2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Hair dryer blows away speeding in Colorado Springs neighborhoods

    Fri, September 13, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


    Toby Norton whistles Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2000, to slow down a speeding motorist in the school zone on  Van Buren Street by Stratton Elementary School. Norton points her orange hair dryer at drivers hoping they'll think it's a radar gun. The Gazette file.

    Toby Norton whistles Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2000, to slow down a speeding motorist in the school zone on Van Buren Street by Stratton Elementary School. Norton points her orange hair dryer at drivers hoping they’ll think it’s a radar gun. The Gazette file.

    All I have to do is mention speeding, schools and neighborhoods to get a strong reader reaction.

    In Wednesday’s Side Streets, I reported that Facebook friend Amy Berger wanted to know how to request a speed trap be set up in her neighborhood near Horace Mann Middle School. Amy said commuters turn Templeton Gap Road into a drag strip each morning and evening.

    The calls, Facebook messages and emails came as expected, pointing out speeding hot spots and urging Colorado Springs Police to write more tickets in neighborhoods and school zones.

    Reader Jerry St. James commented on my column that Capulin Drive in southeast Colorado Springs is more like a freeway than a neighborhood street.

    “I wish the city would give me a camera and a radar gun,” Jerry wrote.

    That’s exactly what the city did for another caller, Steve Haver, who used to partner with Toby Norton back in 2000 to slow commuters charging back and forth on Van Buren Street past Stratton Elementary as they took a short cut between between Circle Drive and Union Boulevard northeast of downtown.

    “Toby and I used to run a radar gun on Van Buren,” Haver told me. “We got flipped off a lot. But it actually worked.”

    Actually, Toby started by parking along Van Buren and holding a hair dryer out her window to resemble a radar gun.

    “Finally police got involved, trained her how to use a radar gun,” Haver said. “She’s run the gun and I’d take down the data — the description of the car and license number.”

    Police would look up the registration and send a warning letter to the owner to slow down.

    “It made a lot of people very angry but her daughter and my daughter were a lot safer and I felt pretty good about that,” Haver said. “That’s a possible solution for Amy. Get out there with a hair dryer.

    “Citizen action will take care of these people.”

    Reader Frank Merritt wrote to complain that speeding hot spots need to be more diligently patrolled by motorcycle cops during morning and evening rush hours. He’s especially upset about Collins Road in Falcon Estates north of Woodmen Road.

    “Our street is a speeding hot spot as cars shortcut between Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard,” Merritt wrote. “A few months ago, a beautiful sheep dog across the street was mowed down.”

    Merritt said the city would generate needed tax revenue by “ticketing these rogue drivers.”

    Others echoed that sentiment, urging more police traffic patrols in neighborhoods.

    But it’s not that simple, said CSPD’s Sgt. Rob Kelley, who supervised the city’s 20 motorcycle cops from 2009 until he recently switched assignments.

    For years, Kelley explained, his unit focused patrols on major intersections in an effort to slow traffic and reduce wrecks.

    But residents wanted motorcycle cops more heavily deployed into neighborhoods. So, in 2009, they got their wish. Complaints virtually disappeared, Kelley said. Instead, so many neighborhoods asked for similar attention “it overwhelmed our resources.”

    There was another problem. With few highly visible motorcycle cops at major intersections, motorists got more daring and drove faster with predictable results. Wrecks at busy intersections spiked.

    Kelley said the unit is trying to balance the needs to patrol both neighborhoods and busy intersections.

    Now, neighborhoods with speed limits under 30 mph do not qualify for motorcycle enforcement.

    But each morning and afternoon motorcycle cops are required to patrol a school zone for a minimum of 30 minutes.

    “With over 120 school zones in the city, we don’t get to work any one area long enough to have much of an impact,” Kelley said apologetically. “But we try.”

    So, if you have a hot spot you want to report, call your local police substation — Falcon, Stetson Hills, Springs Ranch or Gold Hill.

    And if you get really upset, grab your hair dryer and do your best Toby Norton impression.

    SMART Trailer===================


  • Racial diversity grows even in ‘gotta wear shades’ white Colorado Springs neighborhoods

    Mon, May 20, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    A map of Colorado Springs showing its racial/ethnic makeup in 2010 based on U.S. Census data. White neighborhoods are green, Hispanic are orange/red, black are purple and Asian are blue. Courtesy the Timoney Group.

    This map of Colorado Springs shows its racial/ethnic makeup in 2010 based on U.S. Census data. White neighborhoods are green, Hispanic are orange/red, black are purple and Asian are blue. Courtesy the Timoney Group.

    In my mind, I have a visual map of Colorado Springs.

    Maybe you do, too.

    In my map, I see neighborhoods in colors.

    For example, neighborhoods like the Broadmoor, Skyway, Peregrine and towns like Monument are white. Glaring, gotta-wear-shades white.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how  the racial makeup of downtown Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of downtown Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    Others, like my neighborhood in Rockrimmon, are more off-white. Predominantly white but not starched-and-pressed white.

    That image probably is true for most of Colorado Springs, with exceptions.

    Hillside and Deerfield Hills, in my mind, were black and Hispanic. Same for the Lowell School neighborhood, Mill Street, Stratton Meadows and the Widefield/Security areas.

    Now, thanks to a cool website created by the folks at the Timoney Group in Denver, I have a new visual map of the area. And I’m surprised how different the reality is from the 20-year-old image in my mind.

    Brian Timoney, a demographer and social analyst, plugged in U.S. Census data from 2000 and 2010 to allow viewers to easily see how cities along the Front Range changed in their racial and ethnic makeup during the decade.

    Timoney said the website was helpful as Denver was redrawing its city council districts and trying to ensure minority neighborhoods were represented.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of the Broadmoor neighborhood changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps from the Timoney Group show how the racial makeup of the Broadmoor neighborhood changed from 2000 to 2010.

    “Oldtimers have a mental map that is often 20 to 30 years out of date,” Timoney said. “In Denver, many think of the Five Points neighborhood as predominantly black. But it hasn’t been for 25 years.”

    Similar changes have occurred in Colorado Springs, if not on the same scale.

    For instance, the Broadmoor remains solidly white. But from 2000 to 2010 the diversity of the neighborhood was slowly changing, as evident in Timoney’s maps.

    More dramatic change is evident in the southeast part of Colorado Springs. Take Hillside, long a racially diverse and predominantly black area. According to the map, Hillside experienced a surge of white and Hispanic residents by 2010.

    An interesting neighborhood to look at is around the Lowell School south of downtown. In 2000, it was predominantly Hispanic. Then came the townhomes and condos of redevelopment and suddenly it shows up as mostly white in 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup changed after the development of the Woodmen Vistas neighborhood in 2007.

    These maps show how the racial makeup changed after the development of the Woodmen Vistas neighborhood in 2007.

    Then there is the interesting case of the development in the Woodmen Heights region northeast of Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road. The Cumbre Vista neighborhood is being developed there along with Woodmen Vistas, a 10-acre subdivision where the Habitat for Humanity and Rocky Mountain Community Land Trust are partners in building low-income homes.

    The two agencies launched the project in 2007 and when finished it will have about 70 homes.

    Look at the map and see what Woodmen Vistas has done to the racial makeup of the area. It’s gone from bleached white to predominantly Hispanic.

    It’s actually a little unusual to be able to clearly identify minority neighborhoods in the Springs, said Kee Warner, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

    “Colorado Springs, in comparison with cities across the United States, is not extremely segregated,” Warner said. “Racial minority populations are more evenly distributed here, than even in Denver. It’s not easy to identify certain neighborhoods as strictly African American or Latino.”

    There is no “Chinatown” or Irish or Italian neighborhood, as you commonly find in other cities.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of neighborhoods in southeast Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of neighborhoods in southeast Colorado Springs changed from 2000 to 2010.

    And based on the maps, the city’s predominantly white neighborhoods are trending toward eggshell, if you will.

    “These maps tell us something about how the community is evolving over time,” Warner said. “We’ve got significant diversity in our population below age 21 and we’re going to see that work its way into our broader population. We’re going to have an increasing diversity of our population.”

    Still there will be enclaves or concentrations of racial populations and they can be attributed to economics, whether it’s a public housing project in South Shooks Run or Hillside, or among the mansions of the Broadmoor neighborhood.

    “You’ve got to remember that the city is arranged by income levels as well,” Warner said, adding that while slight shifting is expected, don’t look for dramatic change in the racial makeup of wealthy neighborhoods any time soon.

    But as for the rest of the city . . .

    “Other neighborhoods will continue to shift,” Warner said, noting the folks seeking out specific schools can drive huge population shifts. “It’s part of the aging process of neighborhoods.”

    Check out the maps and tell me what you think you see.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of the Old Colorado City neighborhoods changed from 2000 to 2010.

    These maps show how the racial makeup of the Old Colorado City neighborhoods changed from 2000 to 2010.



    Sun, October 9, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Are you afraid in your neighborhood?

    Scared to walk at night?

    What about the daytime?

    A new survey reports that fewer than 50 percent of folks in the Pikes Peak Region feel “very safe” walking their neighborhoods at night!

    The 2011 survey of the Quality of Life Indicators in the Pikes Peak Region released Friday reports the number of people who feel “very safe” walking in their neighborhoods at night has dropped below 50 percent.

    According to the report, 82 percent of people surveyed feel “very safe” or “somewhat safe” strolling their neighborhoods in the day.

    But when night falls, the number drops to just 71 percent. And fewer than half feel “very safe.”

    I was shocked.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m no macho man. Over the years, I’ve been scared, day and night, visiting certain neighborhoods . . . the housing projects in Chicago, the Tenderloin in San Francisco, or any neighborhood in Oakland, East St. Louis and Kansas City, Kan.

    But never have I felt fear in Colorado Springs.

    I know there are neighborhoods here where you can get robbed or shot . . . Briargate, Peregrine, Flying Horse, Broadmoor.

    Let’s face it, any neighborhoods where there are nice cars, fancy homes and money are targets of crime.

    The only fear I’ve felt walking at night in the Springs is from the rare mountain lion or frequent black bear who roam our region. I’ve seen mother bears get pretty aggressive around humans at dusk. I even faced one in my own garage.

    But the survey is talking about fear from humans and that is much different. And it doesn’t seem to matter that the crime rate in the region is 10 points below the national average.


    Colorado Springs neighborhood activist Dave Munger and Mayor Steve Bach spoke at a news conference in September 2011.

    So I asked neighborhood guru Dave Munger, president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, about the findings.

    “I’m a little concerned,” Munger said, noting that some of the fear may be related to another finding of the survey that showed the city’s police are solving fewer crimes than ever.

    The so-called “crime clearance rate” dropped to 22 percent in 2010 in Colorado Springs and it was 27 percent in El Paso County. In Fountain, the rate was just 23 percent.

    “Unfortunately, I don’t have a great solution for this,” Munger said. “The question is: How do we make sure we are providing a safe environment for all our citizens and good a quality of life for all citizens regardless of their ability to pay for it?”

    On the positive side, he said, the survey showed a growth in the number of neighborhood organizations. There are about 200.

    “That’s a terrific thing,” he said. “Neighborhood and community organizations are where we learn to work together and understand what it means to live and work together. They are basic units of democracy.

    “When a neighborhood is organized and makes decisions to improve the quality of life, it will impact the people in the immediate vicinity in a positive manner.”

    Wonder if those neighborhood groups are good at solving crimes?




    Sun, October 2, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    This is a view looking east down the 1100 block of West Cucharras Street in the Old Colorado City neighborhood.

    Notice anything funny about how the cars are parked? 


    Residents of the 1100 block of West Cucharras Street like to pull their cars off the street and onto the parkway. Sometimes, they hang over the sidewalk, which residents installed themselves over the years.


    Here, take a closer look.


    See all the vehicles hanging over the sidewalk?


    Rather than parallel park along the curb, as happens in the vast majority of Colorado Springs neighborhoods, folks on Cucharras park perpindicular to the street.


    And if they crowd the sidewalk, who cares?


    Clearly, no one on the north side of the block cares. This is the way they’ve lived and parked forever.


    And it’s the way they want it to stay.


    When the city hired crews to install curbs and gutters on the south side of the block, connecting to existing curbing along Cucharras Park, folks across the street became worried.


    Paul McElroy intalled his own sidewalk in 1988 but he didn't put in a curb or gutter. He and his brother have three trucks, two trailers and a camper. They need the parkway to park their vehicles and maneurver them into the driveway.

    Paul McElroy warily viewed the installation of curb and gutter across the street from his century-old bungalow, where he’s lived since 1979.

    “They better not be coming over here,” he said, leaning on his fence. “Nobody said anything to me about curbs and gutters. We don’t want them.”

    Similar sentiments echoed up and the north side of the street.

    The rest of the city can have curbs and gutters, but folks in the 1100 block of Cucharras are perfectly happy with a dirt gutter next to the pavement.

    And the city better think twice before it comes around trying to install curbs.

    Here's a look at the east end of the 1100 block of West Cucharras Street from www.FlashEarth.com.

    “I’m totally against it,” said Steve Booth, who has lived on Cucharras since 1995. “I want nothing done with the front of our house. They really don’t know what they’re doing.”

    His wife, Wendy, said it would be a mad scramble for parking if everyone was forced to parallel park along a curb. Especially since only a couple houses have driveways.

    “We have nine homes on our side of the block,” Wendy said. “We’d be losing a lot of parking spots.”

    Even worse, Cucharras Park brings a lot of cars to the area.

    “We’d all be jockeying for spaces,” Wendy said. “This way, we can get more cars in.”

    Other neighbors agree with Paul, Steve and Wendy.

    Michael Hay doesn’t want to lose his parking spaces.

    “If they have to put in curbs, it would be nice if they put in the type you can drive up over like they have in some parts of the city,” Hay said.

     Of course, the city tends to frown on anyone parking on the grass or parkway.

    And it’s illegal to block a sidewalk, although police won’t respond to a complaint unless the vehicle is creating a traffic hazard.

    Newcomers to Cucharras, Rick and Jacqui Quinn, just moved from a neighborhood near downtown where parking was a challenge.

    “It’s nice to have a place to park and pull in off the street,” Rick said. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

    It doesn’t appear the curb and gutters will be “fixed” anytime soon.

    Mike Chaves, acting city engineer, says he has no plans to add curbs now.

    But he never said never.

    “Not at this time,” Chaves said. “We understand some residents don’t want them But there are accessibility issues. Other neighbors want to walk. It’s a balancing act.”

    Here's some of the new sidewalk, curb and gutter installed on the south side of the 1100 block of West Cucharras Street.



    Wed, April 6, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

    Colorado Springs City Council District Map/courtesy Colorado Springs

    For years, the Colorado Springs City Council has included four representatives elected from specific districts and four members elected at-large or on a citywide basis.

    Voters on Tuesday decided add two new districts to the map. When the change takes effect in 2013, the nine-member council will feature six district representatives and just three at-large representatives.

    Experts say the change is a victory for neighborhoods. By anchoring councilmembers to specific districts, it ensures accountability.

    And be creating more districts, each representative has fewer constituents. That gives folks greater access to their individual council representative.

    Some warn the change could lead to more parochial fights on the Council. Representatives of older, established neighborhoods, for example, might find themselves pitted against newer, faster growing suburan neighborhoods with different infrastructure needs.

    Some are especially excited because the change creates the potential for the city’s first “majority minority” district — a place where Hispanics, blacks and other minority residents outnumber whites.

    Prior to the 2013 vote, the map above will be redrawn to carve out the new districts. The racially diverse south and southeast areas of the city could find themselves with their own seat on council.

    “Symbolically, it would be quite significant,” said Josh Dunn, a political science professor at the University of Colorado’s campus here. “It would be a positive development if it creates a sense the council really is more representative of all peoples’ interests.”

    Here’s a story the Gazette’s excellent political reporter Daniel Chacon wrote prior to the election.



    Sun, February 27, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The last 10 years were tough on neighborhoods everywhere, with the mortgage meltdown and plunging property values and record foreclosures and all.

    Now, newly released 2010 census data tells us just how tough it was on older neighborhoods in the core of Colorado Springs.

    While El Paso County’s population was exploding by an additional 20 percent during the decade, established Springs neighborhoods were suffering significant shrinkage.

    Glance at the interactive map The Gazette’s Maria St. Louis-Sanchez created to show population shifts.

    Neighborhoods along the perimeter of the city are burning up with new residents, shown on the map in red, orange and gold.

    Then check out the  blue/gray masses signifying populations losses. They spread from Peregrine, Rockrimmon and Briargate up north to the Broadmoor and Stratton Meadows on the south. And from the West side to Patty Jewett to Cimarron Hills in the east.

    Here’s a list of some of the neighborhoods, based on census tracts, and their population losses in 2000-2010.

    Bonnyville ………………………………….. -5.3 percent

    Broadmoor …………………………………. -4.2

    Chapel Hills/Briargate ………………….. -4
    Cimarron Hills ……………………………. -8.3
                                   ……………………………. -2.3

    Cragmor …………………………………….. -7.4

    Dublin/Academy …………………………. -4.5

    Hillside ………………………………………. -5.3

    Holland Park ………………………………. -8.6

    Norwood ……………………………………. -3.7

    Old Farm ……………………………………. -1.7

    Old North End …………………………….. -5.4

    Palmer Park ………………………………… -8.2
                              ………………………………… -3.8

    Patty Jewett ………………………………… -11.3
                               ………………………………… -10

    Peregrine …………………………………….. -2.2

    Rockrimmon ……………………………….. -2.4

    Roswell ……………………………………….. -8.7

    Shooks Run ………………………………… -11.5

    Stratton Hills ………………………………. -10.2

    Stratton Meadows ……………………….. -17.5

    Village Seven  ………………………………. -6.5
                                 ……………………………….. -5.8

    West side ……………………………………. -9.3
                         ……………………………………. -8.3
                         ……………………………………. -5.7
                         ……………………………………. -5

    Woodland Hills/Briargate …………….. -8.8

    “It could be cyclical,” said Steve Tuck, a longtime city planner. “Most of those areas are fairly stable.

    “It could be we’re seeing an aging population with children leaving home. As a result, the average size of household is declining.”

    Check out this snapshot from the Census data. It is typical of the decline in children being seen in neighborhoods. The percentage of adults is jumping as the younger population plunges.

    El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a Westsider, said the numbers bolster the need to reinvest in older neighborhoods.

    “This really makes the argument for putting dollars into redeveloping older areas,” she said. “These areas have infrastructure issues. Some have been neglected for years. Curbs and gutters are crumbling.

     “If we really don’t want urban sprawl, we better pay attention to the core of the city. Don’t sacrifice the old for the new.”

    Here’s a look at the unincorporated Stratton Meadows neighborhood on the city’s southern edge:



    Wed, December 30, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


     The first impact of Colorado Springs city budget cuts on neighborhoods was the announcement that community centers would be closing in March.


    Then came the forced retirements of land-use inspectors who protect neighborhoods from becoming home to farmyards, slaughterhouses, auto body repair and other illegal activities.

    Now assorted road construction projects are being shelved indefinitely, including several designed to to protect residents of neighborhoods from speeding and wrecking cars. The reason? Several traffic engineers were among the 88 early retirements and 93 layoffs announced earlier this month.

    Voters are getting what they asked for in November when they rejected funding for city services.

    The latest blow to neighborhoods came in this edited version of a news release Tuesday from City Hall:



    December 29, 2009                                      

    Projects Temporarily Suspended

        Reductions in City General Fund revenues have resulted in a shortfall for City Engineering’s staff availability to manage the remaining capital projects. 

       The City Engineering Division will be competitively selecting a private sector consulting firm to manage its PPRTA capital projects.

      Due to the time it will take to properly implement this management change, the City is temporarily suspending all City PPRTA Capital work until a program management staff is in place.  This does not affect the Woodmen Road project since the majority of that funding is from the federal stimulus program.

    The following capital projects are immediately affected:

    ●       South Metro Accessibility (Proby Pkwy.) Phase 1

    ●       Austin Bluffs Corridor Improvements – Nevada Ave. to Academy Blvd. and Barnes Rd. to Old Farm Dr.

    ●       Fillmore/El Paso St. Improvements

    ●       Vincent Drive Bridge at Cottonwood Creek and Vincent Drive Extension

    ●       Hancock Avenue Bridge at Templeton Gap Floodway

    ●       Roadway Safety and Traffic Operations Projects:

    1. Platte Ave. Corridor – Hancock to Union
    2. Hwy. 24 @ 21st Street Intersection
    3. 8th Street @ Arcturus/Ramona Intersection
    4. Hwy. 24 @ 26th Street Intersection
    5. Las Vegas @ Royer Intersection and RR Crossing

     City staff requests citizens patience during this transition period. The City is committed to completing these capital projects but needs time to make this program management adjustment. 


    The city, in the text I trimmed from the news release, basically blamed the PPRTA board for the delays, citing the board’s refusal  to allow Colorado Springs to use RTA funding to pay the $1.2 million in salaries of the engineers, forcing their layoffs. 


    Here’s a link to the capital improvement projects and where you will find a link to the city’s news release about the projects that will be delayed.

     Below is a look at the $55.4 million Proby Parkway project, including an elaborate interchange with Powers Boulevard.


    Buried on the list of shelved projects is the relatively cheap Platte Avenue Corridor safety project. It was conceived as a way to stop chronic rear-end wrecks on Platte between Hancock Avenue and Union Boulevard.

    Neighbors along that stretch were so upset about their traffic problems they formed a neighborhood association to speak in a united voice to City Hall about the need for changes on Platte.

    Here’s a link to my Feb. 5, 2009, column about the neighborhood.


  • LIFE’S A VACATION, unless you live near a rental

    Sun, November 1, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Colorado Springs has appointed a task force to determine whether it should license, regulate and tax vacation rental homes.

    Turns out there are 60-80 homes sprinkled around the city that are advertised around the world in Web sites as vacation rental properties.


    They are favored by parents of Air Force Academy cadets when they come for parents’ weekend or graduation.

    Many families looking for a reunion site prefer vacation homes over hotels or bed-and-breakfast inns.

    Folks with special needs, like sterilized kitchens or quiet places for elderly or children, often choose vacation rental homes over hotels.vacationrentalwebpage1


    Problem is, they bring a parade of strangers into neighborhoods. Strangers who soak up parking spaces and sometimes hold late parties. A few people living near vacation rental houses have begun complaining to the city about the situation.

    So Dick Anderwald, the city’s land use and planning chief, created the Vacation Home Rental Task Force Committee to study the issue. He appointed neighborhood activists, vacation rental home owners and city planning staff to the task force.

    Here’s the agenda for the initial meeting in September:  vacationrentals. Please note that the roster of task force members changed after this was printed. Michael Clark and Autumn Hyser dropped out.

    One of the task force members, Jackie Ayers, owns the “Old Colorado Springs” 1902 Downtown House W/ Private Hot Tub - Colorado Springs  Here’s a look at her house from the Web site:


    She also manages a vacation rental for another owner. Ayers said the task force is an over-reaction to the complaints of a few people, including two task force members who live near vacation rental homes — one on the Westside and one in the Broadmoor.

    Anderwald apparently agreees. He said the issue appears to be confined to a small area of the city and the task force likely won’t produce new rules and regulations.

    However, owners of vacation rental homes likely will start getting tax bills from the city for sales taxes they have not been paying.


  • LIKE A ROLLING STONE! Life below Pikeview Quarry

    Wed, September 23, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


      Most people look out their back windows and, beyond the fence, can see into their neighbor’s kitchen or family room or bedrooms.

     Not true for folks in Oak Valley Ranch, a neighborhood tucked in the foothills between Mountain Shadows and Peregrine on Colorado Springs‘ northwest edge.

     Especially for families living on Front Royal, Coldwater and Hollandale drives.

     They back up to Castle Concrete Co.’s  Pikeview Quarry. Above is a 2001 photo of the quarry from The Gazette’s archives.


     We’re not talking Fred Flintstone here, either. This is the real thing, visible for miles along Interstate 25, just south of the Air Force Academy.

    Lately, Oak Valley Ranch residents have had front-row seats for dramatic landslides that have sent upwards of 2 million tons of limestone cascading down the mountainside.


     The first slide occured Dec. 2, 2008, and dumped and estimated 1.5 million tons of limestone into the pit at the base of the cliff. The slide is obvious in the photo, above, taken the same day by The Gazette’s Carol Lawrence.

     But the mountain wasn’t done rockin’ and rollin’ yet. It let loose again Sept. 13 with a blast that sounded like thunder to neighbors who ran from their homes and ate dinner on their patios, watching as boulders the size of locomotives plunged down the cliff, dropping another 250,000 tons before it was done. 

    Here’s a look at the two slides.


     Reader Chris Dorry posted on YouTube video of the slide that you can watch it on this link. At about the two minute mark, you’ll actually see landslide activity as rock breaks off and rolls. My friends at KOAA TV NewsFirst 5 also got some nice footage you can view here.

    Here’s another cool video clip  that gives a great view of the landslide.

    Here’s a photo of the action captured by neighbor Rob Hellem, who heard what he described as “rolling thunder” during dinner around 6 p.m. and looked out to see all heck breaking loose.


    Experts say they expect further movement in the quarry.

    M.L. “Mac” Shafer is vice president of Transit Mix Aggregates, which owns Castle Concrete and the Pikeview Quarry - a complex of about 100-mineable acres on a 190-acre tract.

     Transit Mix owned the Queens Quarry above the Garden of the Gods, which operated from about 1955 to 1989 and now has been reclaimed. The company also operates the Black Canyon Quarry behind Cedar Heights. And it has a sand mine along South Academy Boulevard.

    Castle Concrete bought the Pikeview in 1969. It was operated for years by Peter Kiewit and Sons, Shafer said. It’s now known as Kiewit Western Corp.

    Shafer said geologists agree that more landslides will occur. He said the limestone on the surface of the mountain sits on a layer of clay attached to the decomposed granite base that makes up Pikes Peak and much of the Front Range.

    A year of steady snow and rain has saturated the limestone, coupled with the freeze-thaw cycle, caused it to slide, Shafer said.

    On Feb. 12, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials issued five citations to Transit Mix and fined the company $2,564 for safety violations in connection with the slide. Shafer said the officials accused the company of mining too much of the base of the mountain, causing it to become unstable.

    Since then, the company has been limited to removing its stockpiles of crushed limestone. The mine became more of a classroom for geologists and other scientists from around the world who have come to study the landslide.

    After the Sept. 13 landslide, the mine has been shut down. Most of the stockpiles are exhausted. The conveyors of the rock crushers are sunning beds for bobcats. Deer and other wildlife are the only thing moving about in the mine.

    Sophisticated laser sensors watch the mountainside, measuring it every few hours for any movement. Shafer said the company is developing a plan it hopes to present next June for possibly reopening the mine and finishing reclamation efforts.

    Neighbors, meanwhile, are wondering if there’s any danger in rocks rolling into their backyards. Look at these bad boys hanging from the top of the latest slide. Shafer estimates the larger boulder on the right weighs at 20,000 tons! Like a locomotive perched on the mountainside.


    Shafer said such a disaster is not likely. Below is a look at the mine, prior to the landslides, from GoogleEarth. It shows the pit.


    For now, things are calm again. But, eventually, experts expect the mine to break loose again. They are especially watching a fault at the apex of the mine above the most recent slide. On a recent hike with a geologist, Shafer said he was able to actually look into the fault and see the spot where the limestone, clay and granite meet.

    For now, the landslide have not destroyed all the reclamation efforts done over the past decade on the southern rim of the mine. More than 2,000 trees have been planted on the ledges of the mine by volunteers with the Colorado Mountain Reclamation Foundation.


  • DIRT TRAILS are not “happy trails”

    Wed, September 9, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Lorine Zukowski thinks it is wrong for Colorado Springs to allow developers leave dirt trails where sidewalks are supposed to go.

    She understands that heavy construction equipment can ruin sidewalks. But she’s tired of shuffling through the dirt and mud, getting scratched by weeds and dodging snakes as she walks her neighborhood.

    The mess can’t be avoided because a long stretch of sidewalk along Centennial Boulevard is missing near the Chesham Village South Townhomes, being developed by Clancy Building and Design.


    Below is a look at the project’s Web page. This architect’s drawing shows six buildings. Only three are built . . . the two along Chesham Circle on the north and the building on the western edge of the project. The three on the south side of Chelsea Village Heights have not been built.


    Here’s a look at what actually exists on Chelsea Village Heights:


    The street is blocked by a fence. Beyond it, you can see the corner and the missing sidewalks where neighbors deal with a dirt trail.


    Here’s a closer look at the dirt trail, facing south along Centennial Boulevard.


    Below is a vew to the north, showing how kids must dodge a steel structure to make their way down to the bus stop:


    Developer Al Clancy said he’d love to finish the project and install the sidewalks. But he said there’s not much he can do until the economy improves and he can resume construction of his townhomes.