Hiking Bob

Hiking Bob:  The value of volunteerism; TOPS purchase of 1,000+ acres advances

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If you were to ask any parks department director, or public land manager, or individual park manager, about how they maintain their lands or operate their campgrounds and educational programs, they will tell you that they can’t do it without volunteers. Whether it’s a city, county or state park, a national forest, a wildlife agency, or a national park or monument, volunteers play an essential role in meeting goals and accomplishing tasks.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Southeast Region — which includes Cheyenne Mountain, Mueller, Lake Pueblo, Lathrop and Fishers Peak state parks, along with vast game properties such as state wildlife areas — has recently released statistics that reveal how vital volunteers are to the region.

According to data released by CPW, the region’s 983 volunteers contributed more than 50,000 hours of their time in 2022 and drove almost 150,000 miles while doing so. The volunteers worked in state parks and at fish hatcheries. They monitored the number of raptors in the region and helped instruct prospective hunters. They entertained school kids, built and maintained trails, mitigated fire risks, answered visitors’ questions, assisted hikers, and helped campers get situated at their campsites. Many volunteers perform a variety of functions, and some support CPW by being members of friends groups, which help out parks by raising funds or sponsoring events.  In CPW’s Southeast Region, Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs was the clear leader in number of volunteers, hours served and miles driven.

Of course, there is a monetary value to volunteerism, but determining that value is not as simple as multiplying the hours served by some arbitrary dollar amount, such as minimum wage. It’s not hard to imagine that the wide variety of volunteer functions would equate to paying jobs with widely different compensation scales, along with other benefits, such as health insurance, etc. CPW shies away from making such direct hours-to-dollars comparisons, but CPW Southeast Region Volunteer Coordinator Jeanette Lara referred me to The Independent Sector, which uses specific methodology to calculate the dollar value of volunteer time, which can vary from state to state.  In Colorado, the hourly value of volunteer time in 2021, the latest year that the Independent Sector has a figure for, was $31.51. So, if you need to equate a volunteer’s time to a dollar amount, that is the figure to use. But really, and speaking as a CPW volunteer myself, I can tell you that no one thinks of money while they’re volunteering. Instead, they’re just thinking of the enjoyment they get out of it.

At the Feb. 1 Colorado Springs Parks Departments’ Trails, Open Space and Parks Working Committee meeting, the committee voted to recommend the purchase of 1,021 acres of land, known as Wildhorse Ranch, on the far eastern edge of the city. The land, on the southside of Highway 94, and south of the Corral Bluffs Open Space, is a wide-open parcel that most recently was used for grazing cattle, and if purchased, will become a city open space. The land was originally slated for a housing project, but after several deals fell through, the owner offered it to the city of Colorado Springs. The appraised value of the land is approximately $7.5 million, or about $7,347 per acre. The total purchase price, which includes various fees and other costs, is $7.655 million. To put that figure in perspective, the cost per acre of Fishers Canyon, on the east face of Cheyenne Mountain, and the city’s most recent purchase, was approximately $11,000 per acre. The Black Canyon Quarry property adjacent to Williams Canyon was $9,000 per acre, and the Pikeview Quarry “buffer” property, which does not include the quarry itself, was about $45,000 per acre.  The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board will make its recommendation on the purchase at its meeting on Feb. 9, after which it will go to the City Council for final approval.



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