Open Space


PLAN-Boulder County Position on USAPro Cycling Challenge for 2014


Open Space Board of Trustees Meeting 9/11/2013


PLAN-Boulder County supports Boulder’s hosting of the 2014 Cycling Challenge. It was a popular event in 2012, though we would question the alleged financial benefits and we are dubious about claims for its importance to promote Boulder’s “brand.”


If there is anything that represents Boulder’s brand, it is our long-time commitment to preserving our open space, as well as our practice of an open and public decision-making process, and it is important that we learn from our experience in 2012, repeating the things we did well, and rectifying the errors.

  • One thing we did well was to close most of Flagstaff and its access trails beginning well before the race and continuing until the crowds have dispersed. OSMP staff and volunteers fenced off likely shortcuts and established excellent crowd control and public information. That effort must be repeated.
  • It was also appropriate that OSMP expenses assisting with the race were partially offset by other funds. They should be covered fully in 2014. The race is clearly not an open space purpose and should be subsidized with the expenditure of dedicated open space funds. It is illegal to do so.
  • A major error in 2012 was that the public process was avoided or subverted. There were many major issues that were not addressed; this board was consulted after all decisions had been made. We need to move in the opposite direction.
  • The change in the ordinance prohibiting competitive events on open space was ill-advised and rushed. It should be restored to its original form.
  • To support the race and reverse the bad precedent set in 2012, PLAN-Boulder County supports action by OSBT to initiate the transfer of Summit Road and portions of the parking lot at its end to another city department. Staff should be requested to draft appropriate language and boundaries so that this can be accomplished prior to the race, including the public hearings and notice periods that are required under the Open Space Charter. This would allow the race to be held in the location requested by the organizers without another tortured rewriting of the regulations governing use of open space.


OSMP Tax Extension


June 2013


PLAN-Boulder County urges Council to place extension of the 0.33% sales tax be placed on the ballot in November of this year.

 

PLAN-Boulder County also suggests that Council should not consider the combination of extending the 0.15% tax for open space and “extending” the 0.33% tax for other purposes. Reasons for this are discussed below.

 

Renewing one of the two taxes scheduled to expire in five or six years is necessary to achieve the Vision Plan of the recently adopted Long-Term Acquisition Plan. PLAN-Boulder County feels that is critical to continue the open-space acquisition strategy that Boulder citizens have repeatedly supported and that they expect. Voters prefer to extend an existing tax rather than passing a new one, so either the 0.15% tax or the 0.33% should be put on the ballot. There are a number of reasons we believe you should recommend the 0.33%.

 

• _First: history. The 0.33% tax was first passed in 1989. When it was renewed in 1997, the board at that time was convinced that funding was more than adequate for possible purchases and for funding of the department. Three years later, the economic downturn and sales tax shortfall squeezed the department so that positions had to be eliminated and acquisitions curtailed. It was partly as a result of these issues that the 0.15% additional tax was passed in 2003. More recently, the current recession resulted in significant stress during the last five years, partly because other city budgetary problems rippled over to OSMP. Future economic fluctuations can be expected to have similar impacts, and an extension of the 0.15% tax would not provide an adequate cushion, particularly under overly optimistic assumptions of a regular increase in sales tax revenues of 3% or more annually.

• _Second: additional unbudgeted expenses and shortfalls. Assuming that we achieve the Vision Plan in long-term acquisitions, there will be user demand for new trails on acquired properties, maintenance, and enforcement. This will increase the necessary budget to provide even the current level of facilities and service on new properties. The projections in your packet assume that the general fund transfer will cease after 2019. (The transfer was adopted to compensate for a maintenance backlog in Mountain Parks at the time of the merger and to compensate OSMP for real estate services to the rest of the city.) Even this is probably an overoptimistic scenario. The transfer has often not been fully funded and is particularly vulnerable during periods when sales tax revenues fall short. It would be wise to ask the voters to extend the 0.33% tax, which would provide a little more leeway. In our opinion, recommending both taxes be put on the ballot would be overreaching. ) 0.33% provides a comfortable margin only as a result of over-optimistic assumptions, in our opinion.

• _Third: many opportunities may arise that are not part of the Vision Plan Budget. As all of you know, both the perfect opportunities and community priorities tend to arise unexpectedly. I’ll give three examples without prejudging whether we would want to act on them should they arise: 1) There has been much community discussion of late about purchasing a conservation easement on Long’s Gardens and the adjoining property. You are discussing it later tonight. It is premature to discuss specifics and whether it would be more appropriate for Open Space or Parks & Recreation, but if it should proceed and council directs that it be considered by OSMP, it would be a major addition to the existing CIP; 2) The revised Long-Term Acquisition Plan reduces the targets to the north, but the Federal uses of Table Mountain have declined significantly, and there are many pressures for all Federal agencies to reduce their obligations. Suppose that the Feds were willing to deed us the land at no charge. Would Boulder refuse?!!! We don’t think so. Such an addition would entail major new expenses, however, none of which are included in either the department spreadsheets, nor those provided by the Finance Department. 3) If an acquisition opportunity arose adjoining the Hogan property, with the prospect that it would otherwise become a housing and commercial development along Highway 93, would Boulder turn it down without even considering it?

• _Finally, given the community concern over oil & gas development, OSMP needs to consider mineral rights on both potential acquisitions and existing properties. Neither researching these mineral rights nor purchasing them is cheap, and none of them is included in the spreadsheets you’ve been provided.

 

In summary PLAN-Boulder County urges you to recommend to council that an extension of the 0.33% tax be put on the November 2013 ballot to allow the voters to decide. We are convinced that Boulder voters will once again support our open space program.

 

With regard to the possibility of repurposing the 0.33% tax, we feel this would be a major mistake. Boulder voters have shown themselves willing to tax themselves when presented with a statement of the purpose of the tax and the need for it. However, they are smart enough to recognize a bait-and-switch, and they won’t support it.

 

If we want the voters to approve either a transportation maintenance fee or a tax for that purpose, we should ask them for it and explain the need. A combination of a transportation maintenance tax and a general fund supplement might elicit support, depending on the details.

Pretending that we are asking for an extension of an existing tax when it is really being changed to a completely different purpose will be perceived as dishonest, and it will probably be rejected.

 

Thank you,

Raymond Bridge, co-chair,

PLAN-Boulder County


OSMP Tax Extension


On June 4th, 2013 Ray Bridge made the following statement to council.


I’m Raymond Bridge, 435 South 38th Street in Boulder, and I’m speaking on behalf of PLAN-Boulder County.

 

Last month, Ruth Blackmore spoke on behalf of PLAN-Boulder to urge you to place a measure on the 2013 November ballot giving Boulder voters the opportunity to extend the 0.33% open space sales tax, currently scheduled to expire in 2018.

 

I’ve since gotten calls from several council members asking for a justification of this position and asking how the revenue stream was justified in light of other community needs. Those are good questions, and they obviously have to be answered for Council to decide whether to put it on the ballot and for voters to evaluate such a measure.

 

I could not answer the question, because it requires analysis by staff.

 

We advocated for renewing the 0.33% tax because many properties that have long been priorities for city open space acquisition are becoming available due to economic conditions and changes in family circumstances of the owners. Open space acquisitions have always been opportunistic, and they may require a long-term revenue stream to permit bonding or other financing alternatives. While this seems a reasonable strategy to us, both we and City Council can only evaluate the wisdom of various alternatives with good information.

 

We request that Council ask the open space staff, with assistance from Finance, report on the implications for the long-term acquisition plan if nothing is done compared with the situation if the 0.33% tax is extended by the voters in November 2013.

 

This requires analysis of the revenue stream, how much of it is committed to servicing existing bonds or other committed uses, whether existing reserves could be used for acquisition or are otherwise committed, along with the likely requirements of properties that are under consideration.

 

We hope that Council with request an analysis, so that we can all know what the alternatives are.


OSMP Tax Extension


On May 7, 2013, PBC board member Ruth Blackmore made the following statement to the Boulder City Council regarding the OSMP acquisition plan and placing an extension of the OSMP tax on the ballot for the November, 2013 election:


PLAN-Boulder County urges City Council to adopt the 2013-2019 Open Space and Mountain Parks acquisition update. In order to fund the plan, we urge the council to place an extension of the 0.33 percent sales tax on the ballot for 2013.

 

Open space acquisitions are always opportunistic because they depend on negotiations with willing sellers. Therefore, a revenue stream that permits bonding is critical to actually implementing the acquisition plan. Boulder voters strongly support the open space program, and an extension of this dedicated tax to fund the acquisition plan is likely to have wide community support.

 

We urge you to adopt the plan and to put an extension of the tax on the ballot this year.




OSBT Action on Chapman Drive Trail


PLAN-Boulder board member Dave Kuntz made the following statement on March 13, 2013 to the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Board of Trustees about rules of access to Chapman Drive.

I’m speaking tonight on behalf of PLAN-Boulder County, a citizens’ organization founded in 1959 with a current membership of 200 and a substantial number of hangers’ on.

 

PBC strongly supports HCA designation of the Schnell property as part of the adjoining Western Mountain Parks HCA as recommended by staff and based on its high quality wildlife habitat values and its contribution to surrounding wildlife habitats.

 

PBC supports the staff recommendation that dogs be on-leash, on-trail for the length of Chapman Drive (dare I say trail?) from Realization Point to the trailhead in Boulder Canyon consistent with the regulations for trails in HCAs.

 

PBC supports the staff recommendation of allowing bikes traveling in both directionson Chapman with these provisions:

 

  • 1.      Supports staff recommendation of temporal separation, specifically 2 days/week of no dogs and no bikes to allow for a more contemplative trail experience for those visitors seeking such;
  • 2.      That trail use will be monitored and evaluated by staff with results and recommendations reported to the Board within one year;
  • 3.      Since we all know that the downhill speed of bike riders is a primary concern, that local bike organizations such as Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance and International Mountain Bike Association cooperate with and assist the OSMP staff by providing bike patrols on the trail as required and by education and instruction of its members and visitors on safe riding requirements for this trail.

 

Having said all of that we want to note briefly the importance of this decision and future decisions like this.  The importance of these decisions for the future must not be underestimated.  Visitor numbers on lower Chapman during the past 30 or 40 years have been low – a handful of people at the most at any particular time.  It is reasonable to expect that these numbers will escalate rapidly in the future, especially during the non-winter months.  What will be the future short-term and long-term impacts of more people and more dogs?

 

For example, as the habitat map accompanying the Board memo shows, nesting habitat quality for the reclusive and wary northern goshawk is currently extensive and high. However, we should not expect any Douglas fir forest raptors to nest anywhere near the Chapman Trail in the future given its visual and auditory impacts on them.  They won’t do it.  They’ll go somewhere else as long as there is somewhere else to go. The biological rule-of-thumb for nesting raptors is a half mile buffer of the nest from any trail or road.  You can do the math to see how that affects goshawk nesting habitat within the vicinity of Chapman. 

 

What about Abert’s squirrels or Townsend’s solitaires, the animals and birds most people never see?  They won’t tolerate a lot of human or dog activity either. 

 

These decisions always come down to weighing the gains and losses.  No question this decision is a recreation and access gain.  Sometimes these decisions are win-win.  At some point, though, we’ll end up talking about losses and whether or not anyone cares.  Who among us remembers the rufous-sided towhee, a quintessential nester of montane shrublands that once resided in the Sanitas Valley? 

 

Large predators like black bears and mountain lions are often viewed as indicators of habitat quality.  People say “we see them all the time – deer, coyotes, lions and bears – things can’t be that bad.”  There are reasons for these sightings, not all of them good.  Having a bear in your backyard or a lion under your deck are not necessarily indicators of high quality habitats -- for you or the animals.  Jared Diamond, in Collapse, his classic treatise on changing environments and the resulting declines of societies, noted that some of these conditions occur quickly and devastatingly.  The elevation gradients of the foothills are critical for plants and animals to adapt and move in the face of changing climates and environments.  When we eliminate or cut-off these adaptation and movement opportunities, it will be one of our greatest losses as a community.

 

This is a cautionary tale. 

 

It’s time we paid attention.



Trailhead Parking Fees

The following statement was delivered to the Boulder City Council by PBC board member Dick Harris on February 5, 2013:


We request that item 3G, the Pilot Parking Fee Program, be removed from the consent agenda, discussed as much as you like, and then be defeated.


Nowhere in Boulder's Open Space has its carrying capacity been exceeded more than in the general Dowdy Draw/South Mesa area.


One measure is the number of parked cars near the trailheads.  The more direct measure would be the number of people using the trails for themselves, their bikes, and their dogs.


If we are to abide by the primary goals of preservation of Open Space, we must do something about overuse.  One partial remedy is the Pilot Parking Fee Program.  And it has worked and been implemented without cost to the City.  There seems to be uncertainty about much it has discouraged the overuse, but there are obvious ways to make it work better that I won't go into tonight.


The staff memo tonight begins its fourth paragraph with the statement "A more thorough review of carrying capacity is being prepared as one of the council-identified "overarching issues."


It is baffling that discontinuing this effective program would come just before that review begins.  It takes no imagination to see that Open Space is already overused.  The Parking Fee Program works and it can be studied in more depth as part of the review.  Even the staff memo acknowledges that.


If we stop the fee program now, and then try to re-implement it later, all the complaining will start over again.  Many people so far have contributed generously, and without complaint.  There are always complaints about charges for parking.  If those who threaten never to buy anything in Boulder because of parking charges were taken seriously, we would have all the Downtown merchants here tonight asking you to remove all of Boulder's parking meters.


You will have the opportunity in a year or so, after a carefully done review, to reconsider the parking program.  My guess is that you would leave it unchanged or strengthened.  Don't make things worse by eliminating it tonight.


I add that the idea of voluntary contributions will do absolutely nothing to lessen overuse.



2012 Pro-Cycling Challenge

The following letter was sent to Council for its June 5, 2012 meeting:


June 5, 2012

 

Dear Council:

 

Boulder has an important history in U.S. bicycle road racing, dating back to The Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, launched in 1979 by Celestial Seasonings founder Mo Siegel to promote alternative transportation. Eventually the race was enlarged to become the Coors Classic, which played a critical role in developing womens road racing worldwide, inspiring the Tour de France to add a women’s race.

 

For this reason, and because bicycling is not only healthy, but an important means of alternative transportation, PLAN-Boulder County strongly supports the City of Boulder hosting the USA Pro Cycling Challenge on August 25. We are concerned, however, with the planning and permitting of the race so far. In particular, we object to the avoidance of public processes, which are mandated by the City Charter.

 

The Charter provisions on Open Space should not be taken lightly. They were written by the citizens who passed the original Open Space sales tax specifically because they felt the City was not administering Open Space as intended. The Department of Open Space and the Open Space Board of Trustees were created with clear authority over Open Space so that these bodies would always be consulted on Open Space decisions. Our Open Space program and lands are central to the Boulder ethos, and management of these resources is considered by many to be a sacred trust.

 

We offer the following observations and suggestions.

Flagstaff Plan

Considering the magnitude of this event, PLAN-Boulder County strongly supports:

  • Two-day closure of most trails in the Flagstaff area
  • Limiting access to bicycle and pedestrian traffic along the road

Council should insist that these limitations be strongly enforced. Otherwise, there will be significant and possibly permanent damage to the soils and plant communities near the summit and along access routes.

Legal Justification

The legal memo provided to council attempts to assert that the race does not constitute an exclusive use for the race organizers. Yet the two restrictions discussed above – which have apparently been embraced by the city manager – make clear that the organizers will essentially own the mountain for the duration of the race. Other ongoing events do not require such strong restrictions. Further, a special observation stand will be set up on Open Space from which anyone who has not paid $500 will be excluded. How else might “exclusive” be defined?

Process Deficiencies

The most egregious error in the planning process was not recognizing that the Summit Road is Open Space. Approval of a finish at the Sunrise Amphitheater should have required:

  • A public hearing
  • An exclusive permit, approved by the Open Space trustees and City Council
  • Formal approval of several additional code exceptions

Making the Race Work

We urge Council to use the following guidelines going forward:

  • Follow the proper process now. This will be challenging, and will require expediting every phase of the process, but it will shield the city from legal action and the race from possible delay.

  • Make all exceptions one-time only, applicable exclusively to the 2012 race.

  • Ensure that the full public process is followed for future events on Open Space.

Following these guidelines will do much to reestablish good faith with the citizens of Boulder, most of whom are keenly aware not only of the intrinsic value of bike racing, but of the equal or greater value of our irreplaceable Open Space.

Respectfully, for the Board of Directors

Ruth Blackmore,

Raymond Bridge

PLAN-Boulder County co-Chairs


2012 Pro-Cycling Challenge


On May 15, 2012 PLAN-Boulder County Chair Ruth Blackmore read the following statement to City Council regarding USA Pro Cycling Challenge:

 

We are enthusiastic about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge sixth stage in Boulder to be held on August 25, however, we are concerned that the normal public processes have been ignored as the race course was set, resulting in a lack of transparency and in apparent violation of the charter and provisions of the city code. Failure to remedy these defects could seriously interfere with the race by inviting legal challenges, as well as establishing problematic precedents.

 

PLAN-Boulder County urges the City Council to take charge of this process , which is ultimately the responsibility of Council, while there is still time, by directing staff to:

  1. Hold public hearings and consult with the Open Space Board of Trustees on the use of open space, as required by the charter. There is still time to do this without interfering with the race, but only if Council acts immediately.
  2. Present a plan to council of ordinances and regulations that need to be passed to avoid conflicts with existing regulations and code. This must be done in a transparent manner, unlike the actions taken to date. In addition, Council should officially adopt the plans recommended earlier by the Open Space Board of Trustees to protect the open space properties on Flagstaff from damage. Specifically,
    • Spectators should be confined to the roads, and spectator access should be by foot or bicycle only. Motor vehicles should be excluded, beginning in the afternoon of 8/24, except for local residents, vehicles associated with the race, and emergency vehicles.
    • Trails in the Flagstaff area should be closed beginning on the day before the race, with the exceptions of View Point Trail for access, and portions of the Flagstaff Trail (for descent after the race only).

We hope that Council will also make it clear that it is not acceptable for city officials to assert the authority to make administrative exceptions to the city charter or code to avoid following clearly established law and procedures. These are not acceptable practices in Boulder which prides itself on good government and the rule of law.

 

PLAN-Boulder County believes that Boulder can host a successful race if City Council steps in now and deals with the problems that have arisen.

 

Ruth Blackmore

Chair, PLAN-Boulder County

May 15, 2012




Anemone Hill

The following letter was read to Council at its October 25, 2011 meeting by PBC board member Gwen Dooley:

October 22, 2011

Dear Councilmember,


PLAN-Boulder County has repeatedly supported safe and convenient routes to allow mountain bikers to ride from the City of Boulder to connect with the 488 miles of mountain bike trails in Boulder County, as well as nearby trail systems in Jefferson County and Golden Gate State Park.


In particular, in March of this year in a letter to Council, we supported eight routes and access improvements to enhance mountain biking opportunities on Boulder Open Space and to connect with other trail systems. Several of these are on their way to implementation.


We supported then, and we still support, extension of the Boulder Creek path up Boulder Canyon to provide access to the new OSMP route up Chapman Drive and to the Betasso Preserve trail system via the Canyon Loop Trail.


We also supported the Anemone Hill trail alignment and management plan adopted by Council on March 30. We still consider this a good plan. However, the staff analysis of environmental impacts on pp. 19-21 of the council packet makes a reasonable case that the "Ridge Loop" trail also has some advantages in habitat preservation, as long as it is coupled with the recommended two-year on-trail requirement for all users. PLAN-Boulder County therefore supports the staff-recommended Ridge Loop option, along with a two-year on-trail requirement for all users to ensure successful reclamation of the many social trails in the area.


We request that the staff follow the resolution adopted unanimously by Council on March 30 to pursue the extension of the Boulder Creek bike path at least as far as the Canyon Loop Trail from Betasso Preserve.


We emphatically do not support either the OSBT recommendation or the Fourmile Connector trail. Both of these alternatives would have far too great a deleterious impact on wildlife habitat, as documented in the staff analysis. They would have major impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods; parking is already unavailable at either Settlers’ Park or the Centennial parking lots. The connector trail is unnecessary; there are better ways to provide a bicycle route from the city to Betasso Preserve, and the extension of the Boulder Creek Path is the obvious first choice.


Thank you for your consideration,

 

PLAN-Boulder County Board of Directors




West Trail Study Area


The following letter was sent to Council on March 10, 2011

 

Boulder City Council

 

Dear Councilmember:

 

PLAN-Boulder County urges you to adopt the West Trail Study Area plan as proposed by staff, incorporating the recommendations of the CCG, and recommended by the Open Space Board of Trustees.

 

As you know, PLAN-Boulder County has been involved as a supporter of the Boulder Open Space program since its inception, and we have also taken a keen interest in good stewardship of both Open Space and the Boulder Mountain Parks, both before and after their merger. We are committed to proper funding and wise management for all the Charter purposes, and, most importantly, to the preservation of the resources intact in perpetuity.

 

Since Mavis McKelvey, one of the visionary founders of the open space program, died a few months ago, it’s appropriate to remember her succinct statement of our responsibility:

Greenbelts are for children,

And their children,

And their children...

 

The primary goal of the open space program since its inception has been preservation, and we need to keep that goal (and trust) in mind as we consider competing user interests in enjoying open space. Preservation of the unique places that we hold in trust should always be our first priority, and fairness, access, and similar arguments should be secondary.

 

The West TSA plan resulting from the extensive two-year public process meets this goal. It balances various recreational interests from the community, while still improving our chances of preserving healthy ecosystems in perpetuity.


Dogs

The compromise dog management package that came out of the CCG and was approved by OSBT and staff is particularly important. It preserves Boulder’s traditional access to hikers who want to visit open space with their dogs, while meeting the VMP goals and modestly increasing the trails available to hikers who prefer trails without dogs. In meeting the latter goal, the dog-free trails in the package improve habitat for native species significantly, an important criterion, since the literature shows overwhelmingly that dog companions significantly increase visitor impact on wildlife, from birds to large predators. The dog-free trails in the plan make up 13% of the trail mileage in the West TSA, which is hardly excessive for the majority of users who hike without dogs. Under the plan, 85% of trails in the West TSA would remain open to dogs, and 61% would allow dogs under voice-and-sight control.


Bikes 

PLAN-Boulder County has also long supported bicycling, both for transportation and for recreation, as we support the sustainable use of open space for the recreation of Boulder’s citizens and our visitors. Open Space provides all of Boulder’s citizens an opportunity to renew themselves and to reconnect with a natural setting that is unique and world-renowned for its beauty, the wildlife and ecosystems it preserves, and the unparalleled opportunities for recreation that it affords. But we also strongly believe this use must be calibrated to prevent degrading the irreplaceable wildlife, plant communities, and ecosystems.

 

PLAN-Boulder County continues to support development and improvement of bicycling infrastructure and opportunities in our area by city, county, and state entities, singly and in cooperation. Some current priorities we support in Boulder County are:

  • Continued efforts to build a pedestrian-bicycle underpass under SH 93 at Community Ditch
  • Improvement and maintenance of the bike shoulder on Eldorado Springs Drive (SH170) to provide safer access by cyclists to the three OSMP trailheads and to the state park
  • Connection of the trails open to mountain bikes in the Marshall Mesa area to the new county ‘Dirty Bismark’ system
  • Reenergizing efforts to build the Feeder Canal Trail, with better advance preparation in outreach to Northern Colorado Water and to the adjoining homeowners
  • Extension of the Boulder Creek Trail up at least to the Betasso Link Trailundefinednote that this extension would be completely within the CDOT right-of-way
  • With regard specifically to OSMP responsibilities and to West TSA management, PLAN-Boulder County supports the department proposals in May to explore mountain bike access to Walker Ranch through Eldorado Canyon and to make efforts to gain access on Chapman Drive for uphill travel from Boulder Canyon to Flagstaff Road.

 

However, PLAN-Boulder County opposes designating trails for mountain bike use in the main part of the West TSA from Baseline to Eldorado Springs Drive. All of the proposals for such use in this area would entail unacceptable additional stress on natural systems that are already under pressure from very high and growing recreational use. It would also generate user conflicts that would create ripple effects on those stressed ecosystems.

 

Specifically, a north-south mountain bike trail from Chautauqua to Eldorado Springs Drive inevitably (because of terrain constraints in a narrow north-south corridor between the city and the Flatirons) would generate habitat fragmentation and deleterious effects on riparian systems where it crosses drainages like Bear and Skunk Creeks.

 

We are particularly concerned about proposals for mountain bike trails in the tallgrass prairie areas south of Shanahan Ridge. This area not only supports important relict grasslands, recognized by the Colorado State Natural Area designation and by designation by several national conservation organizations; it also is the site of a valuable undisturbed ecotonal transition between native mixed grasslands and ponderosa forest.

 

It is important that the unique resources of the West TSA continue to be managed with careful balance between providing rich recreational opportunities to all users, while remaining good stewards of the unique heritage that has been placed in our care. The best recreational use of the core of the West TSA is its continuation as an opportunity for the traditional low-impact uses that it now serves. We urge you not to designate mountain bike trails in the West TSA between Baseline and Eldorado Springs Drive and that you avoid designating Anemone Hill for bike access without a thorough analysis and public process.

 

Thank you for considering this important request.


Sincerely,


Ruth Blackmore, Co-chair

Pat Shanks, Co-Chair



West Trail Study Area

The following letter was delivered to the Boulder City Council in February 2011.

 

Dear Councilmember,

 

We are writing as representatives of organizations focused upon the protection of natural areas in the city and county of Boulder.  We are deeply concerned about their conservation in perpetuity.

 

As the West Trail Study Area planning process moves toward a close we applaud the efforts of the Community Collaborative Group and express our appreciation for their long labors.  A tremendous number of issues were resolved and submitted with consensus to the Open Space Board of Trustees.  One outstanding major issue remains: the matter of mountain bikes in the West TSA, including the Mountain Parks and the southern grasslands west of Hwy. 93 (Tallgrass West). 

 

Over the past year and a half numerous proposals have been brought forth by the biking community, and most have been considered by the CCG and the OSMP Department.  Our view is that none of these plans satisfactorily avoid unacceptable visitor conflict and/or ecological compromise.  Cutting new trails impacts habitat; staying on established trails exacerbates conflict.  In addition, introducing bikes into the most heavily used part of the OSMP system would result in significant economic costs due to the need for more enforcement and education, increased maintenance, and greater demands upon trailheads.

 

Simply walking in the presence of nature is the most fundamental activity associated with open space, mountain parks, and natural areas.  Many people who enjoy a quiet experience in the Mountain Parks and Southern Grasslands would be genuinely distressed if bikes were permitted.  We do not believe that every parcel of public land needs to be available to every recreational use.  We strongly urge Council to support the recommendations of OSMP staff for management of the West TSA.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Boulder County Audubon Society                                                           Boulder Bird Club

 

Boulder County Nature Association                                                        Friends of Boulder Open Space

 

PLAN-Boulder County                                                                          Sierra Club, Indian Peaks Group

 

The WILD Foundation                                                                          





West Trail Study Area

The following letter was delivered to the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks Director on January 11, 2011.

Mike Patton, Director

Department of Open Space & Mountain Parks

PO Box 791

Boulder, Colorado 80306

 

Dear Mike:

 

As you know, PLAN-Boulder County has been involved as a supporter of the Boulder Open Space program since its inception, and we have also taken a keen interest in good stewardship of both Open Space and the Boulder Mountain Parks, both before and after their merger. We are committed to proper funding and wise management for all the Charter purposes, and, most importantly, to the preservation of the resources intact in perpetuity.

 

Since Mavis McKelvey, one of the visionary founders of the open space program, died last month, it’s appropriate to remember her succinct statement of our responsibility:

Greenbelts are for children,

And their children,

And their children undefinedundefined

 

PLAN-Boulder County has also long supported bicycling, both for transportation and for recreation, as we support the use of open space for the recreation of Boulder’s citizens and our visitors. Open Space provides all of Boulder’s citizens an opportunity to renew themselves and to reconnect with a natural setting that is unique and world renowned for its beauty, the wildlife and ecosystems it preserves, and the unparalleled opportunities for recreation that it affords. But we also strongly believe this must be calibrated to prevent degrading the irreplaceable wildlife, plant communities, and ecosystems.

 

PLAN-Boulder County continues to support development and improvement of bicycling infrastructure and opportunities in our area by city, county, and state entities, singly and in cooperation. Some current priorities we support in Boulder County are:

  • Continued efforts to build a pedestrian-bicycle underpass under SH 93 at Community Ditch
  • Improvement and maintenance of the bike shoulder on Eldorado Springs Drive (SH170) to provide safer access by cyclists to the three OSMP trailheads and to the state park
  • Connection of the trails open to mountain bikes in the Marshal Mesa area to the new county ‘Dirty Bismark’ system
  • Reenergizing efforts to build the Feeder Canal Trail, with better advance preparation in outreach to Northern Colorado Water and to the adjoining homeowners
  • Extension of the Boulder Creek Trail up at least to the Betasso Link Trailundefinednote that this extension would be completely within the CDOT right of way
  • With regard specifically to OSMP responsibilities and to West TSA management, PLAN-Boulder County supports the department proposals in May to explore mountain bike access to Walker Ranch through Eldorado Canyon and to make efforts to gain access on Chapman Drive for uphill travel from Boulder Canyon to Flagstaff Road.

 

However, PLAN-Boulder County opposes designating trails for mountain bike use in the main part of the West TSA from Baseline to Eldorado Springs Drive. All of the proposals for such use in this area would entail unacceptable additional stress on natural systems that are already under pressure from very high and growing recreational use. It would also generate user conflicts that would create ripple effects on those stressed ecosystems.

 

Specifically, a north-south mountain bike trail from Chautauqua to Eldorado Springs Drive inevitably (because of terrain constraints in a narrow north-south corridor between the city and the Flatirons) would generate habitat fragmentation and deleterious effects on riparian systems where it crosses drainages like Bear and Skunk Creeks.

 

We are particularly concerned about proposals for mountain bike trails in the tallgrass prairie areas south of Shanahan Mesa. This area not only supports important relict grasslands, recognized by the Colorado State Natural Area designation; it also is the site of a valuable undisturbed ecotonal transition between native mixed grasslands and ponderosa forest.

 

It is important that the unique resources of the West TSA continue to be managed with careful balance between providing rich recreational opportunities to all users, while remaining good stewards of the unique heritage that has been placed in our care. The best recreational use of the core of the West TSA is its continuation as an opportunity for the traditional low-impact uses that it now serves. We urge you not to designate mountain bike trails in the West TSA between Baseline and Eldorado Springs Drive.

 

Thank you for considering this important request.


Sincerely,


Ruth Blackmore, Co-chair

Pat Shanks, Co-Chair




West Trail Study Area


Ruth Blackmore delivered the following statement on behalf of PLAN-Boulder at the City of Boulder Open Space Board of Trustees meeting on December 9, 2010:

PLAN-Boulder County has been inextricably involved with the City of Boulder’s Open Space program since 1959, including the drafting of the 1967 ballot language passed by Boulder citizens to acquire land and “to protect such property against loss or damage or destruction. ….”


PLAN-Boulder County has taken a consistent position on all three trail study areas undertaken so far by OSMP, urging that:

  • The fundamental responsibility of the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department is primarily to preserve Boulder’s open space in perpetuity, so future residents of the city, their children, and their children, can experience these unique lands and ecosystems as we have found them.
  • For the first two trail study areas, PLAN-Boulder County strongly urged that a thorough resource inventory be done before planning trails and management strategies. Unfortunately, this was not done at Marshall Mesa or Eldorado Mountain-Doudy Draw.
  • We commend the Board and the Department for doing excellent inventories of natural, recreational, cultural, and paleontological resources in the West Trail Study area before instituting the CCG. These inventories should form the basis for the management plan you are beginning to consider and for subsequent adaptive management.
  • The West TSA -- from Eldorado Springs to Linden Avenue -- is the crown jewel of the open space system and is a unique place, with awe inspiring vistas, ecosystems found nowhere else in the state and irreplaceable wildlife and plant communities.
  • The West TSA is also a fragile place, under pressure from ever increasing visitation, from the growing population of metropolitan Denver, and from the effects of climate change, along with habitat fragmentation due to both the urban boundary and ever increasing demands for new uses.
  • It is our responsibility to manage this treasure wisely and to pass it on in at least as good a condition as it was bequeathed to us.

 The recommendations achieved so far by the CCG represent difficult compromises from all the representatives. PLAN-Boulder County does not agree with them all, but we are encouraged that they:

  1. Continue to provide outstanding opportunities for all forms of passive recreation allowed in the Charter, while attempting to improve habitat.
  1. Provide some dog free hiking opportunities, as called for in the Visitor Master Plan.
  1. Preserve the Habitat Conservation Area intact.
  1. Reroute some trails to improve the visitor experience, improve trail sustainability, and reduce environmental degradation.

 Thank you.


Comments on OSMP proposed route alternatives for Trail 13 and Trail 14 in Spring Brook/Doudy Draw Natural Area

July 29, 2007

PLAN-Boulder County commends the OSMP staff for careful preparation of alternatives for routing these proposed trails in the short time frame available.

However, proper management of Open Space and Mountain Parks resources requires taking adequate time to ensure:

  • sound trail construction at reasonable costs;
  • trail sustainability;
  • preservation of critical wildlife habitat and sensitive plant communities;
  • compliance with Council's instructions that the area should be managed so that it could still be designated as an HCA, should that become desirable;
  • adherence to the Visitor Master Plan (VMP) provisions for the goals of managing Natural Areas (p. 48) and for implementation monitoring (pp. 62-63)-specifically
  • "Accommodate low-impact visitor activities where adequate trails exist or can be built, and resource impacts can be minimized."
  • "Protect the quality of naturalÉresources (especially where high-value resources exist)."
  • Implementation monitoring requirements are specified to measure change as a result of the actions taken. These can only be met if baseline data are collected. Otherwise most of the criteria in the implementation monitoring cannot be satisfied.
It is clear from the public field trip on July 17 that the information available to date falls far short of meeting these VMP criteria. To cite one example, thousands of yards of the routes proposed are planned to cut laterally into relatively steep slopes (20-30¡) of Pierre Shale. Numerous geotechnical studies [e.g. Squire 2001] have shown this shale unit to be susceptible to rapid erosion and repeated slumping at such angles. Indeed, one geologist on the tour observed many slumps already present along the flagged routes. The reason that the slopes are steep is because the shale erodes rapidly when the edge of the gravel protecting cap is removed.

These elementary soil characteristics have not been taken into account in the initial routing proposal, apparently because of the rush to meet deadlines. This does not reflect badly on the staff who have worked on the detailed preliminary routes, but it does demonstrate that the planning process has been unwisely rushed, and that we need to take the time to do the job right. Rushing to try to begin construction this season will result in badly built, unsustainable, and very expensive trails; serious damage to the resource; an inability to properly monitor the trails' effects; and a much more costly future set of consequences to deal with. There is no major cost associated with taking the time to do the job right. The only problems associated with some delays are that current social trails will continue to be used for a time. The degradation caused by this process, and the difficulty of mitigation, will be trivial compared with that caused by trails built in the wrong places. Once new trails are built, there is likely to be greatly increased visitation in this area, which will enormously compound the problem if this is not done correctly.

Now that a preliminary agreement with the Denver Water Board regarding the canal crossing finally has been reached, it is time to rethink the trail alignments that were largely done without knowing where the crossing would be. Attempts to decide routing in advance of this milestone disrupted monitoring plans for both the Goshawk Ridge Trail and Trails 13 & 14. It is hard to route a trail or to plan monitoring when you don't know where it is going! We congratulate the OSMP staff who have brought these difficult negotiations to a preliminary conclusion. However, it is time for another careful look at the alternatives.

We believe that, in light of the recently negotiated mid-canal crossing location, trail alternatives need to be seriously reconsidered. For example, two possible alternative routes for the Trail 13-Stem Trail have not been considered. These are:

  • Following the old railroad grade, which already has a bed installed, so that little additional disturbance would be caused by trail construction, unstable Pierre Shale routes would be largely avoided, and there would be far less potential for providing an invasion pathway for noxious weeds; one bridge would need to be built;
  • Up the west side of the stony ridge to the east of the drainage. This route would avoid much of the sensitive habitat disturbance that will result from the currently proposed stem trail, and it has enough gravel cover that it may well provide a route that has better soil characteristics, and that gains most of the required elevation at a moderate angle and follows a direct path that would discourage shortcutting. By keeping to the west side of the ridge, views down to Lindsey Pond can probably be avoided.
These alternative routes have obvious potential advantages, as staff admitted on the public field trip. These routes warrant serious consideration at the very least.

A third significant problem relates to invasive weeds in the area. Jointed goat grass (Aegilops cylindrica Host) is a major problem on a large number of trails in the OSMP system. This invasive species is difficult to control, and it is easily spread by hikers, animals, and probably mountain bikes. The seeds fit the grooves in Vibram soles, and they will probably fit many bicycle tire treads. A. cylindirca is spread as a seed contaminant in agricultural areas, and thence by grazing livestock like horses, because the seeds survive passing through the guts of ruminants.

Jointed goat grass has become a serious problem and has seriously infested the bottom of the Doudy Draw Trail. The proposed rerouting of the Doudy Draw Trail before this invasive is controlled will only ensure that the infestation moves up the slope and becomes much larger and more difficult to control. Yet the Suitability Analyses do not even mention this invasive except to say that there is a possible problem during construction of Trail 13 Stem if construction is done from the direction of Doudy Draw. There is no mention of it being spread by users, not only to this trail, but to all the others being proposed.

This issue must be seriously considered and preventative measures must be taken before trail construction. Otherwise, it is highly likely to damage the resource and to result in major expenses for weed control.

Recommendations

Our principal recommendations and observations are as follows:

  1. delay construction until next year;
  2. do not build a trail in Spring Brook Meadow; there are a number of alternative routes for the currently mapped Trail 13 alternatives. This meadow provides: exceptional habitat for deer and elk; possible presence of Preble's Jumping mouse; confirmed lion hunting grounds; vulnerability to weed invasion, as demonstrated by presence of high-priority weeds (such as Dalmatian toadflax and Sulfur cinquefoil) along the existing social trail;
  3. funneling visitors into Spring Brook meadow will inevitably promote off-trail travel throughout the area, including the length of the meadow along the desire-line and the current social trail northward;
  4. implement the control of jointed goatgrass in Doudy Draw this fall and winter, and verify that control has been successful before attempting to schedule the construction of the rerouted Doudy Draw Trail or Trails 13 and 14;
  5. as the next step in the public input process, provide maps at a scale useful for trail planning that include critical wildlife habitat areas, critical plant communities; and soils/geology. These are fundamental tools for planning ecologically sustainable trails;
  6. complete a monitoring plan for the natural resources, including evaluation of resource impacts; compliance monitoring; visitor conflict issues; and plans for management actions when expected criteria are not achieved;
  7. as a first step, build a modified route from the Doudy Draw stem trail-possibly up the west side of the stony ridge, staying far enough west to avoid tempting views into the Lindsey Pond area;
  8. this approach should connect with upper Trail 14, which should be followed around its current route, except that it should be re-routed onto the terrace, far enough back to avoid the ecotone, but always less than 100 meters from the edge, avoiding relict grasslands, and fragmenting the forest habitat as little as possible;
  9. monitor the impact of this trail in order to provide adequate impact data for consideration of Trail 13 alternatives;
  10. while the usage of Trail 14 is being monitored, consider the possible routes for 13, including the possibility of routing the upper alternative farther south;
  11. among the criteria for Trail 13 that need to be achieved is the routing of Trail 13-Stem along a less damaging route, which does not repeatedly cross the riparian shrubland, does not remain in the terrace/slope ecotone for long stretches, and does not follow long traverses of unstable, slumping Pierre Shale; there appear to be several possibilities for achieving these goals.
  12. for upper Trail 13, which seems more likely to present a possible route that minimizes resource impacts than lower 13, utilize the time while 14 is being monitored to achieve a well-planned route;
  13. one possibility for routing 13 is to follow the currently proposed alignment for upper 13 approximately 200 yards above the intersection with the currently proposed Trail 13-Stem, and then proceed west and then slightly north to join the current alignment of Trail 13-Springbrook.
We are supportive of OSMP's serious attempts to build environmentally, ecologically, and geotechnically sustainable trails in this incredibly beautiful and sensitive area, and we urge you to agree that some pragmatic rethinking and tuning of this plan will result in a much better outcome for the public.

Reference:

Squire, M., 2001, Stability of Cretaceous Pierre Shale slopes, in Kuehne, M., Einstein, H.H., Krauter, E., Klapperich, H., and Poettler, R., eds. Essen, Verl. Glueckauf.

Thank you for considering this important request.

Sincerely,
Pat Shanks, Chair
PLAN-Boulder County
The People's League for Action Now



Sombrero Marsh (1999)

At the Boulder City Council meeting October 19, PLAN-Boulder County's position regarding Sombrero Marsh, a portion of which the Council was considering purchasing, was presented as follows:

"Sombrero Marsh is a unique and significant wetland system which supports both wildlife and plant communities that are uncommon or rare. It is presently endangered by the long-term use of its easterly segment as a Boulder Valley School District dumping ground.

"The city's Open Space program has already preserved a substantial portion of the marsh and now proposes to acquire the 42 acres owned by the BVSD, clean up the dump and restore the marsh's eastern shoreline.

"A requirement of the BVSD is that an educational element be part of the 42 acres, which would benefit the community as a whole.  The Open Space Department will comply with this concept, the details of which are still under study.

"PBC strongly supports this effort on the part of Open Space to preserve and protect a valuable and unique habitat and the rare wildlife species and wetland vegetation which depend on its existence. It should be noted that the first priority in acquiring Sombrero Marsh property is protection of the resource; education should support this primary focus."
Council voted in favor of the purchase.



Prairie Dog Policy (2000)

PLAN-Boulder County supports adoption of the Prairie Dog Protection Strategy, with a request for further dialogue around some aspects of implementation. Specifically:
  • We strongly support the addition of policies to the BVCP aimed at protecting "species of concern" and their habitat. Identifying these species on an adopted list will add certainty to the process for landowners.
  • To further reduce uncertainty and surprise in the regulator process, we suggest that City staff also create maps showing known habitat areas for identified species.
  • We also strongly support any steps the City can legally take to prevent poisoning of species of concern, including prairie dogs, within the Boulder Valley. Prairie dog colonies have been poisoned at an accelerated pace since the possibility of their "listing" as a threatened species was raised in public dialogue. Prairie dogs are a keystone species; if left unchecked, wholesale poisoning will dramatically change prairie ecosystems. Poisons used on prairie dog colonies are also extremely inhumane, resulting in needless long term suffering for individual animals.
  • We believe that negotiating case-specific preservation plans with individual landowners is a worthwhile strategy to pursue. However, many people do not yet understand the role that species of concern play within their ecosystems, and landowners may still hold views that these species have no value. Thus, to be effective, negotiations around case-specific preservation must be backed up by a strong commitment to protect species, backed - if necessary - by appropriate regulation. The proposed changes to the site review process appear to be an appropriate way to provide this "back-up" regulation. We recommend a trial period of one-two years to determine whether the voluntary agreements/site review strategy is leading to attainment of our species preservation goals.
  • Finally, there is considerable controversy among knowledgeable parties about the City's proposed protocol for prairie dog relocation. We suggest that further conversation is necessary around the following areas before the protocol is adopted:
    • How to best open up Habitat Conservation Areas - which have already been screened for suitability - for relocation of specific colonies
    • Whether a minimum number of dogs must be available for relocation to occur, and - if so - what that minimum should be
    • Use of augured holes to create new sites for prairie dog towns (instead of relying solely on areas with existing burrows)
    • Improved vegetation/revegetation management techniques (including weed control and species interseeding) on existing, proposed and relocated colony sites.
    • The possibility of introducing selected predator species (such as black-footed ferrets) into some prairie dog towns.


Proposed Open Space/Mountain Parks Consolidation (2000)

PLAN-Boulder County supports the main elements contained in the City Manager's analysis of the proposal for restructuring the Division of Mountain Parks and the Department of Open Space/Real Estate, as outlined in his memo presented to the City Council at the meeting of March 21, 2000.

We applaud the Manager and the Council for taking this decisive step in moving forward to resolve this long-standing and divisive issue. We are especially pleased that the new proposal firmly places the Open Space acquisitions function within the newly defined Department.

We also strongly support the recommendation that the historical appropriation for Mountain Parks from the General Fund be transferred along with the properties to be managed. We urge the adoption of a measure, by a vote of the people if necessary, ensuring this annual appropriation for as long a period of time as would be required to guarantee that the present bonding capacity for the Open Space accelerated acquisition program is not placed in jeopardy.

Many other issues remain to be explored by the proposed Transition Team. We wish to flag for their consideration a few of the issues raised in the City Manager's memo.

  • We support naming the restructured department the Department of Open Space and Mountain Parks, provided this does not require a charter amendment. We also support expanding the Open Space Board of Trustees, for the transitional period only, by the addition of two ex-officio, non-voting members. Neither of these, however, should be a current member of the City Council.
  • The Transition Team should include some representation from the public. This could be accomplished by the appointment of one member from the Open Space Board of Trustees and one from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. We believe the Team should be entrusted with the decision, after seeking broad public input, on which of the Mountain Parks lands should be included in the transfer.
  • We do not believe that the reductions in staff recommended in the recent management audit report can be accomplished without deleteriously affecting the excellent work that both staffs have been performing in managing these lands. The starting point should be the current staff plus the currently vacant positions minus obviously overlapping administrative positions. In the absence of a true workload analysis, we recommend no reductions in current staffing levels unless it can be demonstrated that such cuts will not harm the program. During the transition period, thought needs to be given to projecting future staff needs as well (based on increased acreage, increasing visitor usage and changing demographics).
  • We find the proposal for two Co-Directors, one overseeing Visitor and Maintenance Services and the other, Acquisition and Resource Planning, to be intriguing and worth exploring. Such a Co-Directorship should not be permanent, however, but exist only during the transition period.

We have many specific criticisms of the audit report prepared for the city by Conservation Impact. It presented a recommendation for restructuring without examining the alternatives in any detail and without offering clear and convincing arguments to support the recommendation. It proposed an unrealistic time frame for the proposed changes. Most important, it provided no adequate examination of the present or future workload, and the analysis of cost savings resulting from staff reductions was shallow and not persuasive.

However, we recognize that this first effort at a management audit was unique in many respects, and need not serve as a model for the audits envisioned by the city for other departments. Future audits should more carefully examine staffing needs.

What are the current tasks and how many people are needed to accomplish them? What are projected future needs? What are anticipated revenues? This is crucial, since the city may face revenue reductions and probable service cuts in the future.

 
 
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PLAN-Boulder County
P.O. Box 4682
Boulder, CO 80306

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