the first-ever Colorado Springs Commute Week challenge.

    Mountain Metro Transit is sponsoring the event as a way to raise awareness of alternatives in the Pikes Peak region to the solitary commuter in a single-car vehicle.

    Actually, I should get extra points for my Tuesday commute because I bike-pooled with colleague Wayne Heilman. We met at the Sinton Trail in Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex and pedaled together downtown. We are among several bike commuters in the newsroom.

    On Monday, colleague Nathan Van Dyne mashed his pedals from near the airport into downtown and back as part of our team.

    Stay alert. You never know when you might encounter wildlife . . . even the prehistoric kind. This is an Aug. 2011, file photo.

    Stay alert. You never know when you might encounter wildlife . . . even the prehistoric kind. This is an Aug. 2011, file photo.

    Reporter Dave Philipps is another frequent bicycle commuter. He also rides on assignment as he did Monday when he jumped on his bike to chase down to the Martin Drake Power Plant when a black plume erupted south of downtown.

    (I hope the team from Colorado Springs Utilities doesn’t try to use the fire as an excuse to wimp out on the commuter challenge. We intend to whup them and a handful of other teams to win awards for most miles, most days, and, of course, most spirited teams! Bring it, CSU!)

    You can compete, too. It’s not too late to finish second to the Gazette commuters!

    Vicki McCann, spokeswoman for Mountain Metro, says folks can still get involved by visiting CommuteWeek.com and signing up.

    And she wants people to have fun with it.

    “If you’ve never ridden a bus, jump on,” McCann said. “We’re asking participants to take some photos of themselves. Take a selfie and post it to #commuteweek.”

    Mountain Metro wants to celebrate alternative forms of transportation, including buses that criss-cross the region. You can even do a combo bus-bike commute by using racks on the front of buses!

    The agency also manages vanpool, carpool and school-pool programs that offer folks a wide range of alternatives to that solitary commute.

    Bicycle advocate Al Brody pedals a three-wheel bike in downtown Colorado Springs in this April 20, 2014, photo. Brody would like to see area trails enhanced by bridges and tunnels separating bikes from cars. Courtesy photo.

    Bicycle advocate Al Brody pedals a three-wheel bike in downtown Colorado Springs in this April 20, 2014, photo. Brody would like to see area trails enhanced by bridges and tunnels separating bikes from cars. Courtesy photo.

    Of course, I can’t think of bicycling without thinking of Al Brody, one of the region’s highest profile bicycling advocates. He rides year-round, in sunshine and snow, rain and ice. Brody rides two-wheel bikes, three-wheelers, four-wheelers and unicycles and he’s even pedaled across Quail Lake on a bike boat.

    I asked Brody, 55, why people should get out of their cars.

    “I believe I’m healthier than most of my peers and happier than most of my peers because I ride my bike,” he said. “And I meet more healthier and happier people through cycling.”

    He is a fan of any program that gets folks on their bikes and shows them how easy it is to commute through the city.

    “We have to show people it’s convenient to get them to try it once in a while,” Brody said. “We have to make people feel comfortable on their commutes.”

    Of course, more tunnels and bridges separating trails from streets would greatly enhance the region’s biking experience, he said, like a relatively new tunnel on the Rock Island Trail under Circle Drive.

    Bicycle advocate Al Brody pedals a bike boat across Quail Lake in southern Colorado Springs in this undated photo. Brody would like to see area trails enhanced by bridges and tunnels separating bikes from cars. Courtesy photo.

    Bicycle advocate Al Brody pedals a bike boat across Quail Lake in southern Colorado Springs in this undated photo. Brody would like to see area trails enhanced by bridges and tunnels separating bikes from cars. Courtesy photo.

    But there needs to be a commitment to build and maintain those kinds of amenities and that’s something Brody is campaigning for every chance he gets.

    Still, he’s happy to see people like Heilman and me getting out and riding.

    “I hope more people will,” Brody said, who is retired from the Air Force and rides for fun.

    Me, too. I enjoy seeing folks on bikes, skateboards, rollerblades or simply running as I commute. Many have smiles on their faces and often wave hello.

    And that, too, is far different than my normal commute.

    Rarely are the other commuters I see smiling.

    And if they are waving, it isn’t to say hello. It’s usually only one finger!

    To learn more:

    From noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Mountain Metro Transit will host free buses leaving from in front of the Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs and from Pikes Peak Community College on South Academy Boulevard.

    They will take riders to the Ivywild School, with vendor exhibits related to green commuting and a DJ. There will be specials on food as well as well as Mass Transit Ale from Bristol Brewery.

    Click here to see a map of Mountain Metro bus routes.

    Follow this link to see a map of area trails.

  • Colorado Springs coalition determined to restore Tahama Springs

    Sun, March 9, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    This octaganol concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahoma Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This octagonal concrete pad and stone well in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs once were part of Tahama Spring, an alluvial spring that flows about two gallons per minute according to recent testing, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    In Monument Valley Park along the west banks of Monument Creek in downtown Colorado Springs, sheltered by a grove of towering old trees just past the pedestrian bridge, sits an octagonal concrete pad with a stone well in the middle.

    But the well is abandoned and there are only hints to what stood there decades ago.

    Cement caps the stone well where a steel hand pump produced "health-giving" water from Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Cement caps the stone well where a steel hand pump produced “health-giving” water from Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs, as seen March 5, 2014. A coalition hopes to raise $250,000 and restore the Spanish-style pavilion with eight archways, benches and a steel hand pump. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Two holes in the well’s concrete cap reveal where a steel pipe once was attached to a hand pump and another to a drain.

    Along the perimeter of the large concrete pad, steel bolts protrude — evidence of benches now long gone.

    You have to really use your imagination to guess this was the site of a large, Spanish-style pavilion with ceramic roof tiles, stucco walls and eight arches surrounding one of the alluvial springs that gave the city its name.

    Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs is seen in this undated photo. Courtesy Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs is seen in this undated photo. Courtesy Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

    This was Tahama Springs and the elegant structure — gone nearly 50 years now — protected a steel hand pump used to draw water.

    It also sheltered three large, round bronze plaques, or medallions, honoring city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike whose name graces our signature mountain, and Chief Tahama, the Sioux Indian from Winona, Minn., who befriended Pike and became famous as an Indian ally to the U.S. government who even fought for this country in the War of 1812.

    Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, also known as Chief Standing Moose. Tahama was born in 1776 near Winona, Minn. He lost an eye in a childhood accident, prompting his nickname “Tamaha” ir “One eye.” Tamaha became a friend of Army Lt. Zebulon M. Pike and fought in the War of 1812. For his loyalty to the U.S., Tamaha was presented a Peace Medal and Loyalty papers by William Clarke. Tamaha was a liaison between the U.S. and Indians and wore a stovepipe hat. Pike called him “my friend” and he called himself an American Sioux, according to the South Dakota Historical Collection.

    Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, also known as Chief Standing Moose. Tahama was born in 1776 near Winona, Minn. He lost an eye in a childhood accident, prompting his nickname “Tamaha” ir “One eye.” Tamaha became a friend of Army Lt. Zebulon M. Pike and fought in the War of 1812. For his loyalty to the U.S., Tamaha was presented a Peace Medal and Loyalty papers by William Clarke. Tamaha was a liaison between the U.S. and Indians and wore a stovepipe hat. Pike called him “my friend” and he called himself an American Sioux, according to the South Dakota Historical Collection.

    Tahama was known for his trademark stovepipe hat, as a powerful speaker, as a liaison between whites and Indians and as the “one-eyed Indian” after a childhood accident left him blind in one eye, according to the South Dakota Historical Collections.

    The Tahama Springs pavilion was built in 1926 and suffered heavy damage in the Memorial Day flood of 1935 that killed upwards of 18 people in the region, destroyed every bridge over Monument and Fountain creeks but the one at Bijou Street and did $1.7 million in damage.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    The Memorial Day flood of 1935 killed an estimated 18 people in the region, washed out every bridge across Fountain and Monument creeks except for one at Bijou Street and wreaked havoc in Monument Valley Park where it heavily damaged Tahama Spring. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Stewarts Commercial Photographers Collection.

    A second major flood in 1965 killed two children, washed out roads and bridges, and caused millions of dollars in damage, including destroying the Tahama Springs pavilion. The exact location of the shale formation which produced the mineral water also was lost.

    Ever since, various groups have tried to generate interest in rebuilding the spring. But none has gotten very far until now.

    A new coalition including the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, Colorado Springs Utilities and even a couple young professionals who don’t even work in the city any longer, among others, are making a strong push toward restoration.

    Experts recently lifted the cement cap of the stone well in Monument Valley Park to test flow rates and collect samples from the Tahama Spring. Water flowed at two gallons per minute from the alluvial spring. Analysis of the water has not revealed whether it is safe for drinking. Courtesy Historic Preservation Alliance.

    Experts recently lifted the cement cap of the stone well in Monument Valley Park to test flow rates and collect samples from the Tahama Spring. Water flowed at two gallons per minute from the alluvial spring. Analysis of the water has not revealed whether it is safe for drinking. Courtesy Historic Preservation Alliance.

    They have hired experts to conduct civil engineering of the site, scope out the spring with an underground cam and take water samples for testing.

    In addition, an architect has produced drawings to guide reconstruction of a pavilion.

    And a Mitchell High School freshman even created a small model of the proposed pavilion.
    Soon they will try to raise $250,000 to finance restoration and reconstruction of the pavilion and provide a trust for future maintenance.

    It’s an exciting time for Jeff Long and Tim Boddington, preservation alliance members, who have hoped for this project to take flight for years. They were thrilled when a pumping company drilled and located the spring.

    “After all these years we did find the spring,” Long said. “It’s still there. We’re really excited about it. The HPA has been wanting to do this for years.”

    Tahama Springs is one of three that once attracted visitors with jugs and bottles eager to fill them with the “health-giving drink,” according to a Nov. 2, 1941 story in the Gazette and Telegraph.

    Its waters were valued for their high levels of calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, sodium chloride and a handful of other minerals. They were not dissuaded by the “negligible amounts” of lithium revealed by a “spectrascope.”

    Three bronze medalions were hung inside Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park, as seen in this March 6, 1927, story in the Gazette and Telegraph. They honored Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, an ally of the U.S. and friend of Pike and other explorers. Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    Three bronze medalions were hung inside Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park, as seen in this March 6, 1927, story in the Gazette and Telegraph. They honored Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, explorer and Army Lt. Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama, an ally of the U.S. and friend of Pike and other explorers. Courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    A key feature the coalition hopes to reproduce is the bronze artwork of Palmer, Pike and Tahama.

    After the 1965 flood, the medallions disappeared. Efforts to find them have failed.

    “The Gazette even wrote a story about the missing medallions in 1998 or so but no one came forward,” Boddington said. “We’d sure like to find them.”

    One of the most interesting aspects of the restoration push is that two key players — LeeAnn Westfall and Nick Kittle — no longer work in Colorado Springs. Kittle even moved away when his job with the city was eliminated.

    Westfall is the sustainability coordinator for the Douglas County School District and Kittle works for Adams County and lives in Parker. But both are committed to the Tahama Springs project. Westfall is focusing on fundraising while Kittle is leveraging his relationships from his days at City Hall to push the technical aspects of the project forward.

    “We had several questions to answer including: Is the spring still there,” Kittle said. “Then we had to find out if the water is drinkable.

    This story in the May 16, 1926, Gazette and Telegraph reported the new Tahama Spring pavilion in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs.  Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

    This story in the May 16, 1926, Gazette and Telegraph reported the new Tahama Spring pavilion in Monument Valley Park in downtown Colorado Springs. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

    “When we tested it, we found a flow rate of two gallons of water per minute.”

     The question of its drinkability will determine how the project proceeds. Will they try to install a filter system to purify the water coming out of the new pump or will they simply tap into a nearby CSU water main and turn it into a glorified drinking fountain, as Kittle described it?

    “We want to restore it to the most historically accurate structure possible,” Kittle said. “That’s our goal.”

    Either way, all involved seem determined to see the structure built, one way or another.

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson's drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    This is architect J. Mark Nelson’s drawing of the proposed new Tahama Spring pavilion. It would be an open-air facility, with no roof, to discourage homeless from camping inside. A new steel hand pump would be installed with a gravel drain. It would contain benches and medalions honoring Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Zebulon Pike and Sioux Indian Chief Tahama. Courtesy the Historical Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.

    I wondered why Westfall and Kittle would be deeply involved since both have had to go out of town to find jobs.

    “We are just so committed to the community,” Westfall said. “It’s important for the city to know young professionals care.”

    For Kittle, the issue is personal.

    “For me, this project is a passion,” he said. “When I tell people about this project, they get really excited. Just because you leave doesn’t mean you don’t care. This is a labor of love for me and for all of us. It means a lot to be able to say I helped preserve something that is a big part of our history.”

    I have no doubt this group will live up to their rallying cry: “We’re going to put the springs back in Colorado Springs.”

    Tim Boddington, left, and Jeff Long are members of the Historical Alliance of Colorado Springs and have worked for years to restore Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park downtown. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Tim Boddington, left, and Jeff Long are members of the Historical Alliance of Colorado Springs and have worked for years to restore Tahama Spring in Monument Valley Park downtown. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Rockrimmon Trail rerouted for safety and private property concerns

    Thu, July 25, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Gary Flanders say he planned to build a "linear home" on a tiny, triangular-shaped parcel his GeoTech Corp. purchased a few years ago. The Rockrimmon Trail crossed the parcel, which city officials say should have been deeded to the city decades ago but "fell through the cracks." When Flanders offered to sell the parcel to the city, parks officials instead re-routed it to a traffic signal and crosswalk on Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    Gary Flanders say he planned to build a “linear home” on a tiny, triangular-shaped parcel his GeoTech Corp. purchased a few years ago. The Rockrimmon Trail crossed the parcel, which city officials say should have been deeded to the city decades ago but “fell through the cracks.” When Flanders offered to sell the parcel to the city, parks officials instead re-routed it to a traffic signal and crosswalk on Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    In recent weeks, a short section of the Rockrimmon Trail was blocked by a fence and the trail re-routed across a small creek over a new bridge with a new concrete sidewalk on each end.

    Trail users began calling me asking why the detour was created, for no apparent reason. They could see no damage which might have prompted the dramatic change to the trail, which dates back some 30 years to when the adjacent Silver Springs subdivision was developed.

    Turns out there were a couple of reasons for the permanent detour: safety and private property rights.

    For years the city has been concerned because the trail crossed busy Rockrimmon Boulevard in the middle of a blind curve near an intersection with Allegheny Drive, encouraging trailgoers to jaywalk and put themselves at risk, said Kurt Schroeder, a Colorado Springs parks department official.

    “It was a bad place for a crossing,” Schroeder said. “It dumps people out mid-block. It’s not the safest situation possible.”

    Schroeder said it makes more sense to redirect the trail 200 feet or so east to a traffic signal and crosswalk at the intersection with Allegheny in front of Fire Station 12.

    The city installed a bridge and concrete sidewalk to alter the path of the Rockrimmon Trail recently so that trailgoers will cross Rockrimmon Boulevard at a traffic signal instead mid-block. The change was made after a small, triangular-shaped parcel was purchased by Gary Flanders' GeoTech Corp. a few years ago. Flanders said he offered to sell the parcel to the city, which declined and built a pernament detour instead.

    The city installed a bridge and concrete sidewalk to alter the path of the Rockrimmon Trail recently so that trailgoers will cross Rockrimmon Boulevard at a traffic signal instead mid-block. The change was made after a small, triangular-shaped parcel was purchased by Gary Flanders’ GeoTech Corp. a few years ago. Flanders said he offered to sell the parcel to the city, which declined and built a pernament detour instead.

    “That’s where people need to be crossing,” Schroeder said.

    The safety concern is completely legitimate. For years I’ve seen people dodging cars there and narrowly avoiding tragedy.

    What puzzled me was why the city made the changes now, after all these years. The answer was a surprise.

    The city was prompted to after it was contacted by the owner of that section of the trail.

    Turns out, the city didn’t own that tiny section of trail or have an easement across it. It was private property!

    In the 1960s and ‘70s, when the Golden Cycle Corp. was transforming Rockrimmon from a massive underground coal mine into a master-planned, residential subdivision, it deeded to the city most of the trail, which meanders more than a mile from Foothills Park to Golden Hills Park to Monument Creek with several branches.

    But a triangular parcel about 300 feet long and 40 feet wide never was transferred, Schroeder said.

    “It fell through the cracks,” he said. “It was an insignificant piece of property. But we should have secured an easement. Who knows how it happened?”

    The parcel’s ownership went ignored for decades until it was picked up via quit claim deed by Gary Flanders of LaVeta and his GeoTech Corp. Flanders specializes in taking ownership of small parcels that sometimes get overlooked in transfers of ownership. He owns several in Oak Valley Ranch, for example, and has tried to convert them to development sites or sell them.

    In fact, in 2007 I wrote about a proposed 15-acre subdivision in Oak Valley Ranch along Allegheny Drive just below the Pikeview Quarry that was derailed by a Flanders parcel.

    Just as the project was on the verge of city approval, it unraveled after the developer, Kalima Masse, placed an easement across an associated open space to allow a road to be built to an isolated parcel Flanders owns adjacent to Oak Valley Ranch Park. Flanders and Masse are partners. (She answered the phone when I called his LaVeta home.)

    072513 Side Streets 4At the time, city planner Larry Larsen and assistant city attorney Wynetta Massey said the easement was not permitted and withdrew city approval of the project. Kalima Masse eventually abandoned the project.

    On the Rockrimmon Trail parcel, Flanders said he planned to build a “linear house” along the creek.

    “But the city said no,” Flanders said. “So we offered to sell it to them or trade for surplus property.”

    Schroeder said the parks department wasn’t interested.

    “We looked at the alternatives and determined installing the bridge and rerouting the trail was the best option,” Schroeder said. “It’s safer, which is the most important factor. And it was less expensive.”

    Installing the bridge, sidewalk and fences cost about $150,000. Schroeder said that was half the price of buying the parcel.

    Flanders said he couldn’t remember the asking price he put on the parcel but insisted: “It couldn’t have been more than $50,000.”

    When I visited the parcel Tuesday, there were trash bags piled up within the fences. And a deer grazed in the brush.

    A neighbor told me some joggers ignore the fences and cut through Flanders’ property, often accosted by neighboring homeowners to yell at them to get out.

    Schroeder hopes trailgoers will respect the fences and use the bridge and traffic signal.

    “It’s private property and we shouldn’t be there,” Schroeder said. “And the new alignment is much safer.”

    Fences now block a short stretch of the Rockrimmon Trail. The city installed a bridge and concrete sidewalk to alter the trail route to cross Rockrimmon Boulevard at a traffic signal instead mid-block. The change was made after a small, triangular-shaped parcel was purchased by Gary Flanders' GeoTech Corp. a few years ago. Flanders said he offered to sell the parcel to the city, which declined and built a permanent detour instead.

    Fences now block a short stretch of the Rockrimmon Trail. The city installed a bridge and concrete sidewalk to alter the trail route to cross Rockrimmon Boulevard at a traffic signal instead mid-block. The change was made after a small, triangular-shaped parcel was purchased by Gary Flanders’ GeoTech Corp. a few years ago. Flanders said he offered to sell the parcel to the city, which declined and built a permanent detour instead.

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  • Coyote attacks cause Colorado Springs residents to question wildlife policies

    Thu, May 30, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    053013 Side Streets 1

    Joan Wolford of Rockrimmon  carries an 8-ounce air horn whenever she goes outside with her toy poodles, Duffy and Clancy. She has chased off coyotes, treed bears and even protected herself from a guy who tried to rob her in Texas with the air horn.

    Readers are sounding off about the recent coyote attacks on two preschoolers in a popular Colorado Springs park.

    John Mims of Village Seven neighborhood told me coyotes are becoming a common sight on the Homestead Trail and he’s disappointed in the seeming indifference displayed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials to reports of the predators near playgrounds.

    Cindy Dyer who lives in the Holiday Village Mobile Home Park near Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex where the children were attacked told me coyotes have been a growing concern.

    “I don’t take my dog out without carrying bear mace,” she said via email. “The enjoyment of being outside in my yard with my dog has been ruined by having to be on guard continually for a possible attack.”

    Coyote poster 3Soccer dad Dennis Mesward reports confronting an aggressive coyote while walking with his golden retriever at Gossage.

    “I was surprised how brazen this coyote was as he stood 15 feet in front of us and was creeping toward us,” Mesward said in a Facebook message. “Definitely no fear of humans.”

    Phill Pollard posted on Facebook that his wife, Candy, fought off the first coyote attack in the park and alerted authorities.

    “But they didn’t do anything,” Pollard said. “She even predicted there would be someone else hurt by that animal.”

    Of course, a second child was mauled by a coyote a short time later, triggering a fullscale hunt that resulted in two adult coyotes being killed by CPW officers at the park along Monument Creek north of Fillmore Street.

    Coyote posterOn Wednesday,  I called the agency to learn lab results of the coyotes’ remains and to give wildlife officials a chance to respond to complaints they’ve been slow to act.

    Jennifer Churchill

    Jennifer Churchill

    The good news is that neither coyote tested positive for rabies, said Jennifer Churchill, wildlife agency spokeswoman. So the two young victims won’t face long, painful rabies treatments.

    Whew!

    But Churchill also delivered some news that will not please those who want coyotes driven out of city neighborhoods and parks.

    “There’s no way you can remove all coyotes from an area,” Churchill said. “If you have the habitat, you are going to have coyotes.”

    And the state isn’t interested in spending thousands of dollars to trap and remove “good” coyotes from cities, she said.

    Instead, Churchill said it’s time for community conversations in Colorado Springs and every city in Colorado about how to deal with urban coyotes.

    “It’s an issue for everybody,” Churchill said. “It’s up to us — citizens, the city, the Parks and Wildlife department — to meet and decide what our level of tolerance is and what we want to do about coyotes.”

    She noted that coyotes can be hunted year round in Colorado with a small game license. Ranchers and landowners in unincorporated areas can shoot them, if they like. But not in cities.

    Coyote poster 2In urban areas, there are no easy answers to coyotes. They have adapted to urban environments, especially where there are greenbelts and open spaces for them to hunt and den.

    Coyotes aren’t a problem as long as they remain scared of humans. But the problems develop when people feed them or when coyotes hunt pet dogs and cats.

    “We’ve spent five years looking at all the research on coyotes,” she said. “We’re trying to have this conversation with cities and counties. What can we allow people to do in cities when it comes to coyotes?”

    Especially when they become comfortable around humans.

    “We want people to be chasing them out of their neighborhoods,” Churchill said. “We need to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Don’t yield your own backyard to coyotes. Don’t yield the space under your porch to their den. Make sure you are not welcoming them.”

    Most important, she said, is your reaction when you see coyotes.

    “Coyotes see dogs as a possible threat, possible prey or a possible mate,” she said. “You need to protect your pets. Keep them on leashes and near you. And haze coyotes whenever you see them. Respect them enough to keep them wild.”

    Duffy and Clancy are toy poodles and the best friends of Joan Wolford of Rockrimmon neighborhood. She protects them with an air horn whenever they are outside.

    Duffy and Clancy are toy poodles and the best friends of Joan Wolford of Rockrimmon neighborhood. She protects them with an air horn whenever they are outside.

    Which brings me to Joan Wolford, a native of Colorado Springs and longtime resident of Rockrimmon with her husband, Leland Wolford, a retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot.

    Wolford said she learned a dozen years ago the best way to deal with coyotes and other wildlife who roam her backyard and neighborhood. It’s not a gun. Or pepper spray. Or even a big stick.

    “I carry an 8-ounce can of signal horn,” Wolford said. “It’s 150 decibels and it works.

    “I have run off coyotes, bear, deer, dogs and even a guy who tried to rob me down in Texas once.”

    She carries the air horn on shoestring around her wrist whenever she goes out with her toy poodles Duffy and Clancy.

    “I’ve had coyotes come out of the creek at me,” she said. “I’ve been able to fend them off with my signal horn. I have treed bears with it. A mama and two cubs. They all went up a tree and stayed there a couple hours.”

    Wolford said she waits until the wild animals get close, aims the air horn at their heads and lets them have it.

    Joan Wolford carries an 8-ounce air horn with her whenever she is outdoors with her dogs, Duffy and Clancy, to scare off wild animals.

    Joan Wolford carries an 8-ounce air horn with her whenever she is outdoors with her dogs, Duffy and Clancy, to scare off wild animals.

    “It doesn’t work from too far away,” she said. “Blast them at head level. It really works. Pepper spray doesn’t do any good. And the purse-size can of signal horn failed me. I use the big one. It costs about $16 in the boating department at Walmart. It’s good, cheap protection.”

    Actually, wildlife officials agree that loud noise is a good deterrent to coyotes.

    But Churchill stressed that any coyote acting aggressively toward humans needs to be reported.

    “That’s not something we take lightly,” she said. “We see pet attacks differently. But coyotes being aggressive to people need to go.”

    A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey's backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey's little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey's yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey’s backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey’s little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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  • Coyote attack on pre-schoolers in saddens Colorado Springs man who sounded alarm

    Sat, May 25, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Frank VerHey holds his little dog, Joey, who nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey's yard on North Cascade Avenue . The 84-year-old VerHey chased the wild animal with Joey in his mouth through his neighborhood before the coyote dropped his him. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Frank VerHey holds his little dog, Joey, who nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . The 84-year-old VerHey chased the wild animal with Joey in his mouth through his neighborhood before the coyote dropped him. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Frank VerHey was disappointed but not surprised at headlines last week that coyotes had attacked two preschoolers in popular Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex along Monument Creek north of Fillmore Street.

    In January, Frank sounded the alarm about the pack of coyotes living in the park. He warned that folks walking and jogging on the trail along the creek were being shadowed by the coyotes — a big, black alpha male, a female and three pups.

    He expressed fear the coyotes were unafraid of humans and folks were in danger unless authorities trapped and removed the coyotes.

    Frank was convinced because of his own dangerous encounters with the pack of coyotes living in the park.

    I met Frank, 84, in January and told his story of how one of the coyotes had attacked his 5-pound, 18-month-old Yorkie pup, Joey, a few days before Christmas.

    A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey's backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey's little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey's yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey’s backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey’s little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    The coyote hopped a fence and snatched Joey by the head as the pup was chasing birds in the VerHey’s yard. Frank watched, horrified, as the coyote took off running, little Joey dangling limp from the wild animal’s jaws.

    Frank described how he chased the coyote and Joey through the Emerald Acres Mobile Home Park where he lives on north Cascade Avenue. Eventually, neighbors gave chase and confronted the fleeing canine, who dropped Joey and escaped. Despite severe wounds, Joey survived in what a veterinarian described as a “Christmas miracle.”

    Frank and his wife, Mary, were relieved little Joey would recover.

    Colorado Division of Parks and WildlifeBut they were also upset at the response they received when they called the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency to report the dangerous pack of coyotes living in the 18-acre field behind the trailer park along the creek and just across from the park.

    “They roam around here like they own the place,” Frank said. “Do we have to live like this, worried that they’re going to grab our dog and kill him?”

    Sadly, Frank learned there was nothing the wildlife agency could do to coyotes living within the city.

    Michael Seraphin

    Michael Seraphin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency

    I talked to Michael Seraphin, agency spokesman, who described the obvious restrictions on shooting coyotes in the city and the difficulty in trapping them.

    Seraphin said the best he could suggest was for folks to harass coyotes whenever they spot them. Squirt them with a hose. Scream at them. Throw rocks or sticks at them. Make them feel unwelcome and prompt them to relocate. And don’t feed coyotes or any wild animals.

    Frank scoffed at the idea that nothing else could be done.

    “Someone’s going to get hurt,” he warned in January.

    I visited Frank’s home a couple times and was amazed how boldly the coyotes trotted around the field along the creek. They stared at us. The adult coyotes ran within a few yards of Frank’s house as the pups played atop a mound of dirt. They easily could have been shot with tranquilizers and removed. Or just shot.

    Instead, they remained to continue terrorizing the mobile home park. About 10 days ago, a coyote tried to snatch another small dog in the park. A couple days later, the black male confronted a man walking his two dogs. The man yelled at the coyote until it finally retreated.

    Frank said he and Mary were sure something bad was going to happen again.

    Of course, last Thursday, his prediction came true as two preschoolers were attacked across the creek in the park. One child escaped mostly unharmed but a 3-year-old girl suffered severe gashes to her head requiring hospital treatment.

    Coyote mapThe attack triggered an aggressive response by wildlife officials. They tracked the coyotes to a den near Sinton Pond, calling the animals and eventually killing two adults on Tuesday. The hunt continued late in the week for any remaining coyotes, Seraphin said Thursday.

    “We are continuing to look for coyotes in the vicinity but we haven’t seen any since the two were taken on Tuesday,” he said. “But it’s been pretty quiet ever since. There have been no howlings and no sightings.”

    The remains of the dead coyotes were sent to a lab in Fort Collins to be tested for rabies.

    Frank reports that the pack he normally sees outside his window has disappeared. He’s happy about that. But he remains frustrated with the initial response.

    “I told the guy at the Division of Wildlife that somebody is going to get hurt of maybe even killed,” Frank said. “Is that what it takes? For a coyote to kill a little kid? Then they’ll do something?”

    Seraphin declined to respond to the complaint by Frank and other neighbors that wildlife officials didn’t do enough to protect people from the coyotes. In the past, Seraphin and other wildlife officials have urged the public to haze urban predators that seem unafraid of humans and learn to coexist.

    To see a Parks and Wildlife agency video about urban coyotes, go to this link.

    A coyote seen near Garden of the God Park.

    A coyote seen near Garden of the God Park.

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  • LITTLE JOEY ESCAPES KILLER BUT DANGER LURKS

    Sat, January 12, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 6 comments

    Joey, the 18-month-old Yorkie, owned by Frank and Mary VerHey

    Little Joey came running up to greet me with a smile on his face. He was so adorable I barely noticed the bite marks on the head of the 5-pound, 18-month-old Yorkie.

    A few days before Christmas, Joey had been snatched by a coyote as he played in the yard, chasing birds.

    Luckily, Joey’s owner, 84-year-old Frank VerHey, was standing close by at his work bench and saw the abduction.

    “That sonofagun coyote jumped over the fence, picked Joey up by the head and took off,” Frank told me Wednesday.

    Frank immediately gave chase, running after the predator as his pup dangled and flopped from the coyote’s mouth.

    “He jumped back over the fence with me after him,” Frank said. “He cut across the street. I ran as fast as I could run.”

    Frank VerHey and his dog, Joey, in the backyard of their home in Emerald Acres Mobile Home Park on North Cascade Avenue. (Photo by Christian Murdock / The Gazette)

    For a few frantic minutes, Frank followed them through his neighbors’ yards, up the street and down the alley of the Emerald Acres Mobile Home Park on north Cascade Avenue, near a bend in Monument Creek.

    “I’m 84 years old with a pacemaker,” Frank said, vividly recalling each step in the chase. “I was trying to follow that little bugger.”

    It must have been quite the scene: Frank running and hollering for help; a neighbor screaming as the coyote raced toward her with little Joey; and finally another neighbor confronting the escaping canine, causing it to drop Joey in a heap and race off.

    “He dropped him in the middle of D Street,” Frank said. “He was bleeding bad. I picked him up and ran him to the hospital. They told me he didn’t have a 20 percent chance of making it.”

    But three days later, and after $1,900 worth of surgery to close his wounds, Joey was declared a Christmas miracle and released. Frank and his wife of 62 years, Mary, celebrated the return of their little dog.

    Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

    Even as we spoke, the would-be kidnapper and his pals were trotting through the 18-acre field that separates the creek from the mobile home park and Frank and Mary’s trailer.

    It was mid-afternoon but the five coyotes were not shy as a couple of them rough-housed on a pile of dirt near the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail along the creek.

    And that’s the problem. Frank said the coyotes aren’t afraid of humans. They hang around all the time. Even hop in the yard and steal pieces of bread he tosses to the birds he feeds in his yard.

    “They are so brazen,” Frank said. “They roam around here like they own the place. Do we have to live like this, worried that they’re going to grab our dog and kill him?”

    So I called Michael Seraphin, spokesman for the state Division of Parks and Wildlife. Surely, I suggested, there must be something Frank can do to protect his pet from coyotes. How about shooting them with a small-caliber rifle or pellet gun.

    As usual, I was wrong.

    “In the county, you’d just shoot them,” Seraphin said bluntly. “But you can’t do that in the city.”

    It’s open season on coyotes year-round. And if you kill them on your property, you don’t even need a small game hunting license.

    But only in unincorporated areas of the county. Not within city limits, where it’s illegal to discharge a weapon.

    And it seems the coyotes have figured out they are free to hunt and kill in the city with impunity.

    “Urban coyotes feel very brazen,” Seraphin said, echoing Frank. “They never get harassed, shot at or killed for hanging around people.

    “They believe people are not a threat.”

    Instead, they’ve learned we are a source of food. As a result, coyotes range across the Pikes Peak region, feasting on deer, fox, rabbit, squirrel, mice and anything humans carelessly leave out including bird food and garbage.

    “They are omnivores and will eat anything,” Seraphin said. “They catch small mammals like mice and other rodents. And they’ll catch foxes as well as dogs and cats.”

    So what are people like Frank supposed to do to protect their pets? I’ve written about rural neighborhoods that hired companies to set out live traps. But Seraphin said coyotes typically are too smart to enter an enclosure. And leg-hold traps are illegal in Colorado and only permitted if there is a threat to human health.

    A coyote in a live trap.

    Seraphin suggested everyone who sees coyotes should haze the animals. Scream at them. Throw rocks or cans at them. Spray them with hoses. Make them feel unwelcome.

    One option is buying cans of pepper spray that can hit a target 20 feet away. But Seraphin cautioned even pepper spray requires practice to use — aim low so it doesn’t blow back on you.

    “Coyotes are becoming an increasing problem in urban areas across North America,” he said. “It’s a difficult question of how to deal with any predator in an urban setting.”

    For Frank, it means keeping close track of Joey and finding ways to dissuade the coyotes from lurking near his place.

    “I put up motion detectors and lights hoping that might keep them away,” Frank said as Joey happily circled the yard, scampering after birds. “But I guess I just won’t leave Joey alone for a second.”

    A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey’s backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey’s little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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  • FILLMORE STREET BRIDGE GETS NATIONWIDE ATTENTION AS EXPERTS INSIST IT IS SAFE

    Wed, January 11, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    Charlie Sheen in his mug shot after his arrest in Aspen on Christmas morning, 2009.

    The Fillmore Street bridge over Monument Creek is becoming famous. But as Charlie Sheen taught us, fame has its drawbacks.

    In  a June 2009 column, I introduced you to the bridge, which is 288 feet long and five lanes wide and sits just east of Interstate 25.

    Of course, I wrote about it in my June 28, 2009, blog.

    Since then, it’s fame has grown from coast to coast. It has been featured in discussions by engineers at Stanford University in California and at the Northeast Bridge Preservation Conference in Hartford, Conn.

    The Fillmore Street bridge even has its own video on You Tube.

    But all its buzz is not necessarily a good thing. Engineers are talking about it because of its rocker bearings.

    The Fillmore Street bridge over Monument Creek, looking south, taken Dec. 12, 2011. Rocker bearings, which sit between 38-feet-tall concrete piers and the steel beams of the bridge, are tilting, prompting worried calls to Colorado Springs engineers.

    Rocker bearings are stubby, steel supports — like big shoe boxes — rounded on top and bottom.

    Several of the Fillmore bridge bearings are tilted at alarming angles.

    The bearing are sandwiched between the top of 38-foot-tall concrete bridge piers and the hortizontal steel beams of the bridge.

    Folks called me in 2009, scared the bridge might fall based on what they saw underneath as they traveled the Pikes Peak Greenway trail.

    Tilted rocker bearings are visible in this closer view of the north side of the Fillmore Street bridge over Monument Creek. The view is facing south.Here's a closer look at the rocker bearings:The rocker bearings are shaped like large shoe boxes and rest between the concrete pier, which rises about 38 feet from the creek, and the steel beams of the bridge. They are designed to tilt to compensate for movement in the structure.

    So I called Dan Krueger, a senior civil engineer in Colorado Springs’ engineering department.

    Krueger told me when the bridge was built in 1961, rocker bearings were used to allow slight rotatation to compensate for movement in a bridge.

    The Fillmore bridge slopes from west to east and flexes, like most bridges, from thermal forces each day. It expands in the sun and contracts as it cools, especially in summer.

    He said the city took ownership of the bridge in 2007 from the Colorado Department of Transportation and had been inspecting it every three months. He said the bridge was stable and safe.

    I took a few photos, posted them on my blog and went back to harassing homeowners associations.

    I never realized the city decided a few months later to start taking a harder look at the bridge.

    Then I received an email in December from a structural and forensic engineer in New York. She wanted permission to use my photos in her research proposal to study bridge rocker bearings. The Fillmore bridge rocker bearings caught her attention.

    She told me the Fillmore rocker bearings were the subject of discussion in engineering circles. I learned our little bridge was discussed at engineering conferences from California to Connecticut. (They even used my photos.)

    I found references on the Web, even the You Tube video, and learned the city had put the bridge under intense scrutiny.

    So I called Krueger back and learned that in 2009 the city hired Structure Inspection and Monitoring Inc., or SIM, of San Jose, Calif., to install sophisticated sensors to determine the stability of the bridge and learn why its bearings tilted.

    The good news: experts say the bridge is safe.

    This photo from GoogleEarth.com shows the manmade hills built to separate Interstate 25, the railroad tracks and Monument Creek. Experts believe the hill became saturated and settled, perhaps causing the bridge to shift east.

    “If the bridge was unsafe, we would close it,” Krueger said. “It’s open and we’re watching it.”

    But he acknowledged the bridge is puzzling.

    “The bridge does have some issues but it appears to be stablized,” Krueger said. “There are some head-scratcher things about the structure.”

    Like why the rocker bearings tilted. And why the bridge seems to have slid against the east abutment.

    A runner on the Pikes Peak Greenway trail heads under the Fillmore Street bridge and its tilting rocker bearings in this Dec. 12, 2011, photo. This view looks north. Beyond the bridge is the Rick "Goose" Gossage Youth Sports Complex.

    Spencer Graves, president of SIM, said he’s studied a year’s worth of data and agrees with Krueger’s assessment.

    “It seems to be quite safe,” Graves said. “It’s not dangerous. The city is taking responsible action. The prudent thing is to monitor.”

    Graves believes a 38-foot-tall concrete pier which rises from Monument Creek moved in a flood sometime since the bridge was widened in 1971.

    And, he said, he believes saturation of manmade hill at the west end caused it to slump, causing the bridge to shift.

    Measuring devices can be seen in this photo of a rocker bearing on the Fillmore Street bridge.

    His company installed an array of sensors and probes on the bridge and is conducting intense monitoring of the bridge to determine if it is moving.

    Krueger said the question of movement is the key.

    “We have to establish whether the bridge is moving or not,” he said. “That’s why the equipment has been installed. To answer that question.

    This expansion joint, at the east end of the bridge, repeatedly cracked open, requiring constant patching. It was a red flag to experts that the Fillmore Street bridge was moving.

    “If it’s moving, then we need to get something in the hopper to fix it.” 

    He understands why people who see the bridge are worried.

    “There are some odd things that are worthy of concern and watching and monitoring, which is what we’re doing.”

    But he believes it is not moving more than any other bridge.

    “It is anchored on the west abutment,” Krueger said. “And it rests against the east abutment only in summer. A gap opens in winter, which is good.”

    It means the bridge is expanding and contracting as designed. Not moving freely and premanently lodged against the east end.

     That flexing explains why the expansion joint at the east end was a chronic problem for street crews.

     It constantly needed to be patched as the bridge moved back and forth.

     Krueger said the new information has allowed the city to address the joint with a more weather-proof solution to minimize the constant cracking.

    Here's the point the bridge meets the east abutment. Note how the railings are smashed together and the concrete is crushed where the bridge is resting on it. The expansion joint is visible on the surface.

    Below I’ve posted photos explaining some of the impressive technology employed by Graves’ SIMS group to monitor the bridge.

    After a year of monitoring to establish a baseline of data, the city now will spend another year watching it to determine if it is acting up and in need of an expensive repair or even more expensive replacement.

    It would cost upwards of $2 million to replace.

    The problem is that the bridge scored an 85.6 sufficiency rating on its 2010 inspection. It needs to score a 50-80 rating to qualify for fedreal bridge rehabilitation funds. And it must score below 50 to qualify for federal bridge replacement funds.

    This link takes you to UglyBridges.com where you can see its 2008 evaluation data. Notice the tilted rocker bearings are not even mentioned in the evaluation of the bridge!

    So any work done now would be funded solely by Colorado Springs taxpayers. And nobody wants to buy a new bridge if they don’t have to.

    Of course, no one wants the bridge to end up like Charlie Sheen, either.

    Sophisticated computerized sensors and probes were installed by Structure Inspection and Monitoring Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    A sophisticated high-tech monitoring system was installed on the bridge after my 2009 column. The solar-powered system collects real-time data every second on soil moisture, temperature and bridge movement from dozens of sensors and probes. Consultants collected a year of data to establish a baseline for the bridge and now is collecting a second year of data and conducting real-time analyses.

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    This graphic from SIM -- Structure Inspection and Monitoring Inc. from San Jose, Calif. -- maps the dozen "linear displacement" sensors deployed on the Fillmore Street bridge as well as the solar-powered computer system used to transmit data in real time.

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    This graphic from SIM -- Structural Inspection and Monitoring Inc in San Jose, Calif. -- explains the work of linear displacement sensors on the Fillmore Street bridge.

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    Another SIM graphic maps acceleromters, which are employed on the bridge, as well as "strain gauges."

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  • IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BE A BIKING FAN

    Sun, August 21, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

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    The big project for the city's trail staff in 2011 is completing the 3.5-mile Midland Trail from America the Beautiful Park to Manitou Springs. A $2 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado paid for the project, due to be completed in October.

    Perhaps the most exciting three-day sports weekend in Colorado Springs history culminates Monday when 135 or so pro bike riders launch themselves from Garden of the Gods and race downtown at upwards of 50 mph.

    It’s the prologue of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and it follows the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon over the weekend.

    I’m totally psyched!

    And it reminds me how lucky I am to live in a community that embraces cycling and encourages it with a network of neighborhood trails.

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin prepares to bomb down a ski run at Breckenridge.

    The trail system isn’t perfect. I’ve done my share of bushwacking when a trail abruptly ended. And I’ve gotten lost a few times trying to find connections.

    But I’ve also lived in cities where I wouldn’t dare commute 10 miles on a bike, as I do from my Rockrimmon home to downtown.

    Check out a video I made of my commute.

    Hang on as you climb onto the handlebars of my old Stumpjumper and rocket along with me at 60 mph — thanks to the magic of time-lapse editing — down the Pikes Peak Greenway along Monument Creek, over to the Shooks Run Trail and finally to The Gazette.

    Or take a longer, full-length 40-minute trip with notes inserted to point out landmarks and street-crossnigs.

    It was a blast making the video. And I’d love to see videos of your commutes.

    Signs like these help trail riders find their way through the city's network.

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    Some signs are in better shape than others.

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    Here's another map in the Patty Jewitt Neighborhood

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    It got me wondering about the status of area trails, especially with the severe budget cuts experienced by the parks agency.

    Actually, a lot is going on.

    Kurt Schroeder, manager of the city’s parks, trails and open space, said his staff remains committed to developing trails and piecing together missing links that sometimes frustrate folks on two wheels.

    “It’s a slow process,” Schroeder said. “We have little money for rebuilding old trails. But we can still get money for new trails.”

    In fact, the city expects to finish in October most of the 3.5-mile Midland Trail from America the Beautiful Park to Manitou Springs, thanks to a $2 million lottery grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO.

    Trail is being built along Sand Creek out east as well as from North Nevada Avenue to Dublin Boulevard near Cottonwood Creek, said Sarah Bryarly, the city’s trail guru.

    Her wish list includes expanding the Rock Island Trail, punching Shooks Run Trail south to Fountain Creek and expanding Cottonwood Creek Trail from Vincent Drive.

    It all sounds great to me. I can’t wait to ride them.

    And I can’t wait to see your photos and videos!

    Here’s some of the sights you’ll see on my video:

    On my commute, I enjoy crossing the bridges over Monument Creek and its tributaries.

    .

    Going under bridges can be spooky like this crossing under Pikes Peak Avenue.

    .

    Stay alert. You never know when you might encounter wildlife . . . even the prehistoric kind.

    .

    The city has placed mile markers along the Pikes Peak Greenway to help you keep track or your progress.

    .

    This is one of my favorite spots popping up from under the Garden of the Gods Road bridge and seeing the sunflowers along the edge of Pikeview Reservior and Pikes Peak in the background.

    .

    I like this overpass that carries you over Cache La Poudre Street and into Shooks Run Park.

    .

    Down along Monument Creek near Roswell neighborhood.

    Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has a trails page with tons of useful information.

    Check out this

    trails page: http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=1881
    pikes peak greenway trail: http://www.springsgov.com/units/parksrec/maps/pdfmaps/24x36ppgy.pdf
    midland trail map: http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=2289

    xxx

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  • CHANGE COMES QUICKLY TO HUMANE SOCIETY

    Wed, June 22, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    This is the approximate route taken by Luna, a dog owned by Daryl and Cindy Anderson. Luna escaped a relative's fenced yard and made her way about three miles toward home before she was killed on railroad tracks near Rockrimmon.

    Luna

    Some good is coming from the sad story of Luna, the dog who escaped a fenced yard and tried to make her way home only to be killed on the railroad tracks along Monument Creek in Rockrimmon.  

    Luna’s remains were found by Tom, a Rockrimmon resident, who removed the collar and called Luna’s owners, Daryl and Cindy Anderson, to inform them of Luna’s death.  

    Tom called the Andersons himself because he said the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region refused to take a “deceased animal” report.  

    He said HSPPR staff told him to call the Colorado Springs street department to report a dead animal. Tom was outraged and feared Luna’s owners would never know what happened to their pet.  

    Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

    So he called The Gazette and Luna’s story was the subject of Monday’s Side Streets column. That’s when things happened at HSPPR.  

    I received an email Monday from Jan McHugh-Smith, president and CEO of the humane society.  

    She told me she was changing policy immediately to accept dead pet reports and log them in a notebook available for viewing at the society’s Lost and Found Pet area.  

    Here’s the text of her note to me:  

    Dear Bill,  

     After your story was published our currently policies on lost and found pets were reviewed, and we would like to update you and make some corrections to your article entitled: SIDE STREETS: Neighbor helps family get closure for lost pet, questions humane society policy.  

    Jan McHugh-Smith, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region

     From this point forward, the City of Colorado Springs Street Division will directly email their finished work logs (recording dead animal description and location) to our lost and found email. We will be publishing all of the logs in a notebook in our Lost and Found Pets area. This will allow owners to read the logs, and hopefully be able to identify if their pet has been found deceased in the city. We will also match the city work logs with lost animals that have been reported to HSPPR to try to reconnect additional stray pets

     Our call center will also be taking found reports on deceased animals, and will try to combine logs and reports if efforts are found duplicated. 

     The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region works diligently to reunited owners with lost companion animals; we reunited 4,199 stray animals last year alone. Tom should be commended in his actions, and his Good Samaritan efforts will bring positive changes in our policies. 

     Sincerely,   

     Jan McHugh-Smith 

    President and CEO  

    I should note all the good work HSPPP already does on behalf of pets and their owners in the region. 

    According to the 2010 annual report, the society had 21,100 pets in its care in Colorado Springs

    It handled 7,700 adoptions in addition to the 4,199 reuinted pets and fostered 450 pets

    It’s animal law enforcement unit responded to 24,000 calls for service and conducted 3,800 cruelty investigations

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