The mission of the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department (OSMP) is to preserve and protect the natural environment and land resources that characterize Boulder. We foster appreciation and uses that sustain the natural values of the land for current and future generations.
Some Facts About Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks
What: Over 45,000 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.
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. Please visit the OSMP City Charter page to learn more about those purposes and how the community helps OSMP to fulfill them.
Who: You! The people of Boulder, by their support of Open Space and Mountain Parks for over a century.
The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department manages permanently protected land and area that is now over 45,000 acres, contains approximately 155 miles of developed and maintained trails, and receives approximately 5.3 million human visits per year based on the 2004-2005 Visitation Study data. The department is divided into five divisions:
- Director Team
- Central Services
- Community Connections and Partnerships
- Resources and Stewardship
- Trails and Facilities
2019 Total Budget: $29,640,763
2019 Number of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Employees: 121.6
The OSMP Directors Team ensures strategic alignment of OSMP projects with the department’s mission and priorities. This workgroup includes the Interim Director, the Interim Deputy Director, the Science Officer, the Community Relations Coordinator, and the four managers of the service areas outlined below.
2019 Total Service Area Budget: $1,635,727
2019 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 10
Budget includes operating funds for OSMP leadership and program and project integration services.
The Central Services workgroup provides support for the daily internal operations of the Department. This work group offers real estate, information resources and business services, including:
- Acquisition of land interests and management of easement requests;
- Management of data, geographic information systems and web content; and
- Preparation, analysis and management of the OSMP budget and related financial systems
2019 Total Service Area Budget: $2,717,786
2019 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 20.75
Budget consists primarily of operating dollars but service area staff are responsible for CIP funding to support 2019 real estate, water, and mineral rights acquisition.
The Community Connections and Partnerships workgroup engages community members around the mission and vision of OSMP. This workgroup coordinates public-facing community efforts in planning, education and outreach and Ranger services, including:
- Coordination of the OSMP Master Plan, Trail Study Area and other system plans;
- Volunteer projects and services, as well as the Junior Ranger Program; and
- Visitor engagement, emergency response and law enforcement.
2019 Total Service Area Budget: $4,621,975
2019 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 35.5
Budget includes operating funds for the programs and projects described.
The Resources and Stewardship workgroup enhances Boulder’s natural environment by protecting its ecological, agricultural, cultural and water assets. This workgroup contains expertise in natural resource management, ecological systems, and recreation and cultural stewardship, including:
- Preservation and restoration of ecological, agricultural, water, historical and cultural resources;
- Tracking and monitoring of the variety of systems across OSMP; and
- Research on visitor use and impacts.
2019 Total Service Area Budget: $4,320,622
2019 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 29.3
Budget includes operating funds and external grant funding to support specific projects.
The Trails and Facilities workgroup supports the design, construction, and maintenance of OSMP’s physical assets. This service area is responsible to maintain:
- OSMP’s trails, trailheads and other access points;
- Office buildings and other structures across the open space system
- The department’s equipment and vehicle assets.
2019 Total Service Area Budget: $5,502,141
2019 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 26
The Open Space and Mountain Parks budget also includes capital dollars from the Open Space and Lottery funds, estimated to be $5,408,000 in 2019.
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.