Sep 28, 2010 10:31 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Section 16 gets council's approval

Colorado Springs City Council has approved to purchase Manitou Section 16 to keep the 640 acres of land open space.  Section 16 is located on the southwest side of Colorado Springs.

The vote was unanimous Tuesday afternoon.  The city had been leasing the land since 2005 from the State Land Board.  Before that, El Paso County was leasing the land.

This deal has been decades in the making.  The purchase of the land has been complicated for several reasons, but two issues were the fact that the state owns the land and that there have been several different valuations of the land.

"You get great views from here.  And it's hard climbing up this side, but it's a great downhill on the other side," describes Diane Cahalan, who says she hikes Section 16 a few times a month.

It is estimated about 150,000 pairs of hiking boots hit the trail of Section 16 every year.  Local governments and voters have worked for decades to keep this open space open.   The land connects with Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the Pike National Forest.

"Ecstatic.  Very excited.  It's going to be cool now that it's part of our trail system," says Cahalan.

The asking price for this 640 acres of land is $4.1 million.  Colorado Springs will pay nearly $3 million, using TOPS (Trails, Open Space, & Parks) tax money.  GOCO is giving a $1 million grant.  El Paso County is contributing $200,000.  The City of Manitou Springs is giving $10,000, and several other groups and committees have pledged money to make the deal happen.

"It [Section 16] was the poster child for getting TOPS passed back in the '90s.  People have always intended that that remain part of the public," explains Susan Davies, Trails and Open Space Coalition executive director.

The city has been negotiating with the State Land Board to buy the property for many years.  Those talks have been complex to say the least, but a new state law allows local government to work with the state to buy land for preservation, and keeps potential developers out of the mix.

"Had it not passed, I don't think Colorado Springs would have been able to afford it.  But the bill gives the city the opportunity to deal directly with the state land board," says State Representative Michael Merrifield, who co-authored the bill.

For non-hikers, the landscape under Pikes Peak will remain for generations to come.


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