The Friends of Cheyenne Cañon nonprofit was surprised recently to learn Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach is giving the group the heave-ho.
In a brief Jan. 6 letter, Bach said the city will honor a $25,000 appropriation authorized by the City Council. But he warned the group to “seek replacement funding” in 2013.
The note shocked Ron Leasure and Lee Wolf and other Friends leaders.
The city doesn’t fund Friends of Cheyenne Cañon.
Reality is just the opposite.
“We contribute thousands to the city from our funds to keep the cañon alive,” said Leasure, the Friends president. “That letter hurt a little bit. He put some bruises in our organization.”
Leasure and Wolf feel Bach doesn’t appreciate how much their 500-member, all-volunteer group has given the city since its founding in 1992 to preserve the 1,600-acre park, which features miles of trails, Helen Hunt Falls, granite spires and cliffs making it popular for hikers, bikers and climbers.
Wolf, treasurer and past president, said the group has been subsidizing the city for years. He calculates the group’s cash donations and volunteer hours at $1 million in the past six years.
The Friends build and maintain trails, remove graffiti, conduct major clean-up and maintenance campaigns in the park at the base of Cheyenne Mountain.
“When money got tight in 2009, they were going to close the visitors centers,” Wolf said. “We provided all the funding to pay for a full-time city employee plus the part-time people.”
In fact, the group is about to begin work on one of its single largest contributions to the park.
Demolition is expected to begin this week on the Helen Hunt Falls Visitors Center.
The dilapidated log cabin structure will be replaced by an $80,000-plus log facility to be built with funds donated by the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon.
Then it will be staffed by city employees whose salaries are paid for by the Friends. You get the picture?
“It’s the perfect private-public partnership,” Wolf said. “We give money to the city and they hire people.”
A major source of funding, besides cash donations, comes from Bristol Brewery.
All proceeds from the sale of its Cheyenne Cañon Pinon Nut Ale are donated to the Friends group.
“The new building is a gift from us to the city,” Wolf said. “And the mayor is throwing shots at us?”
So you can understand why Leasure and Wolf were upset to learn Bach announced the city was cutting off the Friends.
I’d say Bach better hope the Friends group doesn’t cut off the city!
The Friends won’t, though, because this group lives up to its name.
“We’ll sit down with the city,” Wolf said, describing how friends resolve misunderstandings. “We’ll straighten this all out.”
I hope so. This city needs all the “friends” it can get!