Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks staff this week released the department’s first comprehensive master plan in draft form for the community to review.
The draft plan, in addition to laying out broad focus areas and management approaches, examines how the department can respond to various budget scenarios. As it stands, the department is facing a 30% reduction in revenue. City council last week expressed an interest in polling residents to see if they would vote for a sales tax increase to partially or fully make up for that loss.
Since early last year, the department has sought community feedback to understand residents’ values and priorities for nearly 46,000 acres of open space lands. Thousands of people weighed in, and they have the chance to do that again in response to the draft plan released Monday.
“It was tremendous,” said Deryn Wagner, senior planner and master plan project manager. “We received thousands of comments and engaged with thousands of people.”
The draft plan identifies five focus areas: ecosystem health and resilience; responsible recreation; stewardship and enjoyment; agriculture today and tomorrow; community connection, education and inclusion; and financial sustainability. The focus areas were adjusted in response to community, Open Space Board of Trustees and council feedback, Wagner said.
Within those focus areas, the draft plan identifies strategies and 17 high-priority strategies to meet the department’s goals.
High-priority strategies, for example, include conserving and restoring Boulder’s natural heritage, reducing undesignated trails and human disturbance, and managing entire ecosystems using a holistic approach to planning. Together, they involve keeping habitats healthy; taking care of and improving assets; addressing visitation growth; enhancing soil health, and fostering environmental literacy, wellness and stewardship among youth and underserved communities, according to a Boulder news release.
The department received strong feedback about taking care of what Boulder already has, Wagner said. The draft plan notes a de-emphasis on acquisitions or new trails.
“We have historic trails and visitor facilities in the mountain parks that are aging. We have trails throughout the system that need maintenance,” as well as ecosystems that need to be taken care of, Wagner said.
Wagner said staff not only held traditional open houses and conducted surveys, but also conducted “micro-engagements” in which they met people where they were — at libraries, trailheads, coffee shops and senior centers — to collect feedback.
When asked to spend $100, respondents in a statistically valid survey distributed more than $15 each to three of 10 categories: $16.31 for restoring degraded ecosystems and wildlife habitat, $15.67 for maintaining and improving trails and visitor amenities, and $15.01 for acquiring more open space. Amounts varied for respondents in workshops, micro-engagements and an open survey, but all four groups put restoring degraded ecosystems and wildlife habit among their top spending priorities.
Additionally, 91% of respondents said the five focus areas were at least somewhat important, if not very important or absolutely essential.
“That felt like really strong confirmation of the engagement process we had done,” Wagner said. “… It feels good to know we have this strong foundation.”
The draft also takes into account three funding scenarios: reduced funding, restored funding and additional funding.
“In those situations (of restored or additional funding), we talk about how we would scale up the work that we heard from the community is important,” Wagner said.
Interim Director Dan Burke in a letter introducing the master plan draft thanked the community
“Our community’s passion and commitment for open spaces and wild places have helped permanently protect some of our region’s most critical wildlife habitat, productive agricultural lands and awe-inspiring views,” Burke wrote. “And, as we prepare to finalize and begin implementing our master plan, our journey together to care for these protected places continues.”
Community members can comment through June 12, though any feedback collected by June 3 will be shared at a June 11 joint study session between council and the Open Space Board of Trustees.
Opportunities to comment include drop-in listening sessions May 30 and June 1; during the trustees’ meeting June 12; online at OSMPMasterPlan.org; or by emailing OSMP staff, the trustees and council. The full draft and more details are available: OSMPMasterPlan.org.
If you go
What: Drop-in listening sessions
When: 4 to 7 p.m. May 30 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 1
Where: Open Space and Mountain Parks Hub Building, 2520 55th St.
More info: OSMPMasterPlan.org