New name. Same mission.
Palmer Land Trust is now Palmer Land Conservancy.
Evidence of the 2013 Black Forest Fire is still visible as you drive through the wooded community east of Colorado Springs. The term “burn scar” is all too present in the hearts and minds of those who remember the most destructive forest fire in Colorado history. But the community has rebuilt and recovered, and last weekend enjoyed the opening of a brand-new 8.5-mile trail loop at the Pineries Open Space that showcases the natural beauty and incredible resilience of the area’s forests. A small, socially-responsible ribbon cutting was held and attended by project partners. The Pineries Open Space, a 1,067-acre property that is El Paso County’s largest public property, now provides a peaceful singletrack loop for hikers, bikers, equestrians, and runners.
Originally part of a 16,000-acre cattle ranch, the Pineries property was owned by the Farrar family since 1958. Though cattle operations ceased in the 1970’s, the land was subsequently used for tree farming and lumber, and evidence of the property’s ranching background - including an historic loading chute - dot the trail. As is often the case with large ranches, over the years the property was divided and repurposed.
In 1985, Palmer Land Trust worked with the property owner to conserve 1,040-acres of the original ranch. In 2006, the landowners transferred the property to El Paso County who envisioned eventual public access. A Master Plan was completed in 2010 that laid out plans for trails and the opening of the property, but project progress was hindered by the 2013 Black Forest Fire. This past Saturday, the long-envisioned Pineries Open Space Grand Opening finally became a reality.
Overseen by El Paso County, the trail through the Open Space was hand-constructed by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), Mile High Youth Corps, and many dedicated volunteers. It offers a rolling, feature-free trail for beginner and intermediate riders. RMFI has also worked to restore the burned acreage through revegetation and stabilization of the hillslopes. The completed trail, which is a smooth loop with some minimal elevation gain, winds through both meadows and densely wooded areas. Tall, old-growth pine trees provide ample shade and wildflowers grow beside the singletrack path. Various ponds provide swaths of riparian oases. Along the way, trail users will encounter diverse flora, including kinnikinnick, squaw currant, mountain mahogany, blue grama, western wheatgrass, needle and thread, and mountain muhly. “There are sensitive species and wetlands on the property,” says Palmer Land Trust Conservation Director Amber Shanklin, “and the trails were beautifully designed to protect these important habitats.” A portion of the Palmer Divide runs through the north-east edge of the property and offers sweeping views at the Grandview Overlook.
“This is a huge win for our community. Pineries Open Space adds over 1,000 acres of open space and nearly 9 miles of multi-use trails to our regions' recreation portfolio, which is even more important now as we see an increase in people seeking solace in our great outdoors,” notes Shanklin.
The Pineries Open Space is located northeast of the intersection of Vollmer Road and Shoup Road in El Paso County, Colorado. Access to the trail and property is allowed between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. April through October, and 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. November through March. Appropriate user groups include runners, hikers, walkers, equestrian riders, and mountain bikers. Note that the entire loop is 8.5 miles and there are no bail-outs or additional trailheads. Dogs are welcome on leashes. More information is available on the County website.