Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado is a burgeoning city nestled at the base of Pikes Peak. The city boasts breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains as well as several tourist destinations such as Garden of the Gods, Helen Hunt Falls, and the Seven Bridges hiking trail. Colorado Springs and its surrounding municipalities such as Fountain, Manitou Springs, and Monument are vacation destinations for individuals from all over the world. The population is growing at a consistent rate of 1-2% annually (World Population Review, 2019). As the city and its surrounding municipalities continues to grow in popularity both for vacationers and citizens it is faced with a future that requires attention to detail. The county of El Paso, in which Colorado Springs resides, has a history of infrastructure neglect and concerns are mounting regarding the accessibility of transportation for citizens as well as general building accessibility for individuals with special needs. This report serves to present some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that Colorado Springs and El Paso county currently face as well as the potential for resolution for obstacles and challenges that have risen in the last decade.
El Paso county benefits from several important and valuable contributions to the local economy. The county enjoys the fruits of a strong tourist industry whereby guests from all over the world travel to the area to take in the remarkable scenery and majestic mountain ranges that stretch across the state. The tourist industry alone brings in $1 billion of revenue for the county every year (City-Data, 2019). The aerospace engineering and electronics industry thrives within Colorado Springs city limits as well as a vast military presence from Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Academy. “Hewlett-Packard and 17 other major electronics companies, combined, employ nearly 10,000 workers” (City-Data, 2019). With a growing population, El Paso county has faced the trouble of mounting housing costs but manages to maintain lower property taxes ensuring that individuals who currently reside in the area are not displaced by the growth.
Over several decades, Colorado Springs and surrounding municipalities have experienced deteriorating infrastructure, public transportation systems that do not meet the demand of population growth, and the struggle to keep public spaces accessible to individuals with special needs. Infrastructure is a core responsibility of local municipal governments and the maintenance thereof is necessary for the city to be productive. This includes the renovation and restoration of roads, bridges, sidewalks, medians, drainage, parks, trails, and other public areas. The taxpayers of Colorado Springs expect the modernization of outdated structures, accessibility for all citizens, and reliable and affordable transportation around the city. Failure to maintain infrastructure became prevalent to Colorado Springs citizens in August of 216 when a busy road in town shut down due to a sinkhole in the middle of the road that caused the collapse of a bridge. The bridge was not set to be restored until 2019, but the city was forced to clamor for funding and planning in order to repair the bridge and reopen the road (Allen, 2016). Delays in maintaining roads and restoring buildings have challenged the cities attempts at recruiting new businesses to invest in the area (C. Lomprey, personal communication, September 6, 2019). The city has experienced a 1-2 percent increase in growth every year since 2010 (World Population Review, 2019). The growth of the city has illuminated the failures of public transportation and accessibility of public spaces to individuals with disabilities. The El Paso county Economic Development Department continues its efforts to meet the increasing need for expansion of transportation and accommodations for citizens with special needs.
Opportunities for the city are offered through ongoing collaboration among municipality government departments and cross-over evaluations of each municipality within the greater El Paso county limits. With ongoing and predictable growth of residents in the area over the next decade, Colorado Springs and its surrounding municipalities must work together to execute reasonable plans for renovations of current infrastructure and innovations regarding expansions of services like transportation. Chloe Lomprey, Economic Development Analyst for El Paso county suggests a collaborative approach to tackling the major weaknesses of the cities whereby local government departments meet to discuss their plans and processes and glean from each other what works and what has not worked for their municipality. The collaboration between municipalities of El Paso county would give each city the opportunity to tackle county-wide issues together and find support and innovative ideas among their peers.
An ongoing lack of collaboration and representation among the different municipalities and city governments of El Paso county has continuously interfered with the ability for Colorado Springs and surrounding cities to meet the demands of a growing population. According to Colorado Springs Councilwoman Yolanda Avila, not all districts within the city of Colorado Springs are being properly represented or supported. The city of Colorado Springs continues to grow and District 4, Ms. Avila’s district, has not reaped much benefit in terms of infrastructure maintenance or representation on City Council (Y. Avila, personal communication, September 6, 2019). From the time Councilwoman Avila had left Colorado Springs in 1998 to 2011 when she returned to her hometown, the district had fallen into complete disarray. Sidewalks were unmanageable, city buses ran for limited timeframes and it would take several hours to get from one side of the city to the other. As a citizen with a disability, Councilwoman Avila ran for office with a focus on disabled accessibility, infrastructure, and transportation. As the city continues to grow, the three pillars of Councilwoman Avila’s campaign remain the prominent threats to the cities’ ability to attract more and more businesses and residents to the area. Lack of infrastructural management, disabled access, and transportation are the greatest threats to El Paso county economic development.
Allen, E. (2016). City to fix Chestnut street ‘infrastructure failure’ by November. Retrieved from https://www.krdo.com/news/local-news/city-to-fix-chestnut-street-infrastructure-failure-by-november/35497823
Avila, Y. (2019, September 6). Personal Interview.
City-Data.com. (2019). Colorado Springs: Economy. Retrieved from http://www.city-data.com/us-cities/The-West/Colorado-Springs-Economy.html
Lomprey, C. (2019, September 6). Personal Interview.
World Population Review. (2019). Colorado Springs, Colorado population 2019. Retrieved from http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/colorado-springs-population/