Open Space and Mountain Parks Land Acquisition and Water Rights Preservation

The Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) system includes more than 46,000 acres of preserved land in and around Boulder, Colorado. The very first piece of land, 80 acres at the base of Flagstaff Mountain, was purchased by the city in 1898 to be used as one in a series of Chautauqua cultural centers around the country. Since then, the Open Space program (established in 1967) has acquired over 450 separate properties.

In addition to land acquisitions, the Open Space program acquires water rights to help support agricultural operations and preserve historical water rights. Approximately 6,000 acres of open space land are irrigated with these water rights. Whenever possible, mineral rights are also acquired during the land acquisition process.

How Are Decisions Made Regarding Acquisitions?

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) acquires properties based on the OSMP Master Plan PDF, adopted by the Boulder City Council in 2019. Recommendations for acquisitions are made by the Open Space Board of Trustees and approved by Boulder City Council pursuant to the City of Boulder Charter, Article XII, Open Space.

Methods to acquire properties:

  • Property purchases: Fee interest acquisitions are typically based on fair market value.
  • Bargain and sale agreements and land donations: Involve a donation of land as one of the components.
  • Conservation Easements: The fee interest is retained by the property owner and the owner has agreed to permanently limit their use of the land to protect its conservation values.
  • Joint acquisitions: Partner with other agencies, most notably Boulder County, on joint acquisitions.
  • Dedications: Acquisition of property interests as part of a development or annexation process. Boulder!

The Open Space and Mountain Parks program is about 90 percent funded by sales and use tax dollars. 0.77 cents of every dollar spent on retail products in the City of Boulder helps support the continued acquisition and maintenance of OSMP lands; protecting the land from development and preserving it for future generations.

Interested in Selling or Donating Property?

If you, or someone you know, are interested in selling or donating a property to the Open Space and Mountain Parks program, or if you would like more information on the acquisition program, please call the OSMP office at 303-441-3440, or submit a comment online.

Learn About Licenses and Disposals Involving Open Space Land Interests

The Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department protects and manages open space land for specific open space purposes as outlined in the City of Boulder Charter, Article XII, Open Space. Community support of OSMP depends upon the confidence the public has in OSMP’s ability and commitment to fulfill the open space purposes defined in the City Charter and the City Charter requires an extensive process before disposing of, or allowing use of, open space land interests for other purposes.

Therefore, the use of, and disposals of, open space land interests are only granted in a manner that is consistent with City Charter and the Boulder Revised Code (BRC) and after a thorough review and approval process involving OSMP staff, the Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT), and when called for in the City Charter or the BRC, the City Council. To learn more about license and disposal requests involving open space land interests, please review the guidance PDF and call the OSMP office at 303-441-3440.