Archive: Weekend bash to mark 10th anniversary of Red Rock Canyon deal

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Newcomers to Colorado Springs might not know it, but there was a time not too long ago that the popular hiking and biking trails in Red Rock Canyon were off-limits.

Acquiring the open space on the west side of Colorado Springs was a crowning achievement for the city’s Trails, Open Space and Parks program.

Prior owners of the former quarry and hillsides studded with the namesake rocks flirted with development, and it nearly became a golf course before the city bought it in 2003.

Saturday, park supporters and city officials will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the deal that preserved the area for the public for all time. A daylong birthday bash is planned at the park’s Bock Pavilion, with an awards ceremony at 10:30 a.m. to honor the people who made the open space possible.

And it took a lot of people over many years to turn the dream of Red Rock Canyon into a reality.

A landscape of ridges, hidden valleys and majestic sandstone spires and walls, it often has been compared to Garden of the Gods, though no roads penetrate the park. But unlike Garden of the Gods, which was preserved as a park early in Colorado Springs’ history, Red Rock Canyon was industrialized. Quarries, a gold refining mill, even a landfill all marred the area.

In the 1990s, owner John Bock, whose family assembled various parcels over the years, tried to sell it to several potential developers. When nobody was willing to pay the $15 million price tag, he put forward a plan to turn it into a golf community.

City Council refused to extend a water line and Bock sued. The family eventually agreed to sell the land for public use, and in 2003 the TOPS program, funded by a voter-approved sales tax, bought the 789 acres for $12.5 million.

Volunteers and city crews have built the area into a recreational playground, with picnic grounds, an off-leash dog loop, a bike park, technical climbing areas and more than 10 miles of trails – all next to a major highway.

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