Concrete Couch expands horizons

By Robin Intemann

A lot of people might have difficulty picturing positive possibilities for a parcel of land left largely neglected for years; fortunately, Steve Wood, founder/director of Concrete Couch, and Craig Cantrell, site manager, have vivid imaginations with a community park in mind.

While many may only see overgrown weeds, mounds of discarded asphalt and concrete and trash, Wood, Cantrell and numerous volunteers of all ages see much more. They envision a community park that will be home to bike trails, an adventure playground, a small soccer field, outdoor classrooms, an orchard, gardens, small performance venue and more – much more.

“Ideas have come from Concrete Couch folks, a group from Colorado College, people in the neighborhood and others,” Wood said. “It seems like the more creative the ideas, the more do-able they are.”

Cantrell added, “When you work for a creative organization, the ideas just come.”

Founded in 2004, the Concrete Couch mission statement is “building community through creative projects.” These include colorful mosaic murals, playground features, a climbing wall and sculptures and more throughout the Pikes Peak region.

While the nonprofit continues with these and other activities ranging from music jams to Fab Lab, where individuals and groups meet to build or repair items, from working at the Crawford House for veterans to hosting Tuesday Trails at its newest endeavor: Concrete Coyote.

Efforts to secure the 4.5 acre land near the Hillside neighborhood began in spring 2018. It was formally purchased last April. The former concrete and asphalt batch facility is bordered by railroad tracks to the south at the corner of Las Vegas and Royer streets.

Technically, the park is not yet open to the public. However, plenty of work is underway to reach the next phase. Cherry, plum and pear saplings have been planted in the orchard. “All the food grown in the garden will feed people or animals,” Wood said. “Our overall plan is to demonstrate various sustainability approaches in everything we do here.”

Wood pointed to the “adventure playground” designed and built by the community “using heavily utilized recycled materials.”

Concrete Couch is recognized for bringing diverse groups together to work toward a common goal. Typically, those have been art projects. Concrete Coyote is taking the organization to another level. Certainly, the park will reflect the creativity of all involved, it will also serve as a place to bring people together.

Pikes Peak Community College, Community Prep School, Atlas Preparatory School, students from Colorado College and numerous area businesses have already been involved. Other nonprofit groups are also playing a role. This includes Kids on Bikes and the Cheyenne Mountain Teen Program who participate in Tuesday Trails, to help build bike and walking trails on the property.

Cantrell’s background is in business management, has volunteered on numerous projects and has been friends with Wood for many years. “Steve drug me out of retirement,” he said. “I agreed to a four-year plan. I want to see it (Concrete Coyote) get as far as it can during that time.”

Wood is an award-winning artist who started Public Art Associates in 1991 as a way to bring artists and others together. Concrete Couch grew out of this and continues to expand its outreach. Eventually, the organization’s offices will be housed on the Concrete Coyote site. Currently, has a staff of 11, including teachers, and a seven-member board of directors.

“What we do is offer an inter-generational experience,” Wood explained. “It’s multi-age and multi-discipline by design.”

The site had been populated by the homeless for years. Reminders of those days are evident. Wood and Cantrell acknowledged trash on the property is still an issue, although far from what it was when Concrete Couch took possession. “We plan projects that aren’t just about garbage cleanup because that’s not a whole of fun,” Wood said, “but that does end of getting done a lot, too.”

Broad-base support is evident in the 900 donors supporting the organization. Wood is actively seeking donations from corporations and applying for grants for the community park project. Tours of the area are offered Sunday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. Good walking or hiking shoes are recommended.

“We decided to call it Concrete Coyote because coyotes survive on the margins of things,” Wood said. “It’s our spirit animal.”

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