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Oct 5, 2011 7:49 PM by Andy Koen

Keeping parks clean and accessible in a tough economy

Palmer Park holds a special place in Tom Howes heart. Two years ago, when the city cut parks funding, he was among the first to step forward to help.

"We started with 15 people in my living room saying there's something up here worth protecting," he recalls.

That gathering eventually became the Guardians of Palmer Park, a group of 165 volunteers which regularly maintains the trails and paints over graffiti.

The city relies heavily on groups like the Guardians. Kim King, an administrator with Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, says the various finders groups across the city have been a tremendous help, specifically for maintaining open spaces and regional parks.

"Over the last few years, especially with our budget reductions, they've really stepped up to the plate," King said.

The greatest resource Howes and Guardians have is man power, but they want to make sure that all of their hard work doesn't go to waste.

So, when the organizers of Saturday's 24 Hours of Cycling race announced plans to use Palmer Park Tom was concerned.

The city has worked to elevate its image among outdoor enthusiasts, particularly through high profile races like the 24 Hours of Cycling and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. King says her department has balance concerns over trail maintenance with city marketing.

"Sometimes that takes a while, but you work through it and I think overall the event was very successful."

Tom agrees. In fact, volunteers from the local cycling community even joined the guardians after the race to help repair trails.

"I really like that people were able to come in and enjoy the park, people that maybe wouldn't have, people from all over the country."

The Guardians meet every other Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Click here to learn more about how to volunteer.

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