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El Paso County commissioners approve using federal COVID-19 recovery funds to repair damage to Paint Mines

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Vandalism and other damage to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park near Calhan in northeastern El Paso County will be repaired with approximately $328,000 from federal CARES Act funding.

Earlier this week, El Paso County commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the allocation, with commissioner chairman Mark Waller absent.

Waller has previously expressed the need for more enforcement at and monitoring of the park.

The county wants to repair current damage -- and prevent future damage -- caused by recent vandalism as well as increased visitation and overcrowding of trails and parking lots during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This project qualifies for CARES Act funding because the pandemic is largely responsible for the situation that the park is in," said Greg Stachon, a landscape architect with El Paso County Parks. "The number of visitors has tripled, and the park really wasn't designed for that."

Repair work will focus on resurfacing and adding shoulders along some trails, closing some trails and creating some new trails.

"We think most of the damage is caused by people who aren't clear about where they can and can't go," Stachon said. "Posting more signs and putting up fences should help with that. I know that people climb the rocks anyway, even with the existing signs. But we'll keep reminding them to not do that."

Workers also will install drainage culverts as well as fences and signs, build trail drainage structures and expand one of three existing parking lots.

"On busy days, the main parking lot overflows and people park on the road shoulders," Stachon said. "That just isn't safe."

Stachon said as a result, the parking lot near the overlook rim is used heavily and because it's the shortest route to the colorful rock formations.

"There's a steep hill that goes down to the trail," he said. "That trail isn't supposed to be there and formed when people used it as a shortcut. It's a much steeper trail than we would allow, so we'll be closing that trail and restoring the area."

Stachon said a safety fence will be installed around the rim, an area that serves as a popular overlook.

Park visitors discussed the situation Thursday; among them, Jacob Roadhouse and his girlfriend, Sarah Hicks, from Denver.

"I think it's cool that people are getting outside more, but it's a shame it's under these circumstances," Roadhouse said. "It's great that the county is putting money into investing in these sites."

Ashley Jones, from North Carolina, said she learned about the Paint Mines by looking at Instagram photos.

"Some of the photos had people actually on top of some of the rocks," she said. "In the comments, people were saying that they shouldn't post those videos because this is exactly what people shouldn't be doing."

Stachon said a contractor will begin working on the project within a few weeks and be completed before the end of the year.

"We're on a tight schedule because if we're not finished by the end of the year, we lose the funding, he said."

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is conducting extra patrols around the park after hours, and Stachon said the nearby Calhan Police Department has offered to help.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

Comments

24 Comments

  1. I am not saying this does not need to be fixed, but how does fixing vandalism in park meet the required regulations the federal government put on how to spend this money. This funding was ear-marked for CO-VID response and CO-VID related problems, not attempting to undo vandalized property.

    https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares

    Just because the County Commissioners approved this, does not mean this is how this money was meant to be used.

    Who manages our Government?

    1. “CARES Act funding is used to help local governments recover from the pandemic, so it’s unclear how the park project specifically qualifies for the money.”

      Simple answer, it doesn’t and people that did this are being arrested as they didn’t follow the guidelines on how this relief money is ear-marked to be spent.

      Now we have our county government doing the same thing that private citizen were arrested for doing.

      1. So here is their line of thinking.
        Because of COVID the park was bombarded with visitors, 5 times the normal amount. Because of the overcrowding and stupid people it was damaged and vandalized. If COVID had not happened it would of been the usual volume of people and the people who go were respectful of nature.
        Does that help? I would rather see them spend the money on that, a historical one of a kind park than parking meters downtown.

        1. Yes it does and no it doesn’t. I want this repaired too, the only difference is I want this fixed with the money that has been ear-marked for repairing parks since the 1980’s. Not taken out of the funding for CO-VID. That money could be used to help the people being threatened by eviction, Our our local small businesses that need the aid that they couldn’t receive from the federal stimulus, items like this.

          The local government needs to help the community with the CARES act, not complete standard, traditional repairs to an already state funded park.

          1. Unfortunately the process to vet and give money to individuals would take to long and how do you make it fair? That is the hard part. Because if they gave money away and then later on you find out that 1/2 the individuals who got the money didn’t really deserve it then they would be torn apart for that. Or if someone came out and said the process was not fair or had some apparent bias, intentional or not.
            This is why I hate the new F word. Fair. Because it is so subjective that in the end nothing is truly fair. So it ruins so much good that could be done.

          2. ViralThoughts, we the government does what is as close to “Fair” as can be done. The government puts out a notification 30 days in advance that they are going to start collecting applications for approved CARE Acts funding, and it will be a first come and approved after vetting, first served and approved after vetting process. This gives everyone enough time to prepare, plan, and get ready to submit for approval and if the money runs out, well that means the government was able to help X people and x local companies until the funding ran out. Much better than using it on unapproved spending and far better than giving the money back because the government was too nervous on how to hand out the funding because they were vapor-locked by fear of problems that could exist, not problems that are currently existing. Just my thought.

      1. @ Torigan, I am sorry, there are so many that could use that moniker, Which one are you referring to? 🙂

    2. read it more thoroughly. It’s not just repairs..THEY ARE ADDING STUFF.
      This is ABSOLUTE FRAUD.
      I have already used the link I posted to file a complaint. Make your best effort to do so- any help needed fcnshare at gmaildot com. Remember enough numbnuts in this town voted to allow them to ignore TABOR and keep $7Ml in excess tax monies collected to be used FOR TRAILS AND PARKS. So where is that money??? Call this number (719) 520-6485 and let them know how you feel( they have shifted to leaving a message only already)- businesses that have been permanently shuttered- THAT is where the CARES money is supposed to be going.

      1. I’ll be doing this at the soonest available moment as well. I agree FCN, this is not how the CARES Act money was intended to be used. Thanks for posting the link below, I hope more people begin holding the government accountable, otherwise they will jest keep escalating until someone does hold them accountable.

  2. Ugh, I am just disgusted with how ineffective and inefficient our local government leaders are at doing their jobs.

    “Paint Mines Interpretive Park”

    I want to draw special attention to the word at the end of the sentence above, “Park”.

    Isn’t this parks and Rec?

    The requested repairs sound exactly like traditional repairs that have occurred in every other park.

    “Repair work will focus on resurfacing the trail, adding shoulders along the trail, installing drainage culverts as well as fences and signs, building trail drainage structures and expanding one of two existing parking lots.”

    Doesn’t all Lottery, Mega-millions, Powerball, etc. all provide a portion of these revenues gained from these gambling options go directly to state parks, to include all city and county parks?

    That’s what I thought the surplus of money generated was suppose to be spent on.

    At least that’s what the lottery claims this money goes to as well. So either someone is again lying to the public, or someone is incompetent for the job they were assigned to fill.

  3. Yeah cuz its not like there are several families in el paso county that are fixing to be evicted lets spend the money on something USELESS.

  4. Misappropriation of funds, pure and simple. Stan VanderWerf is one Commissioner up for reelection this year, as is Longinos Gonzalez Jr. Vote accordingly.

  5. “We’re on a tight schedule because if we’re not finished by the end of the year, we lose the funding, he said.”

    And we don’t want someone to publicly show we are already funded for these exact types of repairs, but we do what we want, and using this money the way it was intended doesn’t factor into what we “The Government” want to do. Besides, why would we, “The Government” want to use the money that was intended to help “The People”.

  6. They should take a leaf out of the City of Colorado Springs book for all things parks related: just pave it over with low-quality concrete and asphalt.

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