corral bluffs fossils 2.JPG (copy)

A scenic vista of Corral Bluffs, outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. Corral Bluffs represents about 300 vertical feet of rock and preserves the extinction of the dinosaurs through the first million years of the Age of the Mammals.

A Colorado Springs open space is set to expand, continuing the city's effort to protect a mosaic of prehistoric renown.

With approval from City Council, Corral Bluffs would gain another 40 acres for $470,000, paid for with Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds, which are built with portions of sales tax revenue. That would bring the preserve's acreage to nearly 963.

Since acquiring the initial 522 acres in 2008, TOPS has steadily been buying more of the rugged land, defined by rock outcrops and gullies spanning the city's eastern boundaries. It's long been regarded by paleontologists as a world-class site for fossils of the first mammals that rose after the dinosaurs. Denver Museum of Nature and Science opened a Corral Bluffs exhibit last year, upon a vast discovery of remains chronicled in the journal Science.

The 40 acres would bring TOPS' land investment at Corral Bluffs to $6.8 million. It would be the smallest of purchases since 2008.

But TOPS manager Britt Haley said the parcel would be "significant" to the future management of the open space, where public access is limited to guided hikes.

"It's the only property that shares main access to Corral Bluffs off of Highway 94," she explained.

A fully functioning house sits on the property — a potential meeting place for guided visits or the future site of a visitor center or ranger station "or whatever you might envision for the educational component that Corral Bluffs offers," Haley said.

The residence also includes a gate. Illegal fossil hunters have been reported over the years, Haley said. Patrol has been increased, she said, but "for us to be able to control that access and lock the gate ... that's really significant."

The property would represent "a strategic acquisition," Haley said, "to really take care of the resource like any national park or state park would."

With City Council approval, Haley said the closing date on the land is slated for early December.


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