Historic Parks of Colorado Springs, Colorado
A Living Legacy...
City founder General William Jackson Palmer gave more than 2,000 acres of parks, bridle and foot paths, scenic drives and roadways planted with trees to Colorado Springs.
Acacia (North Park), Monument Valley Park, Antlers Park, Pioneer Square (South) Park, Palmer Park, North Cheyenne Cañon, Prospect Lake, and Bear Creek Cañon were gifts to Colorado Springs from General Palmer.
Following are images of some of the historic parks in Colorado Springs...
The first park, Acacia (North) Park, between Nevada Avenue and Tejon Street and Platte Avenue and Bijou Street was included in the original townsite plat of Colorado Springs in 1871.
Large shade trees, a soft carpet of grass, walking paths, benches, lighting and a pavilion for musicians made Acacia Park a favorite destination.
Acacia Park remains a popular central gathering place in downtown Colorado Springs, providing the setting for musical concerts, fairs, outdoor markets, shuffleboard and a pleasant retreat from life's daily demands.
Antlers Park (1882) was given to the city by the Colorado Springs Company, of which General Palmer was a partner.
Located downtown between the Antlers Hotel and the railroad depot, this historic park has been enjoyed by hotel guests and citizens for over 100 years and now includes a 1906 monument commemorating the discovery of Pikes Peak and Engine 168 from the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.
North Cheyenne Cañon
North Cheyenne Cañon Park, known for its towering evergreens and wildflowers, stunning rock formations, hiking paths and waterfalls, was a popular camping ground for American Indians, particularly the Ute tribes.
Purchased in 1885, General Palmer and Fred Chamberlain enhanced the park with more donations of land. The High Drive and Crystal Park Trail traverse the steep sides of the mountains.
The Bruin Inn provided visitors a spot to buy refreshments near Helen Hunt Falls. Eventually, the Columbine Trail was built from the mouth of the Cañon three miles up to Helen Hunt Falls. Between 1914 and the 20s, massive stone bridges, walls and arches were constructed throughout the valley.
North Cheyenne Cañon Park is now 1,626 acres, including the Stratton Open Space. Helen Hunt Falls and Starsmore Discovery Center are popular visitor centers in the park which feature nature exhibits, a climbing wall and educational programs.
Garden of the Gods
Railroad Tycoon, Charles E. Perkins purchased 480 acres of rock formations and intended to leave his property as a gift to the city. He died before his will was amended to convey his wish. Fortunately, Perkins' children honored their father's desire in 1909 on the condition that the park be "kept forever free to the public."
The Ute Indians, known as the Blue Sky People, used the Garden for their winter encampment before heading over Ute Pass to hunt in South Park. Plains tribes migrated to the region in the 1700s, camping in the Garden before heading southwest.
The lure of Cripple Creek's gold drew would-be miners and other explorers who often paused to visit the renowned site.
Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
The Park today houses the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, a living history museum providing interpretation of the site's cultural history from 1860 to 1910.
In addition to the wonder of its sandstone spires, the Garden is a unique biological melting pot--it is there that grasslands of the Great Plains meet the piñon-juniper woodlands of the Southwest and merge with the mountain forests of Pikes Peak.
A diversity of plant and animal life coexist in the Garden. Prairie falcons, honey ants, rattlesnakes, mule deer, magpies, hawks and bighorn sheep share the Park.
Opened in 1995, the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center is a result of a public/private partnership. It is located east of the Park's main entrance and offers educational exhibits, interpretive presentations and a spectacular vista of the Park.
More than 1,000,000 visitors pass through the Park each year, and in keeping with the wishes of the Perkins family, Garden of the Gods Park remains "forever free."
Monument Valley Park
Monument Valley Park was among General Palmer's most treasured gifts to the people of Colorado Springs. Between 1904 and 1907 two miles next to Monument Creek became a "park for the people" with elegant gardens, winding walks, bridged ponds, a tennis court, playgrounds and an arboretum displaying Colorado tree and shrub species and Palmer's Colorado Wildflower Garden.
In 1914, Spencer Penrose added the Monument Valley Municipal Swimming Pool. He and his wife Julie regularly strolled there on weekends. On Memorial Day in 1935, the park suffered a massive flood but was slowly renovated afterwards, although some features were never replaced.
Old Bridge scene in the Park Through the Works Project Administration (WPA), round, native stones were used to construct retaining walls, creek channel walls, stairs, benches and entry points to the park.
The 1914 swimming pool survived the flood and is still a popular swimming site during summer months.
Today, Monument Valley Park is one of the community's most utilized parks. Joggers, cyclists, mothers with strollers and couples hand-in-hand travel the trails while citizens have picnics, play tennis matches, and swim or play field sports.
The Formal Gardens, formerly the site of the General's Wildflower Garden, are still vibrant with color and fragrant with scents from zinnias, begonias, tulips and roses.
City of Trees
General Palmer had 600 cottonwood trees planted when water was available from city reservoirs in 1872. Later, in Monument Valley Park, Palmer had every tree and shrub species found in Colorado.
Colorado Springs had a large crew of workers employed by Palmer to maintain the city's parks and trees. In 1910 City Council created a Department of Forestry, a tree ordinance and a city forester position. When many of the cottonwoods did not survive they were replaced with maple, ash and elm trees.
Today the Colorado Springs urban forest has grown to over 99,000+ street right-of-way trees and 18,500+ park and median trees, 6,300 acres of regional parks, including Garden of the Gods and North Cheyenne Cañon, and 4,013 acres of open spaces, including Red Rock Canyon, Stratton, and Blodgett Peak Open Space, with trees valued at over $100 million dollars. Surely the General would be pleased.
Parks & Recreation's Legacy
When General William Jackson Palmer laid out the city with Acacia Park at its center, he set in motion the aspirations, determination and civic pride that would create the unique place called Colorado Springs. Our community has since expanded far beyond its original town site, and parks and recreational services have thrived.
Colorado Springs' original design has been a wonderful model for planning the parks and amenities that have followed. Maintaining open spaces and natural settings and providing a diverse system of land and recreational resources is an ongoing mission. Preserving the historical character of early Colorado Springs parks links the past to our present and inspires us for the future.
Since Palmer's day, many efforts have taken place to carry on the tradition of his legacy. Just as we are the beneficiaries of Palmer's vision, it is our responsibility to continue building and to enrich the lives of future generations. Parks and Recreation, expanding on the accomplishments of the past, will continue this legacy into the twenty-first century.