So often in my day to day life as a student I neglect to leave the Colorado College campus, let alone the city boundaries. So it is always exciting to me when I get to venture outside of “Olympic City USA” and explore. This Tuesday I went to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park which is a good 50 minute drive from the PLT offices. The eastern reaches of this state never fail to fascinate me. Colorado- for good reason- is most known for the formidable Rockies, however the high-altitude eastern plains represent a landscape not seen elsewhere in the nation.
This is by far the largest property I have visited so far- and it’s only around 275 acres. I saw many deer, jack rabbits, and various birds. The biological diversity of the area was apparent even in the short time I spent on the property, proving that conservation easements are really pulling their weight. I had never been to the Paint Mines before so I took a quick jaunt over to the part of the park with historical significance, the hoodoos. The Ute Native Americans utilised the the clay for paint as well as the many bluffs scattered throughout the plains to essentially herd bison to their death. The feeling of sheer vastness of the property is aided both by the historical context and the plains which seem to roll away indefinitely into the eastern horizon.
The hoodoos themselves, the part of the Paint Mines park which people come to see, are not under easement- meaning that the county could sell them at any time to any person. This is incongruous with the much-needed protection of sites of cultural and environmental significance, Paint Mines falls under both of these categories. It is my hope that, moving forward, the hoodoos will be put under easement so that everyone has the chance to both enjoy the land and learn from it.
On the property adjacent to the Paint Mines parcel a wind farm has gone up- though this obstructs some of the viewshed, I believe it is ultimately important to the terms of any conservation easement. The shift to clean energy will help with attempts to slow global warming and hopefully keep the conserved land from being subject to climate change-induced environmental degradation. Land trusts do incredible things to ensure the perpetual integrity of land, however, this could all be rendered obsolete by climate change, so it is encouraging, however much of an eyesore, to see wind farms going up.
Driving along route 24 back to Colorado Springs I couldn’t help but notice the suburban sprawl. Communities which used to be disparate are now beginning to slowly encroach on one and other in the form of vinyl-sided homes and mowed lawns. Colorado, as one of the fastest growing states, is not likely to see a reduction in suburbia any time soon. Rather, Colorado Springs will keep growing eastward until the paint mines are not considered in the middle of nowhere and some of their eerie magic is lost. A lot of people move to Colorado for access to the outdoors and it is incredibly important to make sure the things bringing people to the state are around for generations to come. I had never heard of land trusts before working with Palmer; now they permeate my thoughts, constantly. A lot of the recreational land I use here, even if it is just staring off into the vast nothingness of the eastern plains, I took for granted. I am now growing to appreciate the work which land trusts take on throughout the nation to ensure that open spaces, trails, viewsheds, agricultural communities, and all of the things which are so essential to the idea of America as a ‘new frontier’ are preserved for generations to come.