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Department Information

Department Information


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: To preserve land for scenic, agricultural and buffer value.

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 approximately 45,000 acres, contains approximately 150 miles of developed and maintained trails, and receives approximately 6.25 million human visits per year based on the 2017 Visitation Study data. The department is divided into five divisions:

  • Director's Team;
  • Central Services;
  • Community Connections and Partnerships;
  • Resources and Stewardship; and
  • Trails and Facilities.

2018 Total Budget: $35,340,052
2018 Number of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Employees: 125.4


Director's Team

The OSMP Director's Team ensures strategic alignment of OSMP projects with the department’s mission and priorities. This workgroup includes the Executive Director, Deputy Director, Science Officer, Community Relations Officer, and the Service Area Managers of the workgroups outlined below.

  • 2018 Total Service Area Budget: $2,019,237
  • 2018 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 10

Budget includes operating funds for OSMP leadership, CIP dollars and program and project integration services.

Central Services

The Central Services workgroup provides support for the daily internal operations of the Department. This workgroup offers real estate, information resources, administrative, and financial services, including: acquisition of land interests and management of easement requests; data management, Geographic Information Systems, Web Site management, etc; support of the Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT), front office, permitting and program support (such as Voice and Sight programs), and preparation and analysis of the OSMP budget and monitoring of the parking fee, cash management, and timesheet databases.

  • 2018 Total Service Area Budget: $2,986,794
  • 2018 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 21.80

Budget consists primarily of operating dollars but division staff are responsible for CIP funding to support 2018 real estate, water, and mineral rights acquisition.

Community Connections and Partnerships

The Community Connections and Partnerships workgroup engages community members around the mission and vision of OSMP. This workgroup coordinates activities and messaging around: environmental planning and sustainability; education and Outreach programs, including volunteer projects and services and the Junior Ranger Program; and Ranger Services.

  • 2018 Total Service Area Budget: $4,557,990
  • 2018 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 37.3

Budget includes operating funds as well as CIP dollars related to Voice & Sight implementation.

Resources and Stewardship

The Resource and Stewardship service area is responsible for understanding, caring for, and promoting the well-being of open space lands within a department-wide context that supports all chartered land uses and open space purposes. This service area provides expertise in: wildlife management, wetlands and riparian areas, forest management, plants and grasslands, ecological restoration, integrated pest management, agricultural use, water resources, recreation, as well as scenic and cultural resource management.

  • 2018 Total Service Area Budget: $4,438,798
  • 2018 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 29.3

Budget includes operating funds, Lottery funds, and external grant funding to support continued flood recovery.

Trails and Facilities

The Trails and Facilities workgroup supports the design, construction, and maintenance of OSMP’s physical assets. This workgroup manages and maintains OSMP’s: trails, trailheads and access points, acquired properties, and equipment and vehicle assets. 

  • 2018 Total Service Area Budget: $4,703,173
  • 2018 Service Area Number of FTE Employees: 27

The Open Space and Mountain Parks budget also includes capital dollars from the Open Space and Lottery funds, estimated to be $9,435,300 in 2018.

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.
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