CALHAN, Colo. — An uptick in crowds at Paint Mines Interpretive Park last summer came with a rise in some visitors not following the rules and an El Paso County project is changing that with new improvements to the park.
The Paint Mines Interpretive Park Restoration Project is nearly complete after months of work around the 750-acre park in Calhan. One big part of the project was fencing and better signage throughout the park.
The new fencing isn’t blocking any views of the rock formations, but park officials say they were installed to keep people off the delicate rock structures and prevent erosion.
In addition to keeping people off the rocks, the fencing is blocking off social trails that are steep, unsafe or walking through sensitive areas.
“Social trails are cut through trails that people have created that were not intended,” said Greg Stachon, Landscape Architect for El Paso County Parks.
Some of the trails carved out by foot traffic were made into official park trails through this project. Stachon said a few of the social trails are safe for visitors to travel and that’s why they’ve been added to the park map. One of those newly added trails runs along the scenic rim of the park, offering beautiful views looking down at the rock formations.
“We extended that rim trail because it is very scenic. That turned from a social trail into an official 8 foot wide crushed limestone trail for about 700 extra feet at the top of the overlook,” said Stachon.
Part of the need for this project comes after an uptick in vandalism, including people carving names into the historic rocks and spray painting them. The hope is the new signage will educate visitors and encourage them to stay on the designated trails.
El Paso County Parks staff will now be there Friday through Monday to make sure people are following the rules. Park rules include no climbing on the rocks, along with no dogs, horses or bikes. Officials say climbing on the formations is dangerous but also damages the rocks.
“The things they have done to improve this place have been pretty sensational with these nice fences and everything to keep wanderers on the proper trails. Because you get off the trails in parks like this and it makes them ugly and people shouldn’t do that,” said Jack Hornsey, a park visitor.
“The formations are made of limestone and clay and they’re oxidized with iron over time. That’s what gives them the brilliant colors. But these type of rocks are sedimentary rock. They haven’t been exposed to heat and pressure over time. So they’re not very strong,” said Stachon. “They’ve really done a great job with the trails, fences, steps. And it’s a beautiful place.”
They’re also adding crushed limestone and creating better trail surfaces to prevent erosion and improve drainage on the trails.
“By adding new culverts and ditching along the edge so that creates a better wearing surface for the trails,” said Stachon.
You’ll also notice new benches throughout the park and an expanded parking lot. The main parking lot at Paint Mines Park is now double in size, accommodating around 60 cars.