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Summer Stewardship: Mesa Wildlife Area

Despite a summer spent monitoring properties virtually, Maitland and I had the privilege of touring two Colorado Springs properties, Mesa Wildlife Park and the Rawles property, in person. What makes these two properties special is that they provide a great example of open space that has persevered despite the suburban sprawl of Colorado Springs. The property I was in charge of monitoring, Mesa, is surrounded on all sides by residential properties. We stepped past the iron gate at the opening to the park, and picked our way through the blue gamma, yucca, and prickly pear. Going from the heavily irrigated, tree lined streets of COS suburbs into the natural beauty of front range flora and fauna was a welcome shock to the system. No longer trodding on kentucky blue grass, we were well aware of the spiny, beautiful organisms beneath our feet. Rogue trails formed by residents leaving their properties trickled off the edges of the property, indicating how frequently these neighborhoods enjoy this space. 

In an interview with a private landowner just a couple weeks ago, I had trouble getting her to explain what made her own property so special. It was the verbal equivalent of shifting awkwardly between feet, but eventually she mentioned that since quarantine began neighbors she had never even met before had asked to enjoy the pond on her property. There is now a regular crowd of neighbors and friends that (responsibly) enjoy the nature afforded by this piece of land, and in the end it has brought a community together. I feel that Mesa has provided its surrounding residents with a similar haven from the ever growing complications of our indoor lives. That community, as I’m sure they realize, is very lucky to have such accessible open space in an otherwise urban area. Monitoring Palmer Land Trust properties around the Springs has made me think a lot about the privilege of accessibility to green space; who gets to use these spaces the most? How far do they have to drive or walk to simply get outside? Strolling along the path, occasionally off of it, I felt myself balancing feelings of appreciation and curiosity. I am hopeful that as Colorado Springs continues to develop and grow, Palmer can assist in making the breathtaking and healing nature of the Front Range accessible to everyone. 

Sam Cadigan is a 2020 Heather Campbell Chaney fellow. She grew up in Massachusetts and Maine and is currently enrolled in Colorado College as a Studio Art major with a particular concentration in Integrative Design and Architecture. Her geology and environmental science classes have not only informed her art, but they have also taken her to a multiplicity of unique Colorado geographies. She is interested in a career at the confluence of environmental science and design. 

The Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Foundation (HCCEF) provides funds to support undergraduate or graduate fellowships at impactful environmental nonprofit organizations working in the Pikes Peak region. Fellows are provided with meaningful, career-building opportunities focused on conservation leadership and legacy. ​