First seen in the Colorado Springs Indy
Ten years ago, while Colorado Springs was in an economic nosedive, the city transferred management of some of its community centers to local nonprofits. One of them, the Westside Community Center in Old Colorado City, will undergo another shift as manager Woodmen Valley Chapel’s steps back next year.
The community garden group at WCC is raising awareness of the change through an online “friendly” petition that hopes to gather community support to ensure the property remains a community center.
The petition has garnered over 1,300 signatures amid fear that the community center could be developed into “the next Ivywild [School],” the group says. The city’s contract with its current partner, Woodmen Valley Chapel’s Center for Strategic Ministry LLC, will expire within the year.
Supporters are for the “community center remaining a center,” says Richard Mee, who’s been living in the neighborhood for more than 17 years and has been a part of WCC’s community garden since it started.
Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services has opened a request for information (RFI) through Sept. 15 — the first step in finding interested parties to operate and manage the center. Typically the city will then issue a formal request for proposals (RFP) from the interested parties.
If it does not receive a sufficient number of qualified RFIs, the city “reserves the right to pursue a competitive negotiation process or to consider an unsolicited proposal or piggyback opportunity without issuing a formal RFP … if it is in the best interest of the City.”
However, “[d]evelopment of the property is not being decided upon at this point,” Nicole Spindler, the procurement services manager with the city, wrote in an email to the Indy. If the city does not receive enough interest to the RFI, it “reserves the right to pursue a competitive negotiation process or to consider an unsolicited proposal or piggyback opportunity without issuing a formal RFP- if it is in the best interest of the City,” according to the RFI.
“We’re not interested in dropping the keys at the curb and wishing the neighborhood well,” adds Stu Davis, the president of Woodmen Valley Chapel’s Center for Strategic Ministry LLC.
The nonprofit has extended its contract four times since its 2010 takeover of WCC in what was meant to be a stopgap measure for the city. Davis says that the nonprofit is committed to seeing its current contract through to the end unless another entity wants to take over sooner while ensuring a smooth transition. He says that there are organizations better equipped than a church to run a community center, which offers a depth of resources and activities — from language classes to pickle ball.
“I would be really surprised if the city had any interest in privatizing that investment,” Davis says. But members of the WCC garden group want to ensure privatization doesn’t happen.
Chennan Clubine, a registered nurse, got involved in WCC’s community gardening group last year. She’s enjoyed harvesting zucchini the size of her 6-month-old daughter, but more importantly, she sees the gardens and WCC as a place to build community — even in the midst of a pandemic.
“My gut feeling tells me that people want a place where they can come and they can belong and they can be accepted for who they are,” she says, “and a place to learn and a place to grow.”