Recently I was honored to have been asked to provide a rendering for Bancroft Park as a visual aid to raise money for the improvements to the park. It was used for the Taste of OCC in April, 2013 and again this past weekend for the first “Harvest in the Park” event.
As we all have come to learn over time, whenever you propose change in a loved neighborhood, such as Old Colorado City, the pundits will surface. I have been let aware that at least one pundit decided to write a letter of dissatisfaction to one element of the rendering to the Mayor of Colorado Springs. So, in the spirit of saving the Mayor some stress, grief and time, I offer the Mayor my own open letter:
I would like to start by publicly thanking you for your dedication to our urban environment in this open letter. In particular, your dedication to Downtown Colorado Springs has been appreciated. Your acknowledgement of downtown as the heart of the City is exactly right. I would also like to state something that I believe that you and I also agree upon – that is that if Downtown is the heart, Old Colorado City and Colorado Avenue between Manitou Springs and Downtown is the vertebrate, or back bone. It is an absolutely wonderful area full of charm and history. It is one of the few facades in the City where tourists visit and remember as “Colorado Springs”. Some tourists even think of it as downtown with its historic character. We can further capitalize on this with improvements.
This past winter, the Old Colorado City Foundation Board asked me to provide a rendering for their fundraising event, The Taste of the OCC. I happily agreed to provide this for them pro bono (Images available on the blog at urbanlandscapes.info).
The design was not intended to be “the plan,” but something to foster excitement and discussion for the benefit of the park and Old Colorado City. The renderings have been well received and of course have been accompanied by similar discussions that we have had regarding Acacia Park (crime, vagrancy, etc.).
One item that has drawn more discussion than what is necessary for a plan that has not yet had community input is the discussion of “The Cabin”, as it is affectionately known. “The cabin” is a historic building that has had multiple homes over time.
Anyway, the creative license in the design that we took, perhaps too many, liberties with, was to move the cabin to another location in Old Colorado City, perhaps remaining in the park where the symmetry could be better balanced. Ideally, it would move to its actual historic location, which was not believed to be in the park. The reason for doing this was to maintain the historic integrity of the park before the cabin was moved back to Colorado Springs from Denver (the dates are unknown to me, but there is a graphic that illustrates the timeline in the Old Colorado City History Center Museum). The park was originally laid out in a formal, or symmetrical, town square design, as is evident by the configuration of the walks, trees and other buildings. We also felt it was important to open up the visibility into the park from this critical corner.
The justification of our creative license on this though is moot, because as I previously stated, this is not intended to be “the plan.” An element of a city as significant as a Town Square is not something to be taken lightly. It requires public/neighborhood input and engagement. I desire the future location of the cabin to be where the citizens want it, which is to be determined in public meetings. If that is in the park at its current location, I will be supportive of it there. I believe that a public process would be the intention of the Old Colorado City Foundation and City Parks Department as well.
I sincerely hope that this is helpful in understanding the current buzz on Bancroft Park. I am always happy to discuss in greater detail with yourself or others who may read this.
Discourse is a healthy component of community progress. As a designer who is passionate about cities, I enjoy a good conversation on a city’s functionality.
John W. Olson, Registered Landscape Architect