The news that a nature center would be coming somewhere to northern El Paso County caught my eye, so I attending the informational meeting for this project at the end of January, along with quite a few other interested members of the community – there was a great turnout at the meeting at the Black Forest Fire Station.
El Paso County’s Bear Creak Nature Center and Fountain Creek Nature Center are quite popular, with (I believe this is the figure that was quoted) over 76,000 visitors to Bear Creek Nature center per year. At some point in the future, El Paso County plans to add a nature center somewhere in the “northern” part of the county. North wasn’t officially defined, but seems to be a given that it’s somewhere in the Black Forest area.
The meeting presenter made clear that while money has been allocated for the exploratory planning of the northern nature center (through I grant, I believe), there’s no money budgeted for the actual construction, so we are looking at a process that could take several or more years before a northern nature center is actually open.
At the meeting, the main potential nature center sites that were discussed were the already-existing Fox Run Park and Black Forest Regional Park, as well as the yet-to-be-opened Pineries Open Space (which has been promised to open in 2018). While using a property that El Paso County already owns is somewhat of a no-brainer, the purchase of a new property was not ruled out, and several people did suggest other potential sites that could be purchased or leased.
Each of the main proposed sites has its own challenges: Fox Run is already often at capacity in the summer months, Black Forest Regional could have access issues with it being surrounded by residential development, and The Pineries has just one site that is currently available for building a nature center but that site is on the opposite side of the space where the most “interesting” nature is to be observed (the rest is under a conservation easement, though it was mentioned that perhaps that could be appealed to be changed).
There’s some interest in putting the new nature center in the area that’s recovering from the Black Forest Fire of 2013, which I think would be a fantastic idea. I’ve found it fascinating to watch the forest recover over the past several years, and would love to have the opportunity for myself and my children to learn more about how a forest recovers from the natural process of fire.
I’d heard a rumor from a librarian that a Black Forest nature center could potentially be combined with a new library; an idea which I love, so that potential personally excites me (especially if it were able to be accessed by trails that are close to my home!). There was definitely the mention of combining a nature center with other services (such as a library or outdoor kindergarten) but the options weren’t discussed at this very preliminary meeting.
While it will take years for a northern nature center to materialize, it’s exciting to see the process get started!