Unlike many American cities, Colorado Springs, Colorado is privileged to share an attitude around the importance of outdoor parks and open spaces—respect for our natural landscapes comes from recognizing both their ecological value and their value to human health and wellbeing. While not all open spaces and parks are ecologically equal, all green spaces can equally serve the same purpose for humans. Outdoor spaces provide not only the physical benefits of exercise, but also can aid with mental health, work-life balance, and overall mood. Small urban parks and open spaces, like many that Palmer preserves, should be no less valued than larger, more ‘wild’ spaces. Environmental historian William Cronon states, “Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. Nothing could be more misleading.” An exploration of a neighborhood trail is no less worthy than a climb of Colorado’s highest peaks and a break for shade under a city tree is no less valuable than a week-long camping trip in one of Colorado’s mountain ranges. Urban outdoor spaces provide large value to communities, as they are easily accessible and provide spaces to recreate and enjoy the outdoors close to home. These spaces can also help tackle what Dr. Scott Sampson (CEO of Science World BC) deems as an “indoor migration” - or the loss of outdoor leisure time by young, developing children. Easily accessible and existing within the bounds of communities, urban parks and open spaces can help combat some of the lasting, generational effects of children spending less time outside and more time indoors on screens.
The Rawles property, a Palmer-owned 6-acre urban open space is the perfect example - a 20-minute walk around the property offers remarkable views of Pikes Peak, beautiful blooming wildflowers, and even prancing mule deer through the natural grasses - all surrounded by the backyards (literally) of Colorado Springs’ residents.
Maitland Robinson is a 2020 Heather Campbell Chaney Fellow. He grew up in Connecticut and now studies Environmental Studies at Colorado College. Maitland interned for the Fountain Creek Watershed District in Summer 2019, learning to love community-based environmental work while confirming his love for Colorado open spaces. He recently returned from New Zealand where he did policy-based research for Forest and Bird, a leading conservation organization.
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.