, 2023-04-16 05:23:00,
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Before 2017, the parking lot at Hughes Memorial Stadium was the place you went on a September Saturday to hibachi hot links and guzzle New Belgium brews before heading into the arena about 3 miles from Colorado State University to watch the Rams lock horns with their football rivals.
But school officials decided to abandon the old concrete stadium for a new on-campus, $220 million football complex, leaving an enormous human-made scar in the prairie where Hughes and its parking lots once sat. CSU thought the best use for these 167 acres was transforming them into a mix of housing, commercial uses and a transit center with some land set aside for open space.
A group of Fort Collins conservationists had a different idea, though. They wanted to let all of the land heal and regrow by turning it into a city-owned open space.
The conservationists launched a coordinated effort to gather enough signatures to get the Fort Collins City Council to put a measure on the 2021 ballot asking if the Hughes Stadium land should be preserved as open space. The measure passed — 69% to 31% — and the conservationists believed they had gotten their neighbors what they wanted.
But the city council had some decisions to make — namely what, exactly, should they do with the land once they finalized the purchase from CSU. That proved to be a problem, because, as Mayor Jeni Arndt said, among the many uses the ballot measure offered for open space was recreation.
Arndt said when she saw that word — recreation — in the ballot item, she commented to Mike Foote, the former state lawmaker who wrote the ballot measure on behalf of the conservation group, “Dude, you put recreation in there. And Mike said, ‘I probably shouldn’t have.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but you did.’”
Foote conceded to possibly saying that to Arndt, and added “there could have been more specific verbiage about the kind of recreation the conservationists envisioned on the property, but that wasn’t on their radar at the time.” They thought “light recreation” that already took place there — disc golf and sledding — could stay, “but I don’t think they ever anticipated making it into a big mountain bike park,” he said.
A group of Fort Collins mountain bikers — some of Colorado’s most organized and vocal recreationists — did, however. And now they are locked in a battle with…
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