Memorial Park in Colorado Springs is receiving the lion's share of the latest round of grants from the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, with an award of more than $925,000. The park, just east of downtown, counts Prospect Lake, sports fields, and a cycling velodrome as part of its amenities, and hosts such community events as the hot air balloon Labor Day Lift-Off.
Tilah Larson oversees grants and contracts for the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services department. She says the department decided to submit for the funds because they view Memorial Park as "Central Park," for Colorado Springs, and she says while it sees significant use, there are also some significant gaps.
For one, Larson says, there's not a lot of connectivity throughout the park.
"What we've heard from the community that uses the park as well as the community surrounding the park, is that there's not a lot of great activity in the park," says Larson, noting that Prospect Lake sits on the south side of Memorial Park—"a little bit more of a natural area"—while the north side contains athletic fields and features.
"Once you get there, great, you're there for your activity," she explains, "but it's really hard to access other areas of the park, because there aren't any walking paths throughout the park."
Plans for the money, therefore, include developing walking paths to help connect the entirety of the park, as well as revamping athletic stations that speckle the 1.25-mile path around Prospect Lake. Other consistent themes they've heard, Larson says, include improving lighting and adding more benches.
"We really felt like this particular request, if funded, would really take the park to another level," says Cari Davis, Executive Director, Colorado Springs Health Foundation. "It would be an even greater resource for the neighborhoods that surround it, but also might also help it become sort of a destination park for others in the community."
Larson says the parks department is looking to drill down into specific improvements at the beginning of 2018, with phased construction expected to start as spring weather allows.
In total, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation approved $1.37 million in funds for distribution to nine organizations, including El Paso County, which received $110,000 for improvements to the Widefield Community Park; Trails and Open Space Coalition, which received $25,000 for bicycling connections; and The Trust for Public Land, which received $90,000 for Colorado Springs Parks for People.
Eight of the grants went to projects focusing on improving the built environment—meaning anything person-made that influences how individuals interact with the space—which was intentional, says Davis. "If we can join others in trying to make sure our spaces and places are inviting that sort of activity, that would be helpful from a health status perspective."
The full list of recipients and their proposed projects is as follows, listed in order of dollar amount:
- Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services, $926,944. Memorial Park Trail and Fitness Improvements
- El Paso County, $110,000. Widefield Community Park Improvements – Making Healthy Living Happen!
- Downtown Ventures, $100,000. PikeCycle, a bike share program serving the greater Legacy Loop area
- The Trust for Public Land, $90,000. Colorado Springs Parks for People
- Tri-Lakes Cares on behalf of Neighborhood Nurse Center Collaborative, $38,900. Two grants: Penrose-St. Francis Neighborhood Nurse Center Collaboration Consultation ($1900) and Neighborhood Nurse Centers Helping Patients Access Care ($37,000)
- American Diabetes Association, $35,000. Providing physical activity through community activation at Meadows Park
- Kids on Bikes, $25,000. Bicycle Placemaking
- Trails and Open Space Coalition, $25,000. Biking Connections: Linking our community through bicycling and wayfinding programs
- Council of Neighbors & Organizations (CONO), $20,000. Empowering the Panorama Park Neighborhood through Strategic Planning
The Colorado Springs Health Foundation was founded in 2012 as part of the lease of the city's Memorial Health System to UCHealth. Since 2016, the first year of grants, the Foundation has distributed nearly $3 million.