Santa Fe Trail Threatened by Development


Photo by Amber Wright

Photo of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail sign at the Baptist Road Trailhead.

By Amber Wright, Co-Editor-in-Chief

CORRECTIONS: Updated September 10, 2020. The New Santa Fe Regional Trail is named after the historic Santa Fe Trail, but it has no historical value itself besides following the old Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way. Vocabulary such as “possibly destroy” and “oppose” was replaced to allow for a more unbiased and accurate article. Additional clarifying information was added to the Ordinance No. 20-2020 section regarding the previous plans for the land and El Paso County’s ownership of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail. Stay tuned for a follow-up article.

The New Santa Fe Regional Trail will be affected by the development of the land located between I-25 and the Old Denver Road. Two ordinances will come before the Board of Trustees for final approval when the board meets on September 8 at 5:30 p.m., and both ordinances will develop this land significantly. Read below to learn about the separate ordinances.

The historic Santa Fe Trail was established in the 19th century as a trade route connecting Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the trail subsequently running through the Southeast corner of Colorado. The New Santa Fe Regional Trail, running parallel to the interstate, is named after this historic trail. However, the New Santa Fe Regional Trail has no historical value besides the fact that a 14-mile portion of the trail follows the abandoned Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way. This 17-mile long connects the Tri-Lakes Area to northern Colorado Springs and it is a popular route for many hikers in the Tri-Lakes Area.

Board of Trustees Meeting

The Board of Trustees will meet virtually on September 8 at 5:30 p.m. For people who wish to make their opinions known about this development that will ultimately change the Santa Fe Trail as we know it, you can email the Planning Commission at [email protected] or [email protected].

To connect to the September 8 virtual meeting via computer or cell phone, follow this link at least 30 minutes before the meeting starts to register. You will need to provide basic information such as name, address, and email to register for the meeting. You can listen to the meeting by phone by calling 1-844-992-4726 and entering the Access Code: 126 074 2038. As an attendee, you can view the meeting and participate in the public comment section to ask questions or state your opinion if you wish.

Public notice for when the Conexus project will be heard. Photo by Amber Wright

Ordinance No. 20-2020:

Ordinance No. 20-2020: An Ordinance Approving the Rezone & Sketch Planned Development Plan for Conexus Phase 2&3. The plan to develop the 146-acre property that is located southeast of downtown Monument and southwest of the intersection of I-25 and Highway 105 was approved by the Town Planning Commission in a 4-1 vote. The land is slotted to be rezoned to Planned Development, which is required for multi-use development to take place. The ordinance will now be considered by the Town Board of Trustees on September 8.

The Sketch PD Plan is more of an abstract plan, as it does not have a specific design for what will be built on the property. According to the project planner Debbie Flynn’s presentation, the development will involve “a mix of commercial, civic, office, light industrial, multi-use, residential high and medium density, open space, park, trails, drainage, and right-of-way.”

The property will have a variety of types of development, but it will certainly contribute to the current trend of transforming the Tri-Lakes Area from having a small-town feel into a city. The land will likely resemble an expansion of Colorado Springs after the development is completed. However, it is important to note that when this land was a part of El Paso County, it was approved in 1981 for industrial land use (Planned Industrial Development), so while this land has remained undeveloped thus far, it has been allotted for development for quite some time now.

Conexus sign advertising land for development. Photo by Amber Wright

A trail is expected to be constructed to connect this development to the Santa Fe Regional Trail as well as an informal park area. This property is expected to cross the Santa Fe Regional Trail in six separate allowable locations to permit access to the property from the Old Denver Road. The Planning Commission recognized the Santa Fe Trail as a “cherished” resource for the town, so a solution must be hammered out by the applicant and the board.

At this point, it is important to note that El Paso County owns the small strip of land that the New Santa Fe Regional Trail is on. El Paso County has supported having up to six crossings of the trail to allow for access into the area of development, and the county has approved three crossings on another project to the south already. The El Paso County must give approval for the trail to be crossed or re-routed, as it is under their jurisdiction.

The Planning Commission expressed concerns that traffic would be affected if the property were to be used for residential purposes. Additionally, a letter including 18 signatures was sent to the PC stating opposition to the development because of the possibility of increased traffic, decreased home value, and the destruction of the Santa Fe Regional Trail. Residents have argued that the Santa Fe Regional Trail adds to the quality of life of Monument residents because of its everyday use, so it should not be degraded by construction.

The New Santa Fe Regional Trail at the trailhead off of Baptist. Photo by Amber Wright

Ordinance No. 21-2020:

Ordinance No. 21-2020: An Ordinance Approving a Final Planned Development Site Plan for Woodmen Valley Chapel – Monument Campus.

The Woodmen Valley Chapel purchased a 5.45-acre lot that is located west of I-25 and north of Baptist Road on June 25, 2020, for $1.45M. The project is known as the Monument Initiative, and the developers will build a large church on the land. The chapel is expected to be three stories tall, with a total of 29,694 square feet.

To reach the church, parishioners will travel on Old Denver Road before going onto Wagon Bow Way. From there, the site will have two access points, which is expected to involve one of the six allowable crossings of the Santa Fe Trail. The possibility of diverting the Santa Fe Trail to the east side of the property along I-25 rather than crossing it was discussed by the PC for the first time.

The chapel will offer 642 assembly seats, so in order to accommodate the large number of people expected, the Woodmen Valley Chapel anticipates 394 parking spaces to be offered. The construction period is estimated to be 13 months long, with the church opening during the fall of 2021, if everything goes according to the original plan.

To read more about the details of the two ordinances, go to the Our Community News by following this link.