April 27, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 23
Council rejects attempt to reopen Cañon tree issue
Written by Jeanne Davant   


Great American Cleanup


Jenna Gallas and her son, Ian Hubbs, participate in the April 22 cleanup in Manitou Springs. According to Ryan Keene, stormwater manager with Manitou Springs Public Works, 15 volunteers picked up 72 30-gallon bags of trash throughout town.

Photo by Casey Bradley Gent

On Tuesday, April 25, Manitou Springs City Council rebuffed Councilors Bob Todd and Becky Elder’s efforts to revisit the question of removing five venerable elm trees as part of a Cañon Avenue sidewalk improvement project.

“Bob and I are feeling pressure from people who know us and people on other boards about what the heck are we doing cutting down all those trees,” Elder said Tuesday. “I’m asking to consider other alternatives because I think we’ve made a mistake.”

By a 5-2 vote, with Todd and Elder dissenting, Council approved a $133,809 contract April 18 to widen the sidewalk on the south side of Cañon Avenue from St. Andrews Episcopal Church to the parking lot.

The contract itself did not refer to the trees, but Public Services Director Shelley Cobau told Council they would have to be removed to widen the sidewalk to comply with current and anticipated Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Cobau provided a letter from an arborist with Tall Timbers Tree & Shrub Service that stated the trees were infested with European elm scale and that large limbs posed a potential threat to vehicles and pedestrians. The letter recommended removal and replacement.

City Administrator Jason Wells said he had walked the length of Cañon Avenue with an ADA coordinator from El Paso County who said that he expects the current 36-inch standard for ADA-compliant sidewalks to be increased to 48 inches.

“We want to be out in front of it and comply with the new standards if enacted,” Wells said.

The project is being funded by a federal grant that requires spending the funds by Nov. 3.

Elder opposed the contract, stating that “these trees are historic and very beloved.”

Todd said Tuesday that he had received comments about the project from more than 20 constituents.

“We are looking at a sidewalk of 150 feet that is very functional,” he said. “We’ve got some great funding, but is it appropriate to concentrate on this section, or should we really be looking at the total environment — all the trees and sidewalks that are broken?”

Todd said there is no master plan for the Cañon-Park Avenue area, although the sidewalk project is just one of three projects planned for the area this summer and fall. Both the Cañon and Park avenue bridges are scheduled for repairs, and the area west of the Cañon-Park intersection will undergo improvements as part of the Williams Canyon Phase III flood improvement project.

“What I have a problem with is … everything we do,” Mayor Pro Tem Gary Smith said.

“My biggest comments I get from people is, are we ever going to make a decision and stick with it? This was a 5-2 vote. It really bothers me that the two of you did not agree with it. … We need to stay unified as a Council and … stand by decisions. If it’s too difficult for people to do that, maybe they shouldn’t be on Council.”

“This decision is done,” Councilor Jay Rohrer said. “How about we look at some other alternative to creating some greenery in that location that might be even better than those trees?”

Mayor Nicole Nicoletta agreed.

“We’re done with this topic,” Nicoletta said. “To go out or to respond to folks coming to you with compete disdain for the vote is not being a team player. There is a way to do that.”