Learn about the accomplishments City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department accomplished last year to help sustain the special connection people have with Boulder open space and preserve the remarkable natural areas that surround Boulder. Information about 2024 projects are organized according to focus areas in our long-term strategic management plan:

  • Responsible Recreation, Stewardship & Enjoyment
  • Ecosystem Health & Resilience
  • Community Connection, Education & Inclusion
  • Agriculture Today & Tomorrow
  • Financial Sustainability

Responsible Recreation and Enjoyment

Volunteers work on the North Sky Trail north of Boulder.

Open Space and Mountain Parks hosted several volunteer projects on the North Sky Trail. Last year, 500 volunteers provided 3,044 hours to help us build the new North Sky Trail! Photo by Paul Demosthenes.

  • OSMP completed an in-depth community engagement process that culminated with City Council-approved ordinance that would allow class 1 and class 2 e-bikes as a passive recreational use on certain open space trails. City Council members also provided direction for Open Space and Mountain Parks staff to initially implement the staff preferred management alternative to designate and manage Plains Trails east of Broadway that currently allow bikes and the Boulder Canyon Trail for e-biking with the addition of Chapman Drive Trail, Foothills South Trail and the Wonderland Lake Trail. Read our guide to learn more about the types of e-bikes allowed on Open Space and Mountain Parks trails.
  • OSMP partnered with the Boulder Climbing Council trail crew to improve the climbing access at Elephant Buttress/Dome climbing area and the BCC crew built a section of the new Saddle Rock trail through challenging talus fields.
  • OSMP trail staff applied restoration treatments to 2.75 miles of undesignated trails throughout the system.
  • OSMP trail staff hosted over 60 volunteer events with 843 volunteers for a total of nearly 5,000 volunteer hours across the system.
  • OSMP trail staff completed projects across the system including resurfacing trails on the plains to completing the first phase of the Saddle Rock reroute. Crews installed stone and timber staircases, added drainage structures, and re-established the tread on many well-loved sections of trail.
  • OSMP staff continued working with the department’s Junior Ranger Program, which has long been a critical component of OSMP’s ability to connect youth to the outdoors. The Junior Ranger program is one of Boulder’s best entry points for young people to discover other stewardship-focused work and volunteer opportunities, learn to recreate responsibly, and participate in OSMP’s educational program offerings. The Junior Ranger Program continues to implement more inclusive hiring practices, recruit and outreach broadly in the community, and make this first job experience as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to apply.
  • OSMP, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Jeffco Open Space collaborated on a research study to improve the effectiveness of trail courtesy signs. The study established a treatment (signs) and measured the impact of the treatment.
  • OSMP’s Human Dimensions team completed the data collection phase of our 2021-2023 Public Opinion and Visitor Experience Survey (POVES). We received a total of 3,157 completed questionnaires, which will help us gain a deeper understanding of OSMP visitor characteristics, trip characteristics along with visitor experiences, ratings and preferences.
  • OSMP staff piloted new data collection methods to measure bike rack and picnic table utilization for the first time at OSMP, maintained vehicle counters, providing the department with nearly 5 years of vehicle counts at six trailheads, installed 2 new permanent trail counters at Joder Ranch TH, Green Mountain West Ridge, upgraded permanent trail counter on East boulder White Rocks from pedestrian to multi-use and surveyed 75.4 miles of undesignated trails.
  • OSMP staff also completed condition assessments on 33 miles of designated trails.
  • OSMP Signs team completed a 10+ year system-wide project replacing legacy wooden regulation boards with our current kiosk design, which incorporate powder coated metal pieces and stained wood. 46 trailhead kiosks were installed since 2008. The team installed 18 between 2022 and 2023.

Ecosystem Health and Resilience

Cows graze on open space south of NCAR

OSMP grazed 500 acres in the Shanahan Ridge area in the spring of 2023 to control highly invasive tall oatgrass and reduce wildland fuels. Staff worked with NCAR/UCAR to establish an agreement for grazing on the NCAR property and strategic grazing for weed management will be expanded to the NCAR property in 2024. Learn more about this ongoing work to improve healthy ecosystems and reduce fire risks for our community. 

  • OSMP grazed 500 acres in the Shanahan Ridge area in the spring of 2023 to control highly invasive tall oatgrass and reduce wildland fuels. Staff worked with NCAR/UCAR to establish an agreement for grazing on the NCAR property and strategic grazing for weed management will be expanded to the NCAR property in 2024.
  • OSMP staff submitted a grant proposal (received in 2024) for $110,896 from the US Environmental Protection Agency to fund comprehensive wetland mapping, monitoring and assessment of wetlands on OSMP lands. Staff will be partnering with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program to complete this project.
  • Junior Rangers removed 15,576 feet of fencing to help improve wildlife corridor connectivity and chipped 3,145 branches to help with community fire mitigation.
  • OSMP supported the city of Boulder Utilities Department South Boulder Creek Flood Mitigation Project planning and design process to ensure OSMP resources are protected. A draft design for the flood structures has been prepared by the project's consulting engineer. OSMP provided comments on the draft to minimize impacts to OSMP resources. Mitigation concept plans have been prepared to mitigate for unavoidable impacts to OSMP land from the project. Mitigation will largely occur on what is currently the CU South property.
  • OSMP staff restored wetland and riparian habitat on 250 acres of formerly gravel mined property along Boulder Creek in Boulder County. The overall project goal was accomplished by conducting extensive earthwork and recontouring the site to create appropriate hydrology to support a diverse mix of wet meadow, emergent marsh, riparian habitat, open water and mesic grassland. Once earthwork was completed, the project site was seeded and planted with native riparian, wetland and mesic grassland species. This project created new and improve existing habitat for several Tier 1 species listed in the 2015 Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan including northern leopard frog, northern redbelly dace, plains topminnow and all Tier 1 dabbling ducks. Habitat for Ute ladies’-tresses orchid, a federally threatened species existing on the site, was also enhanced. Robust pre- and post-project monitoring is in place to measure project success. Additional planting, seeding and weed control will continue in future years as necessary.
  • OSMP raptor monitoring, conducted by staff and volunteers, and seasonal wildlife closures supported successful nesting attempts by two bald eagles, one golden eagle, five osprey, two peregrine falcons, one prairie falcon, and one burrowing owl.
  • OSMP staff collaborated with Ready to Work to remove 16 tons of cattails to improve wetland habitat conditions for northern leopard frogs. Since focused habitat restoration began in 2012, the number of leopard frog breeding locations on OSMP. The department also has doubled fencing to facilitate wildlife movement across the landscape.
  • OSMP staff employed a contractor to retrofit approximately 3.5 miles of existing fencing by replacing upper and lower barbed wire with wildlife-friendly smooth wire and coordinated with Ready to Work to remove 8,600 feet of fencing to facilitate wildlife movement across the landscape.
  • OSMP wildlife staff completed songbird surveys at 124 grassland transects and 110 forest plots to learn more about songbird distribution and abundance across many OSMP habitats.
  • OSMP completed revisions and updates to two existing State Natural Areas in partnership with the Colorado State Natural Areas Program
  • OSMP established a new State Natural Area "Coal Creek Tallgrass Prairie State Natural Area" in partnership with the Colorado Natural Areas Program
  • The department led 3 public ecological education programs in the new Coal Creek Tallgrass Prairie State Natural Area.
  • The department completed a fish passage concept design for the New Dry Creek Carrier ditch diversion. The design was prepared in collaboration with Boulder Flycasters as part of the South Boulder Creek Stream Management Plan.
  • OSMP completed restoration of severely burned areas (Marshall Fire) of the Coal Creek Riparian Corridor with approximately 900 trees and shrubs planted
  • The department partnered with Climate Initiatives Department and Widlands Restoration Volunteers to restore washed out sections of the Gregory Canyon Road adjacent to Gregory Creek by installing one-rock-dams and wood check dams
  • OSMP contracted with an outside grower to propagate 500 native cottonwood and peachleaf willow trees for use in restoration plantings from cuttings collected on OSMP property
  • OSMP staff completed two-year monitoring project following the Marshall Fire to track impacts to the Coal Creek Riparian Area and inform restoration.

Community Connection, Education and Inclusion

Tribal Representatives and city staff at The Peoples' Crossing during March 2023 Consultation

Tribal Representatives from Tribal Nations, City Council members and city staff pose for a picture in The Peoples' Crossing in west Boulder during a March 2023 consultation. Learn more about The Peoples' Crossing, a name that came as a result of the city's Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution.

  • OSMP supported city-wide consultation with American Indian Tribal Nations by beginning work on an in-depth ethnographic report. The report will be based on interviews with Tribal Representative and will help the community learn Tribal Nations' enduring cultural, traditional and historical connections to Boulder.
  • OSMP supported city-wide consultation to update and consolidate past Memorandums of Understanding with Tribal Nations. The updated, which the city signed in February, will help support Tribal Nation input into OSMP decision-making and help set a foundation for ongoing collaboration.
  • OSMP supported city-wide consultation efforts to "The Peoples' Crossing: Honoring Relationships with Tribal Nations" an event.
  • OSMP Rangers patrolled 6671 miles on foot in 2023, responding to over 382 incidents, including: 119 law enforcement calls, 4 fire calls and 90 search-and-rescue calls while also making 18,200 contacts with open space visitors
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff and volunteers reached 20,224 people through 455 activities, from nature programs to accessible rides to recreational hikes.
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff reached 31,046 people through Presence on the Land at trailheads and on trails and 35,177 people at the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage.
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff reached 9,778 people at 26 outreach events including Meadow Music, Boulder County Farmers' Market, Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival, Bee+ Boulder Festival, Boulder Pride Festival, Munchkin Masquerade, and Lights of December Parade.
  • OSMP Outreach and Ranger Services staff developed the NCAR Fire: A Story of Resiliency program. With a focus on wildfire and the NCAR fire specifically, this program is designed to build participant understanding of OSMP’s land management priorities. OSMP reached 273 people through 17 Understanding Land Management Priority activities.
  • The department is educating the public about our Voice and Sight Tag Program. In 2023 3,853 people took the online class. Through the Let’s DOO It event, OSMP connected with 100 dog guardians and collected 200 piles of waste.
  • OSMP programs foster knowledge of local ecosystems, cultivating connections and developing a sense of place. Program topics include wildlife, insects, raptors, plants, biodiversity, and ecosystem health. In 2023 OSMP reached 366 people through 28 environmental literacy activities.
  • OSMP worked to make adaptive mountain biking (aMtb) and Roll and Stroll wheelchair hiking at the forefront of OSMP’s accessibility collaborations. A total of 149 riders experienced adaptive mountain bikes and 232 people participated in the experiential wheelchair hikes and Roll and Stroll hikes. This year OSMP staff worked together with Jeffco, No Barriers, Craig Hospital, City of Trinidad, Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, COSA, COMBA, SORP, CPW, CSM, CU Design, and Colorado Tourism Office
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff and volunteers reached 1,697 people through 125 activities for people of historically excluded communities.
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff trained other OSMP staff members and wove climate change content into messaging and programming. We provided 2 programs reaching 26 participants.
  • OSMP Education and Outreach staff advanced the Out in Nature programming series through development and implementation of a strategic program plan and community engagement effort. The Out in Nature series was created to increase services to and boost our connection to the LGBTQIA+ community. Though a combination of 23 public and private programs, including Queer Ecology, Winter Wellness, Spooky Drag Hike, Mushroom Fairy Hike, Pride Fest, staff reached 1,142 contacts.
  • OSMP volunteers and contractors provided 253 activities reaching a total of 11,248 youth. As part of our youth programming, OSMP offered 47 field trips, nine school assemblies, and 61 classroom presentations. School programs were designed to give students a chance to connect with the natural world and explore stewardship. School program highlights include the Columbine year-long Nature Connection, Action, and Hope project where students visited Wonderland Lake to explore the importance of wetlands and flood mitigation. Additionally, we offered two Colorado Landscapes: Prairie Ecosystem field trips with Heatherwood fourth grade students. The students participated in community engagement by offering their feedback on the Wood Brothers project.

Agricultural Today and Tomorrow

Haybales stand on open space near South Boulder Road.

OSMP supported the agricultural community by administering leases with 29 tenants on approximately 16,000 acres of leased land and by conducting irrigation infrastructure maintenance and facilitating the delivery of irrigation water to OSMP irrigated properties. Photo by Dave Sutherland.

  • OSMP staff worked to reduce conflict between prairie dogs and irrigated agriculture and restored agricultural land by removing 119 acres of prairie dogs, spreading compost on 100 acres, leveling vacant prairie dog burrows on 81 acres and seeding 166 acres.
  • The department improved conditions on unleased agricultural land by keyline plowing 162 acres, seeding 167 acres and applying irrigation water to 104 acres.

Financial Sustainability

Sun shines on the Boulder Flatirons while clouds cross the sky.

In 2023, City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks is focused on "taking care of what we have." The department continued conservation easement monitoring, access agreements, licenses and disposals and conservation easement amendments. Staff conducted ongoing stewardship of data and information to support effective decision-making.

  • OSMP staff provided front desk services providing public information, management of OSMP programs, including Voice and Sight, facility rentals, permits and parking.
  • Staff managed third-party access and construction projects on OSMP lands.
  • The department continued asset management work, with 75% of planned asset management data sets are live in the asset management system. In 2023, the biggest asset management accomplishments were configuring, migrating, and launching the forestry and facilities data sets. We also migrated the entire asset management system to the upgraded web version of the software. This work supports the Financial Sustainability strategy in its long-term strategic plan. Understanding total cost of system management and the citywide strategic plan objective to deploy an asset management system citywide.