Residents celebrate Corral Bluff victory - Efforts are ongoing to preserve the Bluffs
by Toni Gibbons - Photos by Toni Gibbons

It was a night of smiles and congratulations as friends, family and members of the Corral BluffsAlliance (CoBA) gathered at Ciao Bella’s in Falcon on June 4 to celebrate the recent victory in the ongoing efforts to preserve Corral Bluffs for future generations.

Families, friends and supporters of Save Corral Bluffs attended the celebration of the recent victory to not make the Bluffs an OHV Park.

From left to right, Jeanne Ragains, Don Watkins, his daughter, Cristine Watkins, and his granddaughters, Emma and Abbey Watkins, all shared in the celebration with smiles. For Emma the Bluffs are a lot of rocks and things, but she said, ‘then I saw the eagles and they are pretty.’

On May 1, 2008 at the El Paso County Board of County Commissioner's meeting, County Park Director, Tim Wolken, made the following recommendation:

"As indicated in the environmental studies conducted on this site, the Case property contains a variety of natural resources that are both sensitive and unique. El Paso County has a long history of preserving our county's 'special places' that contain unique natural environments. Staff is concerned that the cultural and natural resources found in the Corral Bluffs area may be jeopardized with the installation of an OHV trail system. In addition, the wildlife and noise ordinance issues will restrict the ability to design an effective trail system. With this in mind, staff recommends that we discontinue the assessment process of an OHV trail system at this site."

Based upon that recommendation, the Board of County Commissioners voted to abandon the proposed Off Highway Vehicle Park at Corral Bluffs.

“We were just gearing up for the fight,” said Jeff Cahill, nearby land owner, “when all of a sudden it was over.”

Now the plan is to pursue preserving the 520 acres of land with a potential expansion to include a total of 3,000 acres into Jimmy Camp Creek area west of the Bluffs.

The initial battle to stop the OHV park cost approximately $15,000 and involved 20 to 30 families directly with an email list of more than a hundred. The CoBA rosters showed 200 active members.

“All kinds of people came out of the woodwork to support us,” said Lee Milner, former president of CoBA. “There were influential people who didn’t necessarily want to be known, but they lent a lot of support to us.”

To Milner, the two significant turning points in the five month long battle were when things slowed down at the state level and getting the involvement of Dr. Kirk Johnson, Chief Curator of the Denver Museum of Natural History. “He brought in the paleontological pursuit and state contacts. But the most amazing thing is that people listened and did what I asked.”

Jackie Hilaire, the new president of CoBA, said the efforts went along way in preserving the land she lives next to and has grown to love. “Lee Milner did a great job, he knew how the politics worked.”

Another resident simply said, “Saving the Bluffs was critical. For some of the residents it was their life, and the OHV Park would have had an unbelievable impact on their lives; for others it would have been a nuisance. Lee Milner was our hero and a key individual in the fight.”

Jeff Cahill, left, Lee Milner and Ross Slinger, far right, enjoy the food and conversation at the Save Corral Bluffs celebration reception at Ciao Bella on June 4.

Cahill noted that this recent conflict with the county has given him a compelling need to read the miniscule public notices that the county publishes. “It has made me very leery of what government is doing.”

Don Watkins, a life long resident near the Bluffs, said there was always the possibility that the decision could have gone the other way. “At times we felt we were fighting a losing battle, but in the end, I believe Corral Bluffs defended herself.”