2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Park entrance teaches Colorado Springs kids about community

    Fri, May 23, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    The new garden at the entrance to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m., May 30. It was a collaboration of the Discovery Homeowners Association, neighbors, area businesses, city parks and utilities as well as the Rockrimmon Elementary School. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    The new garden at the entrance to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m., May 30. It was a collaboration of the Discovery Homeowners Association, neighbors, area businesses, city parks and utilities as well as the Rockrimmon Elementary School. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    To passersby, the entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in the Rockrimmon neighborhood is just a nicely landscaped gateway to the playground, baseball diamond and soccer field.

    But the newly sculpted walking paths, the bright flowers, shrubs, trees and mulch represent much more than a neighborhood amenity.

    To Barbara Barton, principal at Rockrimmon Elementary School, it was a great opportunity for her students to learn important lessons.

    “One of our goals is to make learning relevant,” Barton said. “We’ve connected with this project on all kinds of levels.”

    City horticulturist Donna Sanchez explains planting procedures to students from Rockrimmon Elementary school on Friday, May 16, 2014. About 17 students helped plant flowers they grew in the school's community garden in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. It was a collaboration of the Discovery Homeowners Association, neighbors, area businesses, city parks and utilities as well as the Rockrimmon Elementary School. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    City horticulturist Donna Sanchez explains planting procedures to students from Rockrimmon Elementary school on Friday, May 16, 2014. About 17 students helped plant flowers they grew in the school’s community garden in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    For kids in the school’s garden club, it was a chance to apply what they’ve learned in their own community garden next to the park.

    “Every grade level has a raised bed where they plant in the community garden,” Barton said. “All our kids are involved in the garden.”

    For kids in the art club, it was a chance to create ceramic stones to line the paths of the gateway garden. It wasn’t exactly as fun as you might expect.

    “The glaze wasn’t working with the clay so we had to start over,” Barton said. “The new glaze is beautiful.”

    052314 Side Streets 7But the artistic stones won’t be ready for placement in the gateway until next fall.
    Then there is a group of five fifth-grade students who learned very different lessons from the project.

    They are being mentored by Barton as part of the school’s participation in the International Baccalaureate program, which encourages students to develop independence and to take responsibility for their own learning as they gain understanding of the world and learn how to function comfortably within it.

    The five found themselves immersed in the real world as they joined the Discovery Homeowners Association in planning meetings with officials of the Colorado Springs Parks Department, Colorado Springs Utilities and landscape architects.

    “They sat in on the planning and were given diagrams and had a voice in the process,” she said.

    The five followed the project from conceptual design to actual construction and then shared what they learned with the rest of the students at Rockrimmon.

    Thejas Satishkumar, a fifth grade student at Rockrimmon Elementary school, was among 17 students helped plant flowers May 16, 2014,  in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    Thejas Satishkumar, a fifth grade student at Rockrimmon Elementary school, was among 17 students helped plant flowers May 16, 2014, in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    “These five students chose to be environmentalists,” Barton said. “During our IB exhibition in April, they taught everyone about xeriscaping and drought-resistant plants and deer-resistant plants and water conservation.”

    That’s a lot of learning from a gateway garden to a neighborhood park.

    And a lot of credit goes to the Discovery HOA who wanted to turn an eyesore into a neighborhood amenity and the neighbors and businesses who donated thousands of dollars worth of design skills and materials for the garden and the city folks who contributed as well.

    Jack Lundberg, president of the Discovery HOA, is so proud of what the way the community has come together that he has invited Mayor Steve Bach and others to attend a dedication ceremony at 11:30 a.m., May 30.

    He should be proud. Coordinating these kinds of projects is like herding cats.
    Making it a collaborative effort spreads the pride to everyone involved. And that’s especially true of the kids who will remember their involvement in transforming a patch of dead grass and overgrown bushes into a beautiful new entrance.

    Barton said these kinds of projects have a lasting impact on children and play a key role in the school’s overall mission.

    Stacy Rawlins, a city parks employee, poses May 16, 2014, with Niko Pappas, left, and Parker Croslin, right, who are fifth grade students at Rockrimmon Elementary school. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    Stacy Rawlins, a city parks employee, poses May 16, 2014, with Niko Pappas, left, and Parker Croslin, right, who are fifth grade students at Rockrimmon Elementary school. Photo courtesy Barbara Barton.

    “We talk to our students all the time about taking meaningful action,” Barton said. “It’s a huge emphasis at our school.

    “That includes taking meaningful action at home. Taking meaningful action at school. And ultimately taking meaningful action in your community and in the world.”

    So congrats to Discovery HOA, the neighbors who donated their expertise, time and energy, the businesses who gave to the project and the city officials who contributed.

    You didn’t just help build a gateway garden. You helped teach these students valuable lessons about what it means to be a contributing member of the community.

    And that lesson will be reinforced each time they walk to school and pass the gateway garden and see their efforts blossom and grow.

    About 17 students from Rockrimmon Elementary school planted flowers  Friday, May 16, 2014, that they grew in the school's community garden in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. It was a collaboration of the Discovery Homeowners Association, neighbors, area businesses, city parks and utilities as well as the Rockrimmon Elementary School. Photo courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    About 17 students from Rockrimmon Elementary school planted flowers Friday, May 16, 2014, that they grew in the school’s community garden in the new gateway to Discovery Park in the Rockrimmon neighborhood. It was a collaboration of the Discovery Homeowners Association, neighbors, area businesses, city parks and utilities as well as the Rockrimmon Elementary School. Photo courtesy Jack Lundberg.

  • Drought claims home to flickers, squirrels, racoons, threatens Colorado Springs’ urban forest

    Fri, April 25, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn’t want it cut down. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Recently, Carol Willis returned to her home near Colorado College to find a large “X” painted in orange on the trunk of a large, old silver maple tree out front.

    It might as well have been a skull and cross bones in orange.

    Carol Willis hugs the silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)The “X” was painted by city foresters who determined the tree, growing in the parkway between the sidewalk and curb, was dying and a hazard that must be removed before it falls and crushes someone or damages property.

    Now, Carol is mourning the pending loss of the tree, which towers over her century-old home, and she worries about how many more city trees damaged by a decade of drought and watering restrictions are doomed to suffer a similar fate.

    “It’s like losing your favorite aunt,” Carol told me. “You’ve been close with her for 35 years. She’s always been in excellent health, cheerful, kind to animals and then suddenly you are told she has a terminal disease and she won’t be with you for but a few more weeks.

    “It’s terrible.”

    Cary Vogrin

    Cary Vogrin hugs a tree on a trail above Green Mountain Falls in September 2013.

    I know exactly how she feels. My wife, Cary, loves trees so much I have photos of her hugging them on hikes and on vacations.

     Big, old trees attracted us to our little home in Rockrimmon. We love the massive blue spruce in front and cherished the privacy we enjoyed from a dozen or so tall pines in back.

    Then pine beetles attacked and killed a handful of our trees, which had to be removed. We’ve felt exposed, like a plumber bent over under a kitchen sink, ever since.

    Anyway, Carol is dreading the loss of the tree, which was part of a pair of silver maples in front of the house when she and her late husband, Clif, bought it in 1979.

    Funny story, she and Clif discovered Colorado Springs in 1968 when they on their way from Chicago to a new job in California. Their car broke down on Raton Pass and they hitched a ride into Colorado Springs with traveling salesmen. They called a friend who happened to be living here and borrowed a car to complete their trip to California.

    “The job in California didn’t work out and we moved back to Chicago,” Carol said. “But we kept dreaming of Colorado Springs. Finally, in 1973, we just decided to go and we picked up and moved here.”

    They found jobs — Clif worked in broadcasting and acted in TV commercials while Carol danced, did choreography and costume design and more — and after a few years they bought their home on Dale Street with the twin silver maples in front.

    But almost immediately one silver maple was cut down by the city after it was declared dead.

    Carol Willis views the decades-old silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard as a "favorite aunt." She hugs it Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn't want it cut down.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    Carol Willis views the decades-old silver maple tree in her Colorado Springs front yard as a “favorite aunt.” She hugs it Thursday, April 24, 2014. The tree is dying and the city has declared it a hazard which must be removed. Willis, who moved into the home in 1979, doesn’t want it cut down. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

    The other silver maple, however, remained and became a beloved friend.

    “I think of how comfortable, warm and protecting it’s been,” Carol said. “It’s shaded us and never shed one branch.

    “It’s been the home of two nesting pairs of flickers. Squirrels live in it. They really love it.

    They run up and down, chasing each other all the time. They are going to be losing their home.”

    She always looked forward to it leafing out in spring, bringing a burst of green to the neighborhood. In the fall, it turned red. And she loved seeing its wing-shaped seed pods helicopter to the ground.

    “I love them,” she said wistfully of the memory. “And its leaves are so beautiful in the fall.”

    But city foresters plan to remove the tree “sooner rather than later.”

    Even though the tree appears to be alive, even producing leaves through the barely alive bark and branches, it is dead on the inside, said Kurt Schroeder, manager of park operations for the city.

    “The heartwood of the tree is rotted out,” Schroeder said. “It’s hollow in the middle and has raccoons living in it.”

    Given its proximity to the street and houses and pedestrians and cars, Schroeder said the city has no choice but remove it.

    “It has become a potential hazard tree,” he said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. We want to get it down before it blows over.”

    Because the tree sits in the city right-of-way between the sidewalk and curb, Schroeder said it’s the city’s responsibility to remove.

    Schroeder said the tree is very old and the rot may have occurred naturally. Or it may be the result of drought and water restrictions that already killed thousands of trees and threaten many more.

    Colorado Springs in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    Colorado Springs in the late 19th century. Photo courtesy the Pikes Peak Library District.

    It has happened before. Previous drought cycles have decimated Colorado Springs’ lush urban forest, started by Gen. William Jackson Palmer who transformed a treeless prairie by overseeing the planting of 10,000 trees after founding the city in 1872.

    A drought in the 1950s resulted in widespread destruction and replanting. City foresters at the time aggressively replanted, relying on silver maples along with elm and ash. Foresters estimate Carol’s silver maple at around 60 years old, meaning it could have been planted after that drought event.

    Then came a five-year drought cycle in 2000 that left huge holes in the canopy of trees shading the city.

    Historic parkways in the Old North End saw significant losses as well as those on East Platte Avenue and in the Broadmoor neighborhood.

    Schroeder said Carol is right about the impact of ongoing watering restrictions on the city’s trees.

    “We have a lot of trees in decline,” he said, describing how trees have suffered as more homeowners convert their yards to xeriscape and remove irrigation systems that once fed thick lawns and trees.

    “Unless trees get supplemental water, they will have a much tougher time,” he said.

    And trees in the city’s medians have thirsted for water since the city parks department’s staff and operating budget were slashed, forcing an end to routine watering of medians and parks.

    Part of the problem is that people often don’t start watering trees until they notice stress.

    “By then, it’s usually too late,” he said. “We’ve got to water trees year-round to keep them healthy.”

    Sadly, it’s too late for Carol’s silver maple.

    Now, she’s considering whether to replace it and if she should choose a buckeye or a horse chestnut. I think she should replant. And, hopefully, she’ll get to watch a new tree grow and give those squirrels and flickers a new home.

    This towering silver maple in the parkway along Dale Street near Colorado College has shaded the neighborhood 60 years or more. Now, the city says the tree's core is dead and it must be removed before it falls over. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    This towering silver maple in the parkway along Dale Street near Colorado College has shaded the neighborhood 60 years or more. Now, the city says the tree’s core is dead and it must be removed before it falls over. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Discovery HOA works with city, utilities, school to improve neighborhood

    Sun, April 20, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    Last week, I told you about a woman who was unable to get permission to landscape her neighborhood entrance.

    Today I’ll tell you a much happier story about a neighborhood that persuaded private businesses and city agencies to collaborate and give a landscaping facelift to a city park entrance!

    For years, the entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was just an overgrown bush between two sidewalks.

    It’s a busy entrance, especially on school days when it’s used by dozens of kids and their parents going to and from Rockrimmon Elementary School.

    And it’s busy after school, used by sports teams using the baseball diamond and soccer fields.

    And by people using the picnic tables or getting exercise for themselves and their dogs.
    And by parents and kids using the playgrounds.

    Discovery Park in Rockrimmon neighborhood features a baseball diamond, soccer field, playgrounds and picnic tables. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    Discovery Park in Rockrimmon neighborhood features a baseball diamond, soccer field, playgrounds and picnic tables. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    Despite all the traffic, the entrance is nondescript. Ugly, actually, with the overgrown bush and a long under-curb sewer draining into Dry Creek, which runs along the western edge of the park.

    I’ve driven past it twice a day for years and always wondered why it was never landscaped or the bush hacked back to open up views into the park.

    Worse, the bush created a dangerous situation. Kids on bikes or skates sometimes came buzzing down the sidewalks and around blind curves created by the huge bush and came face-to-face with strollers or folks walking dogs.

    The bush also offered a hiding place for wild animals that hunt the area, especially along the creek. Coyote, fox, bobcat and even mountain lion are commonly seen in the neighborhood.

    A few months ago, the park entrance was mentioned by neighbors to the Discovery Homeowners Association, which took a look at it.

    “That thing is really ugly,” said Jack Lundberg, HOA president. “Nobody liked the bush and we decided it was an eyesore in the neighborhood.”

    What happened next was an example for the entire community.

    Discovery HOA enlisted the help of city agencies, school children, area businesses and its own residents to coordinate a makeover for the park entrance that evolved into a public/private partnership.

    Plans for the entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon include walking paths, shrubs and plants grown by students at Rockrimmon Elementary School. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    Plans for the entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon include walking paths, shrubs and plants grown by students at Rockrimmon Elementary School. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    Construction will start in a few weeks to transform the park entrance into a professionally designed entryway complete with a xeriscaped garden, footpaths and other landscaping.

    It’s an ambitious project to which Discovery HOA committed $4,000 along with a promise to provide long-term maintenance of the garden entrance.

    Still short of funds, the HOA then went in search of help from the Colorado Springs Parks Department, Colorado Springs Utilities and others.

    “Like any remodeling project, we found we couldn’t afford it,” Lundberg said.

    The HOA learned water was available for irrigation from a city sprinkler system and the parks department had $1,000 available to help. Springs Utilities offered to donate pipe and valves and things if the neighborhood installed a xeriscape garden.

    Still short of cash, the HOA approached a neighbor who works as a landscape architect to design the entrance for half the normal rate. Then the HOA approached a nursery and landscape materials supplier for donated materials.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon was a non-descript mess of bushes, trees and sidewalks in this Sept. 25, 2013, photo. Courtesy Jack Lundberg.

    “This project is a model of citizen/agency/business cooperation,” Lundberg said, noting the project would cost at least double what they are actually spending without all the help.

    The HOA even got the school involved.

    “We thought it was important to involve the school,” he said. “We got student input in the design. And the school has an environmental ecology program and greenhouse. The students will cultivate annual and perennial plants from their garden for use in the new garden.”

    It sounds like a great collaboration and I can’t wait to see the results when construction is finished in May.

    Lundberg is excited, as well.

    “It’s a neighborhood success story,” he said. “I’m real proud of it.”

    He should be. And it has me thinking. My front yard is a wreck. It’s 1970s version of xeriscaping: an ugly mix of bleached out river rock and lava rock.

    Maybe, if I can persuade the folks in parks and utilities and a landscape architect . . . hmmmm.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon is seen, left, from FlashEarth.com. On the right is the landscape architect drawing of the xeriscape garden to be built.

    The entrance to Discovery Park off Pebble Way in Rockrimmon is seen, left, from FlashEarth.com. On the right is the landscape architect drawing of the xeriscape garden to be built.

  • We all need tee shirts saying: “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain”

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Disasters are a very real part of life in Colorado Springs.  Things here burn. And flood. And they slide down mountainsides. And once in a while things shake. We even get the occasional twister.  Today’s special pull-out section of The Gazette shows how locals can prepare for the disasters that can strike in the Pikes Peak region. Please, read it carefully.

    Take heed to the warnings. There’s plenty of history that teaches us bad things do happen. And with some regularity. 

    To know this, you don’t have to be a history expert. I have learned this lesson pretty well after 20 years living in the foothills in the Rockrimmon neighborhood.

     Like thousands of you, I found myself running for my life on June 26, 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire collided with a thunderstorm creating a massive, swirling column of hellfire that roared down the foothills into Mountain Shadows, threatening to incinerate much of northern Colorado Springs.

    Two people died that night and 347 homes were destroyed. It was shocking. People are still rebuilding from what was declared the worst fire in Colorado history.

    Houses in Mountain Shadows burn on June 26, 2012. By Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

    Houses in Mountain Shadows burn on June 26, 2012. Gazette file photo

    And most of you know, the fire surrendered that title a year later when the unincorporated community of Black Forest ignited last June, killing two more people, destroying 488 homes and burning 14,280 acres beyond the north border of Colorado Springs.

    Of course, these catastrophes were compounded by flash floods that swept tons of rock and debris from the charred mountainsides down U.S. 24, carrying away motorists in raging torrents of black floodwaters, wrecking businesses and homes in Manitou Springs and in communities up and down Ute Pass. The rains also caused flooding in Black Forest and across the region, leaving at least four dead.

    With this mayhem, death and destruction all around us, I’m amazed at the poor attendance I’ve seen at community meetings held to educate folks about preparing for the worst. I’ve sat in auditoriums where the emergency services experts outnumbered the members of the public in the audience.

    Thankfully, more folks have turned out at recent meetings. That’s good because people need to stay informed because it will be years before we can relax.

    These disasters were not fluke occurrences. We’ve had conflagrations going back to 1854 when a wildfire reportedly started on Cheyenne Mountain, burned about 50 miles west through Divide and Lake George to Wilkerson Pass in Park County and started burning back again before winter snow finally put it out.

    Fire destroyed much of downtown Colorado Springs when a trash fire in the rail yards ignited a railcar full of explosive powder Oct. 2, 1898.

    John Schnake walks past a sandbag wall at a neighbors house that is just above his home on the east side of Highway 24 in Cascade. The sandbags were placed there by volunteers working with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and in places the sandbags are twelve high and seven sandbags wide. Schnake said he's hopeful that the sandbags will divert 98 percent of the water that might flow down from the burn scar above the homes. "Think of it as a funnel and I live at the bottom of the funnel," he said. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    John Schnake walks past a sandbag wall at a neighbors house that is just above his home on the east side of Highway 24 in Cascade. The sandbags were placed there by volunteers working with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and in places the sandbags are twelve high and seven sandbags wide. Schnake said he’s hopeful that the sandbags will divert 98 percent of the water that might flow down from the burn scar above the homes. “Think of it as a funnel and I live at the bottom of the funnel,” he said.
    Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    And on Jan. 17, 1950, a blaze erupted on Cheyenne Mountain and burned east through Camp Carson, killing eight soldiers and a 14-year-old boy who skipped classes at West Junior High to join the fight. The fire consumed 50 square miles of Cheyenne Mountain and Camp Carson, seriously injured more than 30 soldiers and destroyed 92 buildings.

    I heard, firsthand, some of the horror stories from that fire, which started after midnight, reportedly when wind gusts estimated at 100 mph ignited smoldering brush piles left by crews clearing the land for new golf courses at The Broadmoor hotel.

    In 2002 I interviewed survivor Charles “Bud” Burrill, then 71, who was a private at Camp Carson when the fire erupted. He told me he still had flashbacks whenever he heard news of someone burned in a fire. He was reminded of agonizing months he spent in a hospital with third-degree burns to his face, hand and legs. He was burned driving another soldier to the hospital in thick smoke and their Jeep drove into a ravine where a bridge had burned away.

    “My face went right into the fire,” Burrill told me in 2002. “I remember seeing these red ashes. It about burnt my face off. My right hand was real deep in the ashes. I pulled my hand out and all the skin fell off.”

    An estimated 5,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers fought the blaze, which burned hot for almost 24 hours and smoldered for weeks until a heavy snowfall extinguished lingering hot spots.

    Besides historic fires, the region has endured rains and flooding of biblical proportions, including the Memorial Day flood of 1935 that killed upwards of 18 people according to various reports, destroyed every bridge over Monument and Fountain creeks but the one at Bijou Street and did $1.7 million in damage.

    A mailbox and chimney were the only things left of Ted Robertson's home after the Black Forest fire roared through his property. Courtesy Ted Robertson.

    A mailbox and chimney were the only things left of Ted Robertson’s home after the Black Forest fire roared through his property. Courtesy Ted Robertson.

    A second major flood in 1965 killed two children, washed out roads and bridges, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

    Those heavy rains in July 1965 also sent boulders and debris cascading down on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, destroying the ape house and damaging the hippo house. Boulders also blocked the entrances of NORAD, the military space complex burrowed inside Cheyenne Mountain during the Cold War to watch for missile and air attacks on North America. Landslides also gashed Interstate 25 south of the city at the time.

    But there’s far more to worry about than fire and rain. There have been blizzards that buried the region including a March 11, 1909, storm that pounded Colorado Springs with 26.5 inches of snow. Locusts infested the region in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl era.

    In December 1995, a late-night earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale shook the Broadmoor neighborhood. The quake was pinpointed on the southern end of the Oil Creek Fault, one of two Cheyenne Mountain earthquake faults.

    And in the 1980s and ’90s, slowly sliding hillside land damaged homes across the city. In 2000, a warning by state geologists prompted a multimillion-dollar federal buyout and the demolition of 13 homes in an active 200-acre landslide in the Broadmoor area.

    As for tornadoes, two rated EF3 or higher, with winds in excess of 135 mph, have hit El Paso County in recent years. The first was in 1977 while the second, in 1979, dropped into Manitou Springs causing one injury and significant damage.

    A lone firefighter tries to stop the spread of the Black Forest fire. Photo by Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    A lone firefighter tries to stop the spread of the Black Forest fire. Photo by Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    Have I gotten your attention yet? The point is not to scare everyone into moving away. Instead, I urge everyone to pay attention. When experts say to avoid expansive soils, or to landscape to protect against water and debris flows, or to thin trees to protect against wildfire, please listen and act.

    Take seriously the experts’ urging to plan for evacuation. Pack a bag and keep it ready for escape. Talk to your kids about how to react, who to call, where to run in the event of disaster.

    Get a weather radio that can alert you, day and night, to imminent threats of flood or dangerous weather.

    Compile important documents and keepsakes in a fire safe or container so you can quickly grab it, stuff it in your car and run.

    I remember wishing I’d done that when the ash and embers of the Waldo Canyon fire were choking the air and floating down on our Rockrimmon neighborhood.

    Our evacuation would have been a tad less pulse-pounding if I didn’t have to take the time to videotape the contents of the house we were leaving behind. I remember wishing I’d been better prepared and cursing the things I’d forgotten when I finally reached our safe haven.

    Don’t repeat my mistakes. Be prepared.

    I’ve covered plenty of disasters. I’ve seen the heartbreak of the victims. I’ve even packed everything I could in my Jeep and run for my life. Haven’t we all learned our lessons?

    The Black Forest fire was an estimated 2,500 degrees when it reached Judy von Ahlefeldt's home. She said her home exploded from the heat. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette

    The Black Forest fire was an estimated 2,500 degrees when it reached Judy von Ahlefeldt’s home. She said her home exploded from the heat. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette

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  • Rockrimmon residents fear new apartments will create dangerous congestion

    Wed, December 4, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The clubhouse of the Encore at Rockrimmon apartment complex is finished in this Dec. 3, 2013 photo. The Nor'wood Development Group hopes to take possession Dec. 21 of the first building in the 260-unit complex under construction on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive near South Rockrimmon Boulevard. Rents will range from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    The clubhouse of the Encore at Rockrimmon apartment complex is finished in this Dec. 3, 2013 photo. The Nor’wood Development Group hopes to take possession Dec. 21 of the first building in the 260-unit complex under construction on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive near South Rockrimmon Boulevard. Rents will range from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    With images of their frantic escape from the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire fresh in their minds, some residents of Rockrimmon are worried their neighborhood is about to become dangerously congested as one large apartment complex opens and another is proposed.

    But officials of the new 260-unit Encore at Rockrimmon apartments on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive, and the proposed Creekside at Rockrimmon project, with 141 apartment units and 62 single-family homes on 24 acres just to the west, say their projects would not unduly add to traffic volumes.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking west from Delmonico Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking west from Delmonico Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    The fears surfaced in neighborhood meetings designed to alert folks to the projects and gather their input.

    Neighbor Carol Vogeney wrote me about the project after one of the meetings turned ugly and left her and others unsatisfied with the answers they received.

    “It was explosive,” Vogeney wrote of the two-hour meeting in October. “Many issues came up: traffic, crime, what to do if we have to evacuate again in the traffic.”

    She was talking about the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam that occurred June 26, 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire exploded into Mountain Shadows neighborhood prompting the evacuation of about 30,000 residents west of Interstate 25.

    The Creekside at Rockrimmon project proposed by Premier Homes of Pueblo calls for 62 single-family homes and a 141-unit student housing complex on 24 acres. The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments will have 260 units when completed. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    The Creekside at Rockrimmon project proposed by Premier Homes of Pueblo calls for 62 single-family homes and a 141-unit student housing complex on 24 acres. The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments will have 260 units when completed. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    At the peak of the evacuation, looping Rockrimmon Boulevard was six lanes of eastbound cars, packed with kids, pets and personal belongings, trying desperately to avoid the inferno to the west. Delmonico was choked with southbound cars.

    The streets intersect twice, north and south, and it was gridlock at both.

    Both apartment projects are located near the south intersection, which was especially clogged due to the proximity of railroad tracks and an intersection with Mark Dabling Boulevard and I-25.

    The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments fill 12 acres between Delmonico Drive and the railroad tracks adjacent to Mark Dabling Boulevard. The complex sits behind the Mateo Spa and USA Cycling buildings. Originally, the project was call North Pointe Apartments. It will have 260 units when completed.

    The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments fill 12 acres between Delmonico Drive and the railroad tracks adjacent to Mark Dabling Boulevard. The complex sits behind the Mateo Spa and USA Cycling buildings. Originally, the project was call North Pointe Apartments. It will have 260 units when completed.

    Now, Vogeney and many folks in the Golden Hills and Tamarron neighborhoods, among other nearby neighborhoods, worry that adding hundreds of apartments will make it even harder to funnel through the intersection of Delmonico and South Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    “Can you imagine that intersection?” Vogeney asked.

    City planner Lonna Thelen said traffic engineers studied plans submitted by Nor’wood Development Group for Encore and deemed the projected volumes within reasonable limits.

    Steve Sharkey, Nor’wood Development vice president, said Encore’s apartments would generate less traffic than if the property had been developed into more retail shops, as was originally envisioned and zoned.

    “The volume of traffic will be significantly less than a retail environment,” Sharkey said, adding that Encore will appeal to “young professionals and emptynesters” who can afford rents ranging from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    As Encore prepares to open its first building Dec. 21, Creekside awaits approval of proposed changes to its concept plan in hopes of launching the first phase of its project. It calls for 38 units in six buildings plus a clubhouse on five acres west of the intersection.

    Creekside needs approval to amend its concept from multi-family to student housing, hoping to cash in on the explosive growth of the nearby University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

    Thelen said she is awaiting analysis by traffic engineers of the plans for Creekside, submitted by N.E.S. Inc., a Springs planning firm handling the project for Premier Homes of Pueblo.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard.  The first phase calls for 38 units in six buildings and a clubhouse with pool on five acres.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. The first phase calls for 38 units in six buildings and a clubhouse with pool on five acres.

    “We’ve asked for additional study in response to neighborhood concerns,” Thelen said. “We have asked the applicant to resolve questions about geological hazards, drainage and traffic.”

    John Maynard of N.E.S. Inc., said his client has built similar student housing projects in Pueblo, east of Colorado State University there. And a similar project is planned at Mesa State University in Grand Junction.

    “There will be a pool, clubhouse, common kitchen and living area,” Maynard said. “Each bedroom has its own bath and the units are all furnished with daily trash pickup and 24-hour security patrols.”

    But Vogeney said many neighbors fear Creekside will actually be home to far more students, who will double-bunk to save money and clog the area with cars.

    “The developer insists that college kids have changed and will take good care of their dorm rooms and no one will ever have an extra roomate,” she said in disbelief.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking north from Tech Center Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking north from Tech Center Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Maynard said his client is convinced the project will run smoothly, citing experienced gained in Pueblo. He said he hopes to provide Thelen soon with new traffic projections and calm neighborhood fears.

    One change might be the installation of a traffic signal where the project will intersect with Rockrimmon at Tech Center Drive.

    Creekside, if approved by Thelen, would need approval of the City Planning Commission and possibly the Colorado Springs City Council if an appeal is filed. Premier hopes to have the first phase built and open by the 2014 fall semester.

    ===============

  • Colorado Springs couple pumped life into gas station

    Fri, November 15, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Norma DellaCroce holds a copy of the April 12, 1968, Gazette-Telegraph showing an ad announcing the grand opening of Norma's Stop 'n' Shop the next day on North Academy Boulevard. Norma and her husband, John, sold gasoline and a wide assortment of groceries, sporting goods, soda, beer and more at their shop. They also built a small strip center behind the store. Their store became home to the Breakfast Club until they sold their gas pumps and convenience store in 1990. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Norma DellaCroce holds a copy of the April 12, 1968, Gazette-Telegraph showing an ad announcing the grand opening of Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop the next day on North Academy Boulevard. Norma and her husband, John, sold gasoline and a wide assortment of groceries, sporting goods, soda, beer and more at their shop. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Recently, I re-introduced readers to the Breakfast Club, a group of mostly retired men who gather casually six mornings a week at Oliver’s Deli in Rockrimmon to drink coffee and, as club member Frank Castle jokingly described: “solve all the problems of the world.”

    It had been 10 years since I first met them and in the years since, many new faces joined the club. It’s also bounced around since it was founded four decades ago at Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop on North Academy Boulevard.

    In fact, only a few club members remain from my first visit in 2003. And just two date to Norma’s time.

    After the column ran, I heard from many people who admire the men for staying active, engaged and looking forward to what each day might bring. Many praised the men for their willingness to welcome strangers. Others expressed envy for the camaraderie they share each day as they chat, work crossword puzzles, talk about hot rods and politics.

    The most surprising call I got was from 83-year-old Norma DellaCroce. She loved the column and the memories it brought back.

    You guessed it. She is the Norma of Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop!

    Norma's Stop 'n' Shop on its grand opening day, April 13, 1968. Courtesy Norma DellaCroce.

    Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop on its grand opening day, April 13, 1968. Courtesy Norma DellaCroce.

    Several readers wondered what happened to Norma and her husband, John, who in 1967 bought a vacant 1.8-acre parcel along a two-lane road that now resembles a six-lane highway.

    On the land, next to Cottonwood Creek at what is now the southwest corner of Academy and York Road, they built a four-pump gas station, convenience store and strip mall.

    They opened it in April 1968 and ran it 22 years before retiring in 1990 when Conoco bought their gas islands.

    Like many family businesses, Norma and John became friends with many of their customers. And she had fond memories of the men who became known as the Breakfast Club.

    Norma DellaCroce holds a photo of her husband, John, who died in 2007 at age 82. In 1968, the couple opened Norma's Stop 'n' Shop on North Academy Boulevard where they sold gasoline and a wide assortment of groceries, sporting goods, soda, beer and more. They also built a small strip center behind the store. Their store became home to the Breakfast Club until they sold their gas pumps and convenience store in 1990. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Norma DellaCroce holds a photo of her husband, John, who died in 2007 at age 82. In 1968, the couple opened Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop on North Academy Boulevard. Their store became home to the Breakfast Club until they sold their gas pumps and convenience store in 1990. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “I called them ‘John’s Cracker Barrel Crowd,’ ” Norma said with a laugh. “I often wondered what happened to all of them.”

    Norma DellaCroce in a 1968 Gazette-Telegraph photo.

    Norma DellaCroce in a 1968 Gazette-Telegraph photo.

    To the east of their store in 1968 was the Brookwood neighborhood. But there wasn’t much else around, Norma said.

    The couple and their four children lived not far west of the store on old Highway 85, now Vincent Drive, near his family’s farm and home between two sets of railroad tracks that ran north out of town.

    The couple had married in 1951 and over the years John had worked in advertising at The Gazette-Telegraph. He also sold insurance and even worked in the Pikeview Coal Mine under what is now Rockrimmon in his younger days, like many in his family.

    As Colorado Springs grew in the 1960s, the couple saw an opportunity to start a business, sensing a demand for services from folks building homes closer to the Air Force Academy.

    Norma DellaCroce holds a copy of the April 12, 1968, Gazette-Telegraph showing a news story and photo announcing the grand opening of Norma's Stop 'n' Shop the next day on North Academy Boulevard. Norma and her husband, John, ran the store until 1990. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Norma DellaCroce holds a copy of the April 12, 1968, Gazette-Telegraph showing a news story and photo announcing the grand opening of Norma’s Stop ‘n’ Shop the next day on North Academy Boulevard. Norma and her husband, John, ran the store until 1990. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Sure enough, the store became popular and soon they had regular customers.

    Many were military men. But there were developers, school teachers and many others from various professions.

    “We had a Daylight Donuts shop in our building and they congregated there,” Norma said.

    Norma recalls how developer Fred Sproul, who built the unincorporated community of Security, used to meet John at the store at 5 a.m. every morning.

    “We were open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Fred would be there waiting every day,” she said. “John would go in, start the coffee and let Fred in early. He’d get the first cup of coffee before it even made it into the pot.”

    She said the Breakfast Club was not a bunch of retirees in those days.

    “They were all younger and stopped in on their way work,” Norma said. “They were there every single day.”

    She recalled their daily routine.

    “They’d come in and buy cigarettes, coffee and doughnuts,” she said. “I heckled them all the time. I’d come in and everybody was smoking. My husband and I did not smoke. I told him to tell them to quit smoking in the store. John said they were customers. Leave them alone and open a window. He let them puff away.”

    She also recalls that most of the men liked hot rods and classic cars. And pretty soon they all started talking and befriending each other and the club was born.

    The Breakfast Club remained faithful to John and Norma even as competition from nationwide chain convenience stores and gasoline dealers siphoned off some of the Stop ‘n’ Shop’s customers.

    But the economic pressures eventually became too much to withstand.

    Norma and John DellaCroce in 1960. Courtesy photo.

    Norma and John DellaCroce in 1960. Courtesy photo.

    Norma said Conoco wanted their corner due to get its proximity to Woodmen Road. When the couple refused to sell, the company opened a store just south of them and sold gasoline at a retail price cheaper than what Norma and John paid for it wholesale.

    “We just couldn’t compete,” she said.

    So they sold their gas station in 1990, retaining the small strip center behind it.

    John retired and the couple traveled the world, including visiting their family roots in Italy.

    Meanwhile, the Breakfast Club moved on to various coffee shops until finding a home eight years ago at Oliver’s Deli.

    John died in 2007 at age 82. And most of the original club members also have died.

    But Norma was happy to hear they are still getting together each day.

    She’s even thinking about dropping in on them one morning.

    “But I’ll have to go on a Saturday,” she said with a chuckle. “You know, that’s the only day they allow women.”

    111513 Side Streets 5

    The Stop ‘n’ Shop Center had a variety of national franchise shops and small businesses.

    ============

  • Neighbor stood and fought for common sense over aesthetics making new Colorado Springs roof a breeze

    Thu, August 29, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Randy Murrish stood in front of his home at 87 Raven Hills Court in this July 14, 2000, photo.  Murrish was denied permission by the Raven Hills Homeowners Association to install fire resistant asphalt shingles on his roof.  He would have been the first of 225 homes in his subdivision to have the asphalt shingles. The Gazette file

    Randy Murrish stood in front of his home at 87 Raven Hills Court in this July 14, 2000, photo. Murrish was denied permission by the Raven Hills Homeowners Association to install fire resistant asphalt shingles on his roof. He would have been the first of 225 homes in his subdivision to have the asphalt shingles. The Gazette file

    Thanks to a hard weekend of work by a crew of six men, I have a new peace of mind.

    The crew replaced the faded wood shake roof on my Rockrimmon home with fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood.

    We thanked our crew with pizza and beer for their work.

    But I also need to thank a former neighbor, Randy Murrish, who did some heavy lifting of his own that contributed greatly to my new sense of tranquility.

    For us, it was a simple process. My wife, Cary, researched all the roofing options available, selected a style and color of asphalt shingle and submitted our decision to the homeowners association, which waved it through without comment. (Waved it, that is, after they smacked down her inquiry about a smooth steel roof common in ski towns. Our HOA was having none of that nonsense!)

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    The new roof is something we’d wanted to do since we bought the house. It was 1997 and the massive Buffalo Creek wildfire west of Denver a year earlier was fresh on our minds.

    But short of cash — a theme in my life — we prayed for a hail storm. But hail rarely came and when it did that dang wood shake was just too tough to destroy.

    I remember being frustrated when hail damaged neighbors’ homes and their insurance companies agreed to pay. That was the case in 2000 with my neighbor Randy.

    “My cedar shake shingles were crumbling,” he recalled. “Then we had a hail storm and I convinced my insurance company to pay half.”

    Randy was further motivated by a major wildfire in New Mexico that year and the Hi Meadow fire near Denver.

    “I saw the devastation,” he said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before it happened in Colorado Springs.”

    But when Randy researched the covenants of our Raven Hills Homeowners Association, he learned they mandated cedar shake. (It’s amazing, frankly, that no one saw the inherent risk of having kindling as the chief protection for your home. Especially in a region with so many lightning strikes and wildfires.)

    A few neighbors had persuaded our HOA’s architectural control committee, or ACC, to allow concrete tile roofing materials. But when he studied them, Randy learned they were too heavy for our homes.

    “The houses that had them, their roofs dipped in the middle because of the weight,” he said.

    So he put together a 20-page proposal to the ACC to justify using asphalt shingles. He had photos of the shingles on million-dollar homes in nearby Peregrine. And he submitted letters from real estate agents who said the shingles did not hurt home values.

    Randy even analyzed the improvements asphalt offered in fire safety, cost and durability.

    “I did a complete presentation,” Randy said. “But before I got home that night, they already voted me down.”

    (We wrote about his fight with the HOA in 2000 as he tried to install the first asphalt shingle roof in our neighborhood.)

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    So he grudgingly replaced his roof with wood shingles treated with fire retardant. Randy did something else, as well. He vowed to change the rules.

    Already, Boulder had banned wood shake roofs in 1994 and other cities followed. Colorado Springs didn’t ban new wood shake roofs until October 2002, after the Hayman fire. But many HOAs were reluctant to allow asphalt shingles, forcing homeowners to install expensive cement and coated-steel roofs.

    So Randy got himself elected to the ACC. It took a couple years, but eventually rules were changed and now asphalt shingles protect houses throughout Raven Hills.

    (In fairness, our HOA was no different from many others. And wood shake roofs remain common across the region. In fact, they were mandated by covenants in Mountain Shadows and are blamed spreading the Waldo Canyon fire on several streets.)

    I called Randy, who now lives in Seattle, to tell him we were thinking about him.

    I told him he’d been right all along. As he had feared all those years ago, wildfire did visit the Colorado Springs area, horribly, last summer and again this year.

    The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires finally scared me enough to choke down the cost of a new roof.

    It’s such a comfort, actually, that now we’re thinking of covering our wood siding with brick or stucco.

    But without people like Randy willing to speak out and fight, I might be writing a much different column, about aesthetics clouding good judgment. It would have been a lot harder for us to finally rid our home of its rotting and cracked wood shingles.

    Instead, replacing our roof with attractive, common-sense materials was a breeze — except for writing a check with lots of zeroes on it.

    So, for that, I thank you Randy.

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resememble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    =============

  • 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.

    ===============

  • Please don’t hate Gazette for revealing Great Horned owlets location

    Mon, May 13, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Snow flies as baby Great Horned Owls peer from their nest in the Mountain Shadows area Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Hundreds of people have been stopping to view the owlets at the corner of Centennial Boulevard and Flying W Ranch Road but Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Michael Seraphin is cautioning viewers to keep their distance. "The parents can be protective of the nest and may dive-bomb pedestrians," he said. The tree is adjacent to the parking lot of a Walgreens and store employees there are also concerned about activity around the nest and are suggesting viewers not get closer than 100 feet to the owlets. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Snow flies as baby Great Horned Owls peer from their nest in the Mountain Shadows area Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Did we mess up by telling the Pikes Peak region about the Great Horned owlets in Mountain Shadows?

    Some Gazette readers think so and are telling us, sometimes in harsh terms, via letters and phone messages.

    I don’t think we did and I’ll tell you why.

    Photo by Mark Reis / The Gazette

    Photo by Mark Reis / The Gazette

    First, a recap.

    On May 2, we ran a beautiful photo of snow swirling around three baby Great Horned owls huddled in their nest in a Mountain Shadows tree.

    The photo, by Mark Reis, our director of photography, also took another showing a woman standing under the tree, holding a child to get a better view. Two other children stood by her.

    In his photo caption, Reis reported hundreds of people had been stopping to view the owlets.

    And he quoted Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Michael Seraphin warning people to keep a safe distance because the owlets’ parents might attack anyone getting too close to the nest. They are capable of doing serious injury with their sharp talons.

    Three Great Horned owlets captured from a tree in Mountain Shadows are living at the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitatoin Center where they will be taught to hunt and fly before being released back into the wild in September. Photo courtesy Donna Ralph / Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitatoin Center

    Three Great Horned owlets captured from a tree in Mountain Shadows are living at the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where they will be taught to hunt and fly before being released back into the wild in September. Photo courtesy Donna Ralph / Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

    Despite the warnings, people kept showing up at the corner of Centennial Boulevard and Vindicator Drive in large numbers. Reportedly, some climbed the tree and even prodded the nest with a long pole.

    Police were called. Barriers erected. Warnings issued.

    Finally, the owlets were removed last week by wildlife officials who feared for the safety of the owls and the public.

    Today, the owlets are rehabbing at the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where founder Donna Ralph and her staff are caring for the trio. Donna reports the birds are thriving, eating on their own mice left for them, and socializing with Hootie, an adult owl and permanent center resident. Hootie serves as a foster mom to owl babies routinely brought to the center.

    Some readers criticized folks who harassed the owls, expressing disgust for their lack of respect for nature.

    Others, however, ripped The Gazette for revealing the location of the owls.

    So I asked Mark why he thought it was important to photograph the owls and publish their location.

    He said wildlife photos are among the most popular features in The Gazette.

    “Wildlife is part of the reason many of us live here,” he said. “Most of us love the fact we interact with wildlife nearly every day, all year long.

    “By photographing them and reporting their location, we were just offering readers an opportunity to come and see them.”

    The owls were not a secret. Hundreds in the area already had seen them. Mark said 30 or so people came by in the time he was there taking photos.

    It was the same thing with the injured mule deer with the spectacular antlers that perched for weeks on a ledge in Rockrimmon earlier this winter. Hundreds of people were coming to see the deer and ignoring wildlife officials’ warnings to keep a safe distance from the injured wild animal.

    Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    Our readers depend on us to tell them what is going on in the community. Not protect them from information. Our job is to hold us a mirror to the community, whether you like what you see or not.

    Had we withheld the location of the owls or deer, we’d have been bombarded with angry callers demanding to know. We’re in the information business, after all. And you trust us to tell you the truth.

    If you can’t trust us to tell you something as simple as the location of a nest of owls, what other information might we be “protecting” from our readers?

    Certainly it’s disappointing some people abused the privilege we enjoy of living so close to nature.

    But it’s not the job of the daily paper to withhold information from readers. Just the opposite.

    If we stumble on a great restaurant, we’re going to tell you. Or we find an obscure trail that readers might enjoy, you better believe we’ll write about it. Know a great spot to encounter big horn sheep? We’ll spread the word.

    That’s what readers expect and demand from us. We do so with the expectation folks will be responsible and take official warnings to heart.

    Sadly, some won’t. And if they do it with the wrong animal, they might get bitten or mauled or injured.

    We’ll write about that, as well.

    ================

    TO SPONSOR THE OWLS

    The three hungry Great Horned owlets are stretching the budget of the non-profit Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center mighty thin, said founder Donna Ralph.

    She would welcome tax-deductible donations from interested sponsors. Learn more at http://ellicottwildlife.com

    ================

     

    Barriers and warning signs did not stop people from harassing a nest of Great Horned owlets in a tree in Mountain Shadows. Photo by Kassondra Cloos / The Gazette

    Barriers and warning signs did not stop people from harassing a nest of Great Horned owlets in a tree in Mountain Shadows. Photo by Kassondra Cloos / The Gazette

     

  • SPARRING BUCKS IN ROCKRIMMON

    Sun, March 10, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Early Sunday morning, eight young bucks and one old buck gathered in the open space behind my home in the Rockrimmon neighborhood of Colorado Springs.

    After a day of high winds and blizzard conditions, the bucks seemed to be enjoying the warm sunshine. They were feisty, engaging in group sparring.

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    The old buck with a broken antler stayed away from the group and relaxed behind my fence.

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    Meanwhile, the young bucks took turns locking antlers and pushing each other around.

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    A couple of them were particularly rambunctious, even pawing the ground and driving each other into trees and bushes.

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    The winner of that bout then went over and challenged the old buck, who had been relaxing under a pine tree.

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    They went at it for several minutes. We heard the clacking of antlers as they pushed back and forth.

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    Eventually, the old guy drove the young buck into a bush and shook his head vigorously and it was over.

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