Earth Day according to those who know, is in the eye of the beholder.
“Each person has their own meaning for Earth Day,” Bret Tennis, Colorado Springs’ city parks administrator, said during Saturday’s 22nd annual Garden of the Gods Earth Day celebration.
“That’s why we want to showcase a variety of government organizations, nonprofits and other educators focused on the environment.”
Set up in the parking lot of the park’s visitors center were more than 40 vendors, from the Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society and Colorado Springs Electric Vehicle Club. Most had interactive activities, including planting seeds, a songbird scavenger hunt and geology presentations.
This year was also the first time the city paired its hugely popular Motorless Morning, in which no vehicles are permitted in the park, with Earth Day. The goals largely coincide, Tennis said, both drawing people outside to experience nature in a multitude of ways.
Locals and visitors didn’t disappoint. Thousands on foot, bicycles, skateboards, longboards and rollerblades traversed through the trails at Garden of the Gods between 5 a.m. and noon.
The event was so packed that by 11 a.m., the parking at Rock Ledge Ranch was completely full. While some cars waited for a spot to open up, others gave up and drove away.
“We had a big turnout for Motorless Morning,” Tennis said. “We’re hoping some of them make it up here (to the visitors center) to check out the Earth Day booths.”
Usually Garden of the Gods’ Earth Day event attracts a couple of thousand people, Tennis said. By midmorning, a small number had make the trek from the trails to the booths.
Jake and Kim Eyermann were one of the families who made it across 30th Street. At the Garden of the Gods Foundation’s booth, their daughters, 2-year-old Margo and 4-year-old Ellie, committed to picking up trash in the park and on their hikes. Solidifying their written promise with a bee sticker, the young girls became a part of ensuring the future of Garden of the Gods.
Jake, the director of outdoor recreation at Peterson Air Force Base and previously a park ranger at Garden of the Gods, said it’s important for his daughters to know how lucky they are to live minutes from the outdoor playgrounds in the region.
“Motorless Morning is an opportunity to experience the amazing backyard that we have here,” he said. “To do that next to people on bikes and rollerblades and without cars is really special.
“We hope that, in the family coming out in full force, we can try to get the city to have more motorless days.”