The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department preserves and protects the natural environment and land resources that characterize Boulder. We foster appreciation and use that sustain the natural values of the land for current and future generations.
Open Space Board of Trustees
The Open Space Board of Trustees makes recommendations to City Council and staff on the acquisition and management of Open Space.
The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department manages permanently protected land and area that is now over 45,000 acres and contains approximately 155 miles of developed and maintained trails. The department is divided into five divisions:
- Director Team
- Central Services
- Community Connections and Partnerships
- Resources and Stewardship
- Trails and Facilities
Some Facts About Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks
What: More than 46,640 acres of land has been preserved and protected. Wildlife habitat, unique geologic features, greenways and 155 miles of trails are all part of Open Space and Mountain Parks. Learn more about land acquisitions.
When: Open Space preservation began in 1898! See more below.
Where: Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks form a buffer around the city, helping to establish its own, separate identity from neighboring communities. Agricultural lands along the Boulder/Denver Turnpike and the Diagonal Highway provide a scenic entry into Boulder. Mountain backdrop and riparian greenways are also part of OSMP. The system forms the framework within which development occurs in the Boulder Valley.
How: Through sales tax revenues, bond issues, private donations and development dedications. Acquisitions are approved by the Open Space Board of Trustees and City Council with opportunity for public input.
Why: The city charter states that open space land shall be acquired, maintained, preserved, retained, and used only for eight specific purposes.
Who: You! The people of Boulder, by their support of Open Space and Mountain Parks for over a century.
History of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks
The OSMP program is the product of a long history of actions taken by the residents of Boulder to preserve buffer areas, natural areas, and the mountain backdrop.
Innovation at the Grassroots - Land Preservation History:
- 1898 – Residents purchased the alfalfa fields and apple orchards of Bachelder Ranch (present site of Chautauqua Park). That purchase was paid for with a bond issue.
- 1907 – A federal grant of 1,600 acres of land on Flagstaff Mountain.
- 1912 – Boulder residents purchased another 1,200 acres of Flagstaff Mountain for $1.25 an acre.
- 1959 – PLAN Boulder County formed; the group has successfully campaigned for many land preservation issues.
- 1959 – A charter amendment was passed, establishing a "blue line" above which city water would not be supplied.
- 1964 – Residents organized to protest the planned development of a luxury hotel on Enchanted Mesa, and the City Council voted to condemn the land and force its sale. Activists raised small donations from the community until they reached the purchase price.
- 1967 – Boulder voters made history by approving a 0.40 of a cent sales tax specifically to buy, manage, and maintain open space, the first time residents in any U.S. city had voted to tax themselves specifically for open space. The sales tax measure passed by a 57 percent majority.
- 1971 – A charter amendment passed allowing City Council to issue bonds for the acquisition of open space.
- 1973 – Resident activists successfully called for the creation of a separate Open Space Department focused on acquiring and maintaining natural land. The City Council created the Open Space Board of Trustees.
- 1978 – The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan was adopted.
- 1986 – A charter amendment providing more permanent protection for open space lands was adopted with passage by 77 percent of the voters.
- 1989 – 76 percent of voters added 0.33 of a cent to the sales tax for a period of 15 years to accelerate open space preservation; in 1997, voters extended the tax through 2018.
- 2003 – Voters added 0.15 of a cent sales tax through 2019 to fund continued land acquisitions and maintenance.
- 2013 – Voters approved a tax measure extending 0.22 of the 0.33 cent sales tax that was set to expire in 2018. That tax now expires in 2034. After Jan. 1, 2035, the 0.22 tax will drop to 0.1 cents, and will be permanently dedicated to open space purposes. Additionally, a ballot measure addressing the 0.15 cent sales tax set to sunset at the end of 2019 passed. After the tax expires, it will be extended, but allocated for other city purposes.