At the May 1 El Paso County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Tim Wolken, El Paso County's parks director, reviewed the results of the preliminary flora, fauna and paleontology studies that were commissioned as part of the planning process for an off-highway vehicle park at Corral Bluffs.
The studies found human artifacts, dating back to at least 6200 B.C., that would likely require an expensive survey and a high occurrence of dinosaur and mammal fossils having high scientific value, Wolken said.
The discovery of a prairie falcon nest at the proposed entrance to the park might have required a quarter-to-half-mile buffer, making the placement of the OHV trail almost impossible.
"With this in mind, staff recommends that we discontinue the assessment process of an OHV trail system at this site," Wolken said.
The commissioners voted 4-0 to deny hiring an OHV trail consultant, effectively ending the project. Commissioner Wayne Williams was absent.
So, what's next for Corral Bluffs?
Maybe open space - within five miles of Falcon.
Lee Milner and Jackie Hilaire, members of the Corral Bluffs Alliance, which was formed to oppose the OHV park, have submitted applications to the Trails, Open Space and Parks Committee to make portions of the area protected open space.
Hilaire's application covers an area north of Highway 94, and Milner's application is for an area south of Highway 94.
Dan Cleveland from the Trails and Open Space Coalition has submitted a third application.
At the May 21 TOPS meeting, TOPS administrator Chris Lieber introduced the three applications. He said the Corral Bluffs locations are a good fit with the proposed Jimmy Camp reservoir and surrounding park. A trail could connect the park to the proposed Corral Bluffs open spaces.
Hilaire spoke in support of her application. "I have been trying for four months to get people to understand the uniqueness of Corral Bluffs and appreciate its value. My mission is to preserve Corral Bluffs. I don't believe you would want people to walk all over it. It's not a prime site for picnic tables."
Bob Solberg, who owns property adjoining the site, also spoke in favor of preservation. "I have lived in the area all of my life. I would like it to stay open," he said.
Jim Lockhart, conservation chair for the Pikes Peak Sierra Club, said he supports preserving Corral Bluffs as open space. "The city is creeping east and the time to preserve Corral Bluffs is now," he said.
Judy von Ahlefeldt also spoke in favor of the applications. "Corral Bluffs is unique in that these rocks are the very rocks at the bottom of the Denver Basin. These rocks record the time when dinosaurs became extinct and mammals began to rise.
"We have exposures of all the Denver Basin rocks within driving distance. This is an incredible opportunity to have something maybe even beyond city and county."
The western states are dotted with small towns and cities that have partnered with local archaeologists and paleontologists to create interpretive centers that could be a model for Corral Bluffs, von Ahlefeldt said.
John Harris, a resident of Manitou Springs, said the artifacts and wildlife found in Corral Bluffs will have to be protected from hikers, just as they needed protection from dirt bikers, an opinion also expressed by Commissioner Dennis Hisey at the May 1 BOCC meeting.
"It would be a shame to have a double standard," said Harris, who described himself as a hiker as well as a biker. "You have to hold everyone to the same standard."
TOPS chairman Bill Koerner assured Harris that TOPS intends to apply the same standard of protecting Corral Bluff's resources from hikers that was applied to dirt bikers.
"Our absolute goal is to protect the resources and provide recreation," Koerner said. He promised a full public process before TOPS acquires any property.
Colorado Springs established TOPS in 1997. The program is funded by a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax that expires in 2009. To date, the program has funded 12 open space projects, including the Red Rock Canyon, Blue Stem Prairie and Austin Bluffs open spaces.
Artifacts, such as this projectile point, have been discovered at Corral Bluffs. Studies have been conducted to determine how the county should proceed with future plans concerning Corral Bluffs land. Photo from www.savecorralbluffs.com