2022 Open Space Projects Webmap

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks is home to 154 miles of trails that connect visitors to some of the most diverse natural areas in the western United States. Learn more about many of the more than 300 projects City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks is conducting in 2022 to help maintain and improve our shared public lands.

Red Rocks formation in west Boulder

Helping Boulder Enjoy and Protect Open Space

Boulder community members have long recognized the unique beauty of the lands surrounding them and, for generations, have worked tirelessly to preserve them. Our work, however, is far from done.

Learn how the Boulder community and the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department are working together to help visitors – and future generations – enjoy and protect our shared public lands.

OSMP Master Plan: A Community-Driven Vision

In September 2019, the Boulder City Council unanimously accepted and adopted Open Space and Mountain Parks' first Master Plan PDF. The Master Plan sets the course for achieving a vision for responsible land management over the next decade and beyond.

The Master Plan is based on open space purposes in the city charter and five "management focus areas, which describe shared aspirations about the future of Boulder’s OSMP system and strategies for how the city can achieve them together with the community. Those focus areas are: Ecosystem Health and Resilience; Responsible Recreation, Stewardship and Enjoyment; Agriculture Today & Tomorrow; Community Connection, Education & Inclusion; Financial Sustainability.

In the sections below, learn about:

  • Land management strategies OSMP has prioritized for each focus area.
  • Select 2021 accomplishments and 2022 projects for each focus area.
  • View a map to see many of the projects City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks is conducting in 2022.

Ecosystem Health & Resilience

Focus Area Overview

Using the best available science, we protect healthy ecosystems and mend those we have impaired.

The Great Plains and Southern Rocky Mountains merge dramatically in Boulder, creating iconic rock formations, unmatched scenic beauty and high biodiversity. This natural heritage is a powerful and enduring reflection of Boulder’s values. Together with the community, the City of Boulder works to protect, sustain and restore plant and wildlife habitats, fragile ecosystems and water resources.

Key Facts

  • Two of the major ecosystems OSMP conserves are grasslands and forests. Boulder foothills and forests also support a wide range of wildlife and plant species while our grassland ecosystems help to support rare and globally imperiled grassland communities.
  • OSMP lands support 741 native plant species, 303 native bird species, 138 native butterfly species, 61 native mammal species, 21 native reptile and amphibian species and 18 native fish species.

Master Plan Strategies

In the first few years of Master Plan implementation, staff will emphasize the following three high priority ecosystem health and resilience strategies through an integrated set of prioritized programs, projects and planning efforts:

  • Preserve and restore essential habitat blocks and corridors
  • Update and continue implementing system plans guiding ecosystem management
  • Address the global climate crisis here and now
Boulder Flatirons in the spring

Two continental-scale ecoregions the Central Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains merge within Boulder's open space system. The collision of these two ecoregions has helped create some of the most diverse natural areas in the western United States.

Select 2022 Projects

  • Canyonside Forest Thinning: This forest health and fire mitigation project will focus on creating larger meadows and removing patches of small to medium diameter trees. Open forest conditions support more diverse vegetation communities, provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and decrease the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This project is being done in collaboration with Four Mile and Boulder Rural Fire Protection Districts and will treat both OSMP and private property. This larger landscape-scale project will enhance a fuel break on the city's western side.
  • Enchanted Mesa Forest Thinning: Forest restoration and fire mitigation work in the Enchanted Mesa area will create a more open forest structure that is more resistant to extreme wildfires. More than 80 acres of thinning is planned in this area in 2022. These efforts will work to improve wildfire preparedness in and around this National Historic Landmark.
  • Tall oatgrass prescribed grazing: Local ranchers brought cattle to Shanahan Ridge south of Boulder to help remove tall oatgrass, a highly invasive weed species. Tall oatgrass is a non-native, bunch grass that quickly forms dense spreading stands that prevent native vegetation from receiving essential light, moisture and nutrients.
  • Invasive Weed Removal and native plant restoration: OSMP vegetation management staff will continue to remove the noxious weed Mediterranean sage on over 1,800 acres of open space properties north of Boulder. In 2021, staff removed 21,511 plants from these properties, which will significantly decrease competition for native vegetation to access nutrients, water, and sunlight and increase plant biodiversity.
  • Stream-area and wetland restoration: OSMP plans to conduct several projects to help restore and maintain important creek and wetland areas. One project plans to create and restore wetland and stream-area habitat on 250 acres of formerly gravel mined property along Boulder Creek in Boulder County. One of the goals of this work is to restore and create new and improve existing habitat for several wildlife species, including the northern leopard frog, northern redbelly dace, plains topminnow and dabbling ducks.
  • Shanahan Ranch Amphibian habitat restoration: These efforts are taking place in various ponds across the OSMP system to improve habitat conditions for native amphibians, including the Northern Leopard frog. Habitat restoration techniques include the removal of non-native vegetation like monotypic cattail stands and the planting of native vegetation.

Please view our 2022 OSMP project map to learn about other ecological projects, including amphibian habitat restoration, forest thinning, invasive species management and native plantings, and riparian and wetland restoration.

2021 Highlights

  • Forest Thinning. Increased forestry staff capacity to accelerate forest health and fire mitigation efforts. Treated 141 acres of Ponderosa Pine. Invested 11,000 staff hours and 800 hours of help from Junior Rangers and volunteers. Learn more about how OSMP is addressing wildfire risks on open space.
  • Vegetation Management. Treated more than 6,600 acres for invasive, non-native species. Pulled 21,000 med sage, 7,700 purple loosestrife and 26,000 hairy willow herb plants. Spent more than 2,000 hours controlling teasel, crack willow and other weeds in riparian and wetland areas.
  • Tall oatgrass. For the first time, cattle grazing was introduced in all four management units in the Shanahan Ridge area south of Boulder, using 50 head of cattle to reduce wildfire risks and invasive grass. Learn more about how cattle can reduce wildfire fuels and invasive weed species.
  • Raptors. OSMP raptor monitoring and seasonal wildlife closures supported successful raptor breeding, ­with the following successful nests: two Bald Eagle nests, one Golden Eagle nest, four Peregrine Falcon nests and one successful Prairie Falcon nest.
  • Native Seeds. Spent over 400 hours collecting seeds of 11 different plant species to help with ecological restoration projects across the open space system.
  • New Zealand Mudsnail management. Developed a management plan to prevent the spread of New Zealand and help stream habitat restoration. Help us stop the spread of these invasive aquatic species.
Livestock grazing in the NCAR area

Cows graze on city open space near the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Livestock grazing helps to remove invasive weed species and reduce vegetation that can fuel fires.


OSMP's Learning Lab

Funded researchers explore the complex interactions of people, wildlife, and the environment on City of Boulder lands

The OSMP Funded Research Program is a small grant program that runs annually. The program's main goal is to work with the science community to address both short- and long-term management needs of the department. In 2022, we selected nine projects for funding, including three projects focused on climate change.

A highlight from 2021’s cohort of funded projects was the survey of ants in Gregory Canyon by Anna Paraskevopoulos, graduate student from CU Boulder. Anna resurveyed historical plots from the 1950s for ant species diversity in Gregory Canyon. She discovered that Gregory Canyon continues to host a diverse community of ants, with 53 different species of ants observed in 2021. Of these 53 species, 28 species are the same species first recorded 60 years ago and 25 species are new observations. Only one non-native species of ant—the pavement ant—was collected during the contemporary study.

Ants on open space

A study focused on ants is one of the hundreds of research projects that have occurred on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks lands.

Responsible Recreation, Stewardship & Enjoyment

Focus Area Overview

We are united by our connection to and enjoyment of nature and our obligation to protect it.

Our community’s long-term investment in open space has paid dividends for each generation of community members with stunning landscapes, trails, and other facilities for all to enjoy long into the future. From hiking, biking and climbing, to birdwatching, photography and quiet contemplation, OSMP lands offer accessible and challenging terrain for all abilities.

Key Facts

  • Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) trails help connect visitors to some of the most biologically diverse natural areas in the western United States.
  • Learn more about Boulder trails and trailheads. View current trail closures through our interactive trail map. Text “OSMP” to 888-777 to sign up for text updates about muddy trail closures.
  • Boulder's OSMP system receives between 5.5 million to 6.25 million visits every year.

Master Plan Strategies

In the first few years of Master Plan implementation, staff will emphasize the following two high priority Responsible Recreation, Stewardship and Enjoyment strategies through an integrated set of prioritized programs, projects and planning efforts:

  • Assess and manage increasing visitation
  • Reduce trail maintenance backlog
OSMP trail east of Boulder

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks has more than 154 miles of trails, 37 trailheads and 76 access points.

Select 2022 Projects

  • Royal Arch Trail: This project will continue 2021 trail work and will address trail sections that are failing due to erosion and steep slopes. It also will help improve trail sustainability. Repair work will be concentrated from Sentinel Pass to the arch and consist of building either wood or stone staircases. The trail will be closed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm, Monday through Thursday.
  • Mount Sanitas Trail: Continuing on previous efforts, OSMP will replace failing infrastructure and install stone steps. OSMP also will reduce trail braiding – where the trail is excessively wide and has parallel tracks. Repair efforts will help reduce soil erosion of the trail and better protect adjacent vegetation.
  • Flatirons Loop: Over the years, OSMP has observed significant erosion and “braiding” along the trail – which occurs when visitors walk off trail, which can widen the tread. OSMP crews will install stone steps and improve the trail tread.
  • 1st/2nd Flatiron: OSMP will continue work to repair the trail. Staff will rebuild stone structures and conduct native plant restoration.
  • Chautauqua Trail: This fall, OSMP will close the Chautauqua Trail to conduct “spot” repairs on Boulder’s most popular trail.
  • Bear Canyon Trail: OSMP’s construction work along the Bear Canyon Trail will re-reroute a one-third mile section of the path away from an ecologically important stream area to improve wildlife habitat and make the trail less prone to flood and erosion damage.

Read about closures associated with these projects. Learn more about OSMP trail crews and what's planned for the future:

2021 Highlights

  • Trail projects. OSMP conducted significant repairs along many popular trails, including Royal Arch and Bear Canyon trails. The department also completed significant work along the new Anemone Hill Trail, which allowed the department to open the trail to visitors while work was still occurring. Learn about trail closures OSMP will implement in 2022 as part of ongoing trail maintenance work, which is a key department priority.
  • Trail maintenance. Constructed, maintained or repaired about 3.5 miles of trails, constructed 784 rock steps and built 4,525 square feet of stone retaining wall. Trail construction and maintenance efforts utilized OSMP trail crews, youth corps crews, contractors, Junior Rangers, and volunteers.
  • Visitor survey. Launched the Public Opinion and Visitor Experience Survey to understand, update, and trend information about OSMP visitors. The department will use survey information to understand open space visitation and develop data-informed management recommendations in the future.
  • Dog waste. Expanded dog waste compost service and recycling throughout the system. Upgraded bear-proof dog waste compost bins to a more durable and visually appealing style. With volunteers, picked up 55 pounds of dog waste along OSMP trails during the city's "Let's DOO It" campaign.
Helicopter flights helped build the Anemone Hill Trail

A helicopter hauled more than 85 tons of rock and building materials to help construct the new Anemone Hill Trail.


Trails Program Update

OSMP is gearing up for a productive 2022 trail project season! In 2022, OSMP Trail Crews, Junior Ranger crews, youth corps crews, volunteers, and contractors are gearing up to build, repair, and maintain the trails that bring you to the places community members enjoy. Learn about 2022 projects and 2021 accomplishments.

2021 Visitation Updates and Parking Study Results

The Human Dimensions workgroup has increased OSMP's fleet of long-term trail counters to assess how visitation has increased and decreased in different areas across the system. See this OBST presentation (starting 57 minutes in) and this interactive Visitation Data Explorer dashboard to learn more. The Human Dimensions team also completed the department's first system-wide parking study PDF to better understand how trailhead parking lots are used. Stay tuned for an additional report that explores some of the causes and impacts of congestion.

Agriculture Today & Tomorrow

Focus Area Overview

Our legacy and future are based on working landscapes that are in harmony with nature.

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) preserves agricultural uses on open space lands to support agricultural viability and the native plants and animals who rely on agricultural lands as habitat. We deeply value our relationships with ranchers, farmers and the many community members who enjoy and appreciate these lands.

Agricultural Facts

  • OSMP leases about 15,000 acres of working lands to dozens of farmers and ranchers, many of whom have cared for these lands for more than 30 years.
  • Regenerative agricultural practices and traditional livestock grazing regimes are critical in mitigating area fire risks and maintaining healthy soils and diverse native grasslands on OSMP agricultural properties.
  • It has been estimated that the ranchers and farmers who lease OSMP lands do the work of 15 full-time staff members, saving the department more than $1 million each year. Learn more about OSMP’s leasing practices.

Master Plan Strategies

In the first few years of Master Plan implementation, staff will emphasize the following three high priority agricultural strategies through an integrated set of prioritized programs, projects and planning efforts:

  • Reduce maintenance backlog for agriculture and water infrastructure.
  • Increase soil health and resilience.
  • Address conflicts between agriculture and prairie dogs. Learn more about city efforts to conserve and manage prairie dogs.
Hay Bales in Agricultural Field

The City of Boulder’s charter specifically identifies the preservation of agricultural uses and lands suitable for agricultural production as an open space purpose. Photo by Tomasz Kucharski.

2022 Select Projects

  • Increase soil health and resilience: OSMP will spread compost on leased and unleased open space properties to improve soil health and provide a source of carbon, micro and macronutrients for plants and the soil food web.
  • Rehabilitate irrigated agricultural lands: Staff will rehabilitate the soil and plant resources and fence, access, and irrigation infrastructure of over 150 acres of irrigated agricultural land where prairie dogs were removed in 2021. Burrow leveling, keyline plowing, compost, cattle bale grazing, seeding, noxious and invasive plant management, fence and gate repairs, and re-constructing or fixing flood irrigation systems are all occurring on these six project sites in 2022.
  • Rehabilitate diverse native plant communities: Staff are identifying the best ways to restore native plant communities in the presence of prairie dogs on approximately 20 acres of formally converted and now degraded agricultural fields. OSMP is trialing different plant species combinations and seeding methods using native plant species naturally found in prairie dog colonies.

2021 Highlights

  • Agricultural land restoration. Removed prairie dogs from 135 acres of irrigated agricultural land. Installed barriers and implemented restoration activities to prevent recolonization, enhance soil health and increase agricultural productivity from all removal areas.
  • Soil health. Sampled 128 sites for a soil health baseline inventory and completed a summary report. Completed soil health treatments on 241 acres leased for agricultural purposes. Planned, co-hosted and participated in the sixth annual Soil Revolution Conference.
  • Prescribed burns. Burned 8,900 feet of irrigation ditches to enhance and maintain irrigation water delivery.
  • Irrigation infrastructure improvements. Spent over $100,000 to improve and maintain irrigation infrastructure.
  • Farm site improvements. Spent $125,000 on site improvements to five properties to stabilize and upgrade facilities for agricultural lessees. Four of these sites are diversified vegetable or animal farms providing local food sources for the community.
City of Boulder regularly conducts prescribed burns

The City of Boulder conducts prescribed burns to reduce fire danger for the community, improve the health of open space ecosystems and maintain agricultural water infrastructure. Learn more about why the City of Boulder conducts prescribed burning.

Community Connection, Education & Inclusion

Focus Area Overview

Together, we build an inclusive community of stewards and seek to find our place in open space.

Open space allows for more than recreation. Nature can replace the humdrum and stress of everyday life with joy, peace, and perspective for those who experience it. Over the next decade, Open Space and Mountain Parks seeks to:

  • Inspire environmental education
  • Sustain community volunteerism, partnerships and neighborhood involvement
  • Promote equity and inclusion where all people feel welcome, safe and able to enjoy the benefits of open space
  • Create long-term connections with OSMP lands that are strengthened and deepened throughout our lives and across generations
  • Increase awareness of the benefits of nature and the ways visiting OSMP lands can reduce stress and increase physical and mental well-being
  • Encourage youth to spend time outdoors and to care for their open space system

Key Facts

  • OSMP provides community educational and recreational nature-based programs. Sign up for "Field Notes" e-newsletter to receive e-mail updates about upcoming programs.
  • OSMP also provides requested educational programs, recreational excursions, accessible bike rides, and contemplative experiences – even in Spanish. Learn more about requesting a program.
  • OSMP connects with the community by offering many opportunities for people to give back to the land in meaningful ways. Learn more about how you can give back to the land we all love.

Master Plan Strategies

In the first few years of Master Plan implementation, staff will emphasize the following two high priority Community Connection, Education, and Inclusion strategies through an integrated set of prioritized programs, projects and planning efforts:

  • Welcome diverse backgrounds and abilities
  • Enhance communication with visitors

Boulder OSMP outreach staff pose for a picture

OSMP has published a guide booklet for people with experiencing disabilities, Boulder OSMP Accessible Trails and Sites PDF. The trails and natural sites in this guide book should be accessible to the average wheelchair, walker or scooter user.

2021 Highlights

  • Presence On the Land. Staff and volunteers made over 142,348 visitor contacts on OSMP trails and trailheads to help enhance visitor understanding of the OSMP system.
  • Raptor and Bat Monitor Volunteers. Sixty volunteers helped collect data and provided observations to support OSMP resource management decisions.
  • Bilingual Programs. Provided 25 programs for 381 Spanish-speaking participants, including Nature Kids Boulder programming, bilingual school presentations and bilingual arts programs.
  • Accessibility Programs. Served 1,519 people experiencing disabilities. Staff led 12 wheelchair-use trainings; 3 accessible presentations; 48 all-terrain handcycle experiences; 8 disability hikes; and two accessibility events.
  • Connecting Youth to Nature. Provided 57 activities to 5,382 youth. Offered five school assemblies reaching 925 students and staff. Staff and volunteers provided 142 activities, reaching 10,618 families.
  • Volunteers who communicate with visitors. Bike patrol - 34 volunteers made 5,000+ contacts. Trail guides – 40 volunteers made 37,842 contacts. Flagstaff Nature Center – 12 volunteers made 2,869 contacts. Volunteer ambassadors – seven volunteers made 30,392 visitor contacts.
An OSMP volunteer works on the Royal Arch Trail

Thank you to all the volunteers who have shared their time to help maintain and improve Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. In 2021, more than 1,780 volunteers donated 19,350 hours of their time – which was worth about $586,498 of service!


Financial Sustainability

Focus Area Overview

We steward public funding to fulfill the City Charter purposes for open space.

As of 2022, three citizen-approved sales tax increments accounted for about 90 percent of OSMP's annual revenues, evidence that Boulder community members continue to recognize the value of open space. Boulder residents have created a remarkable open space legacy for themselves and future generations by approving tax increases.

Key Facts

  • Beginning in 2021, the Open Space Fund is made up of the following three sales tax increments:
    • 0.40 percent sales tax which has no sunset
    • 0.33 percent sales tax which was reduced to 0.22 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, to be reduced to .10 percent on Jan. 1, 2035, then exists in perpetuity.
    • 0.15 percent sales tax which expires Dec. 31, 2039.

Master Plan Strategies

In the first few years of Master Plan implementation, staff will emphasize the following two Financial Sustainability strategies:

  • Steadily generate funds through sales and use tax collections while strategically leveraging other revenue streams and local dollars to support OSMP’s capacity to deliver open space services.
  • Create, optimize, and manage budgets that anticipate major change drivers such as extreme weather events and fluctuations in revenue and spending.

Program Updates

Photo from 1967 poster that advocated open space sales tax

Did you know that Boulder was the first city in the nation to adopt an open spaces sales tax?