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OSMP Nature & History

OSMP Nature & History

History of Boulder's Open Space & Mountain Parks

The OSMP program is the product of a long history of actions taken by the citizens 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 citizens 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 – Citizens 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 citizens 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 – Citizen 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.

Two Agencies Merge

In January 2001, the City of Boulder Mountain Parks Division—under the Department of Parks and Recreation—and the Open Space/Real Estate Department merged to form one new department to manage the city’s wild recreational lands, Open Space and Mountain Parks. The merger allowed the new department to provide a more consistent range of visitor opportunities and regulations on the ground, save money by eliminating some duplication, and bring the 6,555 acres of Mountain Parks lands—including Boulder’s signature Flatirons—under the strict protections of the Open Space Charter.

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