Friday, October 14, 2011


As the day winds down from a busy schedule of nonstop meetings this last week, it’s important to reflect on what we’ve learned, heard and asked during the visit to our nation’s capital city with the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.  Okay, I’m probably just as guilty as the next guy, back in Colorado Springs criticizing the folks back here, while somewhat disconnected and protected from the pressures of DC politics. And it’s evident that as it’s been said, politics are not a spectator sport, especially noticeable here along the Beltway, as another election year approaches.  But the take-aways from the bipartisan relationships we continue to build upon in partnership with the business community and our Congressional leaders, is vital for our regional future; whether it’s having influence over military support, budget, tax and deficit issues, health care policy, small-business concerns, employment, over-regulation, economic development or transportation funding, among others. 

Commissioner Amy Lathen and Sallie Clark
with Congressman Doug Lamborn
The Chamber deserves kudos for a well-organized trip, with multiple tracks which allowed the group of about 70 individuals, representing a diverse group of both small and large businesses, community leaders and elected officials, including Mayor Bach, to ask hard questions and connect with those who cast the votes on the U.S. House and Senate floors and ultimately impact Colorado Springs and El Paso County.   The Chamber should also be credited for making a concerted effort to represent our region by inviting others from Southern Colorado to join the collaborative mission. 

Chamber DC participants heard from elected officials and
government representatives  including U.S. Representatives
Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers
and Colorado delegation members of House and Senate.
As someone assigned to the Health and Wellness track, my first day was spent visiting with both military and U.S. Olympic Committee representatives to discuss the importance of the Wounded Warrior Games and its potential economic impact on our community as well as issues that are important to hosting more athletic events in Colorado Springs.  We also made a visit to the Department of Health and Human Services and spent part of the day at a think tank called the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), discussing national health care and its future impact on our nation and small business. Not, in this organization’s opinion, a positive one for the future of business in America.

Congressman Scott Tipton with
Commissioner Sallie Clark and
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach
We were appreciative that Congressman Doug Lamborn hosted the legislative day and were honored to be joined not only by our Colorado delegation members in Congress: U.S. Representatives Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton and U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, but also guest speakers including U.S. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Cathy McMorris Rodgers.  And, staff members from U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis also represented their bosses to provide updates from their offices. During the full week of meetings, information on the budget and the Super Committee was shared, this committee being tasked with reducing the debt by approximately $1.2 trillion. In addition, the nation’s military defense outlook, renewable energy, free trade agreements through the Trade Assistance Act and the future of transportation funding were only part of the scheduled Q&A discussions. White House representatives made presentations to our group with topics such as tourism, health care, national export efforts and small business development.  A trip to the Pentagon offered members of our legislative advocacy team to interface with military leaders, an important opportunity to meet face to face and re-enforce local support for our military installations, vital to El Paso County's economic future.  And, breakfast with Major General Joseph Anderson offered an opportunity to meet the man who later this year, will replace Major General David Perkins, Commanding General at Fort Carson.

Meeting at the U.S. Olympic Committee
office in Washington D.C.

Stained glass window
in the House Chapel

Meeting with our Senators and Representatives on their legislative turf gives us the opportunity to discuss our local issues with those who represent us and Colorado as a whole. The importance of this trip is underscored by the fact that county government and El Paso County’s citizens are directly impacted by the decisions made in Washington D.C., specifically as it relates to unfunded mandates, regulations and infrastructure support.  Building relationships among business and government leaders and heading to our nation’s Capitol with one voice, makes a difference regarding eventual legislative decisions on issues that impact our local economy.  And, for our members of Congress, hearing straight talk from folks who live and face financial challenges in the business world every day, can easily be summed up in one word, “priceless”.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Over 35 people gathered on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to build a trail and picnic pad at Rainbow Falls, just west of Manitou Springs. This project is part of many improvements underway at this new El Paso County, Colorado, park and the trail.

Martin Rendleman, 15, led the effort this day as part of his requirement to earn the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts of America. Rendleman worked closely with the El Paso County Parks Department, the Manitou Environmental Citizens Action (MECA) Board, the Rainbow Falls Coordinating Committee and Commissioner Sallie Clark to develop the plan for the trail and picnic pad. He then raised over $1,000 in cash and $2,000 of in-kind donations and borrowed equipment to use for the project. C & C Sand, Bestway Disposal and TurfMasters provided discounts or donated items to assist with the Eagle Scout project. The County Parks Department staff is also credited with a tremendous effort in rough cutting the trail and preparing the site for the small army of volunteers who arrived to help on a sunny afternoon.

Members of Boy Scout Troops 268 and 366, the Air Force Academy Jr. ROTC, Colorado Springs Downtown Rotary and many friends came together on Saturday to dig, move rocks, and pound in rebar to build the approximately 80 ft. trail and level the area for the picnic pad. They also assembled and installed a picnic table that was provided by a grant to the County Parks Department.

The Rainbow Falls recreation area has been well known since before the turn of the century when visitors would gather and picnic at the base of the falls on their way up the original Ute Pass road to the west. The area was privately held until recently when it was donated to El Paso County, thanks to many years of persistence from El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, the MECA board and its founder L'aura Montgomery. Since then, there have been many improvements to the park, including new trails, picnic tables and an expanded parking lot. While Rainbow Falls used to be known as Graffiti Falls, there has been a major effort to restore not only its original name, but to clean up the falls by discouraging graffiti tagging on the rock outcroppings and natural features. The ongoing efforts to restore the falls to their original beauty includes a comprehensive master plan involving community policing and enforcement as well as additional trails, stormwater and erosion improvements.

Many of those who came to help on Saturday had never seen the Falls before and were struck by the beauty and potential of the park. They also enjoyed getting their feet wet by wading in the stream. Most said they planned to come back and enjoy the park, now that they know it's here to enjoy. To see more about the project, there is a short YouTube video at . For more information about Rainbow Falls or how you can help improve and preserve this special park, go to the MECA website at To reach Rainbow Falls, take Highway 24 west to the stoplight at the Cave of Winds exit, turning south onto Serpentine. At the curve, you will see the parking area.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Commissioners recognize child abuse as serious issue - encourage support of at-risk families

El Paso County Commissioners Recognize April 2011 as Child Abuse Prevention Month - Citizens Encouraged to Support At-Risk Children and Families in Our Community
Colorado Springs, April 19, 2011 – The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) proclaimed April 2011 as “Child Abuse Prevention Month in El Paso County” with a resolution presented at their April 19 meeting. The resolution was brought before the Board by Commissioner Vice Chair and El Paso County Department of Human Services (DHS) Liaison Sallie Clark, who stressed that the DHS office receives more than 12 thousand reports of child abuse and neglect annually and that DHS maintains a monthly caseload of nearly 3,400 at-risk children who require oversight and protective services from DHS and partnering agencies. The resolution also addressed short- and long-term health complications that abused children encounter – both physically and emotionally – and acknowledged the County’s close collaborations with numerous community partners to prevent child abuse and neglect through family-oriented programs focused on awareness, education and outreach to at-risk families. 

Commissioner Clark then introduced a video highlighting the efforts of DHS’s Child Welfare Military Project, which is designed to reach out to military families and ensure they receive the specialized support they need given their unique circumstances. The video featured an army sergeant who was serving her second tour of duty overseas when she was called back to the U.S. due to a domestic violence issue in the home that had been providing care for her children while she was away. DHS caseworkers dedicated to the Child Welfare Military Project were instrumental in getting her stateside and reuniting her with her children in just a three-day time span. Following the video, Clark commended DHS staff for all their efforts in preventing child abuse and neglect and added, “I don’t know how you do what you do, but we certainly appreciate it, and so do the children that you serve.”
A number of child abuse prevention advocates attended Tuesday’s meeting, including DHS Child Welfare Administrator Shirley Rhodus, who shared: “Child abuse is a community-wide problem and it takes our entire community in order to prevent it by strengthening and supporting our families.” Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) representative Jan McMillen also spoke to the County Commissioners about CASA’s primary goal “… to be the voice of children in court … following the children, seeing how they are doing wherever they are placed, making sure they have the services they need to become more stable and working towards the goal of reunification with parents or placement in foster or adoptive care, when necessary.”

Bethany Child Placement Agency representative Jill Bradley asked meeting attendees to reflect on a stressful time in their life when they needed support and to consider what they would have done if nobody was there to lend a hand. “I believe there are many reasons why child abuse occurs but I feel truly that the main causes are a lack of support, a lack of connection and isolation.” Bradley then challenged citizens to reach out to families in distress and heralded the efforts of community alliances such as Community Partners for Child Development, Head Start, Pikes Peak Family Connections, KPC Kids’ Place and Safe Families for Children, among others, in reaching out to families in distress and stopping abuse before it occurs.
To view the Child Welfare Military Project video, visit El Paso County’s YouTube website:

*Information courtesy of El Paso County

As a reminder, CASA's Annual Light of Hope Fundraiser breakfast and lunch will take place on April 28, 2011 at the Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Avenue. For additional information, contact Karri Baker at 719-447-9898 x 1006 or visit:


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rainbow Falls restoration off to a watershed start with County Commissioner approval

El Paso County Commissioners Approve Rainbow Falls Master Plan - Collaborative Plan Details Management, Maintenance, Improvements and Funding of the Falls

L'Aura Montgomery of MECA and Commissioner Sallie Clark
join Air Force Cadets at the October 2010 clean up effort.
El Paso County, Colorado, April 14, 2011 –
During the April 12 meeting of the El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), Commissioners received and approved a comprehensive plan dedicated to the restoration and future preservation of historic Rainbow Falls, located on the outskirts of Manitou Springs. Community Services Department Director Tim Wolken gave a presentation to the BoCC highlighting past and future initiatives to clean up the Falls and re-instate it as a treasured landmark and featured attraction for both County residents and visitors to the region. Some of the more immediate renovations and enhancements to the Falls include the addition of trailheads, public pathways showcasing natural vegetation, picnic sites, expanded parking, historic markers, an information kiosk and additional security measures. Other efforts will be dedicated to environmental restoration and infrastructure improvements – including erosion control along US Highway 24, and bank and creek stabilization. Total estimated costs to complete all phases of the Rainbow Falls Restoration Master Plan range between $350 and $600 thousand.

Nicknamed "Grafitti Falls", the Rainbow Falls area is marred
by paint, trash and environmental hazards.
Commissioner Sallie Clark, who serves as BoCC Vice Chair, Park Advisory Board Liaison and Resident Commissioner of the Rainbow Falls property, expressed her appreciation for County and community-wide efforts – ranging from fundraisers to clean-up campaigns to engaged citizen discussions – culminating in the completion and adoption of the Fall’s Master Plan. “It's with appreciation to the public-private partnerships of the many agencies and organizations that our restoration efforts have been realized,” said Clark. "Thanks to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO/State Lottery) proceeds, in addition to fundraisers and inter-agency collaborations, this once local gem will shine once again."

Background on Rainbow Falls

In April 2010, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners obtained ownership of the 4.9 acre Rainbow Falls property – complete with beautiful waterfalls and other scenic landscape along Fountain Creek. In the late 1800's, Rainbow Falls was a popular picnic stop for travelers along the historic wagon trail through Ute Pass. In recent years, the property has been plagued with graffiti in addition to erosion and environmental issues.

Rainbow Falls’ restoration efforts are a true public-private collaborative involving a number of agencies, community partners and citizens at-large; including: El Paso County; Manitou Springs; Manitou Environmental Citizens Action (M.E.C.A.); Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce; Trails and Open Space Coalition; Fountain Creek Restoration Committee; Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District; and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Information courtesy of El Paso County*