The land on which Stratton Open Space lies was owned by the Myron Stratton Foundation until the mid-1990's. The Foundation was created from the estate of Winfield Scott Stratton (1848-1902), a longtime Colorado Springs resident who struck gold in Cripple Creek in 1893, and left the bulk of his fortune to establish a charity to care for orphans, elderly, and disabled poor people.
Much of the land previously consisted of two cattle ranches homesteaded by Marcus Foster (1834-1923), and his father Silas Foster (1802-1881), on a swatch of land which includes the current reservoirs, the Ridgeway trailhead, and much of the center of the open space, extending up to Gold Camp Road north of Point Sublime. This property, along with much other property in the area, was acquired by the Stratton Home in 1909, from Count Pourtales' company. Stratton Park, created for public use by Stratton around 1899, lay at the east end of the Foster properties, by Cheyenne Road; it remained in Stratton's estate, and later became the P.E.O. Chapter House and private residences.
The Foster homesteads
The Foster ranch, with Mount Cutler in the background
The foundation created a water company, the Myron Stratton Home Water Department, soon after acquiring the land, in order to provide water to the home and for some neighborhood residents. The first reservoir in the open space was completed in 1932 (now Gold Camp Reservoir), and the second (South Suburban Reservoir) was built in 1953-54 after the Home sold off its water department, and the land around the reservoirs, to form the South Suburban Water Company. The South Suburban company and its reservoirs were acquired by Colorado Springs in 1966. The foundation retained the rest of the current open space property.
Gold Camp Reservoir (then called South Suburban Reservoir), 1953
For several decades, the foundation allowed people to pasture horses on the land, as long as they maintained fencing. The Cheyenne Mountain Riding Club had a corral and horse stalls where the La Veta trailhead now lies.
The residents of the area used the land more and more through the 1980's, and hiking and mountain biking in the area became common on an informal network of trails.
In the 1990's, the foundation proposed changing their mission to stop directly housing the poor at the Myron Stratton Home, but a court ordered them to sell assets instead to fund their operations, including 483 acres that included the open space and more land to the north. Some of the land was sold to a developer, who began building houses in Stratton Preserve, and another piece was sold to Cheyenne Mountain High School for parking lots and athletic fields. The city utility department also planned to build a water treatment plant on the land near the reservoirs, with buildings and paved access roads.
A citizen's group, Cheyenne Commons Alliance, was incorporated on January 30th, 1996, to advocate for the preservation of the land as open space. The group was originally co-chaired by Ann Young and Morey Bean. (Cheyenne Commons later became Friends of Stratton Open Space.)
Soon afterward, the voters of Colorado Springs passed the Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax ordinance, in the spring of 1997, which set aside 0.1% of purchases in the city for the acquisition and maintenance of open spaces and parks.
In November 1997, the developer who held an option on the remaining land agreed to hold off purchasing it for six months, if the city could come up with the money to buy it. Cheyenne Commons, working with the Trust for Public Land, began work to raise the $5.9 million purchase price. With Richard Skorman leading the fundraising effort, the city TOPS program contributed $4.4 million, the Broadmoor Hotel $100,000, the Gates Family Foundation $300,000, the El Pomar Foundation $100,000 (plus $400,000 for infrastructure), and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) $500,000. The remaining funds were raised from over 700 individual donors and through fundraising events, including a jazz concert hosted by Steve Barta.
The purchase of 318 acres was finalized in the spring of 1998, and the city parks department has managed the property since then. Stratton Open Space was the first property acquired under the TOPS program.
"A Sense of Place: Discovering the Stratton Open Space" by Ruth Obee. Blue River Publishing Company, 2002.
"Newport in the Rockies: The Life and Good Times of Colorado Springs", Centennial Edition, by Marshall Sprague. Sage Books, 1971.
North Cheyenne Canyon Park Master and Management Plan, July 2, 2018.
Additional research by Eric Swab.
Chamberlain Trail History