Colorado Springs' parks advocate Lee Milner dies at 75 – Colorado Springs Gazette

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Lee Milner talks with City Clerk Kathryn Young after dropping off over 11,000 signatures on petitions for a trails and open space ballot initiative on Dec. 23, 1996.
Lee Milner

Lee Milner talks with City Clerk Kathryn Young after dropping off over 11,000 signatures on petitions for a trails and open space ballot initiative on Dec. 23, 1996.
Lee Milner, a longtime Colorado Springs parks’ advocate and environmentalist, died Saturday of cancer after decades of fighting for the community’s beloved open spaces.  
Milner, 75, was tireless in his Colorado Springs advocacy that started in the 1980s and continued after he moved to Washington for his wife’s health in late 2020. In August, he sent out a proposed slogan for the upcoming campaign to extend the dedicated Trails, Open Space and Parks tax: “Provide for the Future. Protect the Past.”
It’s a saying that captures Milner’s work on land preservation and air quality. 
Milner was part of the core group that put the TOPS question on the ballot twice in the 1990s, a longtime member of the city’s working committee that guides open space purchases and a founder of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, in addition to working with many other environmental groups.
“He was sort of a bull terrier of open space advocates,” his friend and fellow parks advocate Kent Obee said, with only one setting: “forward, full speed.”
Milner defined himself by what he could do for the community or for the environment, his wife Jeanie Bein said. 
Lee Milner
“He just felt that he could be effective, that this is how he could make a mark,” she said. 
During his last days, he received hundreds of phone calls, text messages and emails thanking him for his work, Bein said, and that bolstered his morale. Milner passed a year and a half after being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. He turned 75 in November. 
Milner found his purpose in fighting for the environment after joining Volunteers in Service to America, a program that’s been absorbed by AmeriCorps, after moving to Idaho from the suburbs of New York. His parents died when he was a teenager and he was a bit lost for about three years before joining the program, Bein said. His love for the environment became his spirituality. 
The preservation of Corral Bluffs, a site of unprecedented fossil discoveries east of Colorado Springs, was one of his signature projects and an area where he poured out the most passion, she said. El Paso County had considered turning the area into a motorcycle park in 2008, a proposal Milner battled as the Corral Bluffs Alliance president, even before the full significance of the site was understood. He persuaded the Denver Museum of Natural History to help buttress the case for preservation, Obee said. 
Milner was also a key part of preserving Stratton, Red Rock Canyon, Union Meadows and Blodgett open spaces, said Richard Skorman, a longtime friend and a former Colorado Springs City Council president. 
Mayor John Suthers honored Milner’s work with the Spirit of the Springs Award in 2017 for his effective advocacy recognizing the connection between open space and quality of life, trails and economic vitality, and parks and property values, according to a copy of Suthers’ speech.

Skorman said Milner was strategic and successful in his advocacy, in part, because he built relationships with community leaders across the political spectrum to preserve land. He was also fearless in his approach. 
“Lee could call the president and if he answered, (Lee) would tell him what he thought he should do,” Skorman said. 
A professional real estate agent, Milner put those skills to work on deals and he was willing to rethink and reshape his vision if it wasn’t going to become reality, Skorman said. 
Milner’s work included outspoken advocacy in the local media on parks and environmental issues, including raising the alarm when he saw something he didn’t feel was right. 
“It is necessary to shine a light on reality rather than allowing the bureaucracy to dominate the public process and obscure truth from its citizens,” Milner previously told The Gazette
In recent years, one of Milner’s key projects was advocating for the city to open Jimmy Camp Creek Park, a 700-acre area east of U.S. 24 and Constitution Avenue; the city acquired the parcel through a 1988 annexation agreement. Jimmy Camp Creek is close to Corral Bluffs and the city has weighed opening them together and managing them as a single parcel.
The park was one of a few that was not included in a ballot measure that requires a vote of the people to approve park land swaps and sales. Milner wanted to protect the park land by opening it, said Obee. 
As a resident of Rustic Hills, Milner also saw the need for more open space in the eastern side of town, Bein said. 
Like most Colorado Springs residents, Milner chose to live here, after much searching. On a road trip, he saw Pulpit Rock on one side of Interstate 25 and Pikes Peak on the other and decided this would be his home, The Gazette reported previously. 
“I think Colorado Springs is a better place because of Lee Milner,” Obee said. 
Fellow parks advocate and friend Bill Koerner and others said they didn’t see a clear heir to Milner, whom Koerner described as “unstoppable” 
But there are many who are passionate about protecting land and creating more trail connections, Skorman said. 
“Maybe we will even do more now in his honor,” he said. 
A memorial and celebration of life will be held in Colorado Springs for Milner after the new year. Please email Milner’s wife at if you would like to attend in person or online. 
Contact the writer at or (719) 429-9264.
The city of Colorado Springs may ask voters in April to extend the sales tax dedicated to trails, open space and parks and allow more flexibil…
Mary Shinn has worked at The Gazette since 2020 covering city hall, local politics and environmental issues. Previously, she worked for The Durango Herald from 2013 to 2020 covering city hall, education, environment and agriculture. In 2013, Shinn was a News 21 fellow and worked on an investigative series focused on veteran’s issues. 
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