Backcounty Wilderness Area of Highlands Ranch

The Douglas County Commissioners approved the Open Space Conservation Area (OSCA) Plan on June 1, 2000.  The plan establishes zoning on this 8,200-acre (nearly 13 square miles) parcel that is in the southern reaches of Highlands Ranch.  OSCA represents 37 percent of the 22,000 acres in Highlands Ranch. The Highlands Ranch Community Association (HRCA) and Shea Homes were joint applicants for the plan.

Now referred to as the Backcountry Wilderness Area of Highlands Ranch, it is a significant piece of property that has been conveyed to the HRCA by Shea Homes, as the community has been built.  The first piece of land, on the east side of Monarch Boulevard, has already been conveyed. Five miles of soft surface trails were built in late spring of 2006. The HRCA is responsible for managing and operating the property. Fifteen percent of the 8,200 acres (1,200 acres) can be developed for recreation or public uses that are established in the plan.  A Douglas County regional park and Douglas County regional trail are allowed, but housing is not allowed.

Significant natural resources are present on this property including native grasses, ponderosa pines, and Gambel oak.  Elk, deer, pronghorn, wild turkeys, prairie dogs and other wildlife live on the property.  Seven thousand acres are preserved for wildlife habitat and conservation values with very limited access on developed trails.  Seasonal closures and dog restrictions may be enforced on certain trails in wildlife areas.

A cultural and historic preservation area has been created on the property adjacent to the Tall Bull Memorial Grounds in Daniels Park.  This area is the only one of its kind in the country and will protect the Tall Bull Memorial Grounds visually for the Native American tribes that use the site.

One of the planning areas allows for cultural and interpretive centers that may provide views of a portion of the 7,000 acres that are preserved for wildlife.  A management plan for the Backcountry Wilderness area of Highlands Ranch provides for the property to be continued to be used for ranching. The majority of the property is privately owned and open to Highlands Ranch residents only, except for the East-West Trail which the public can accessed from Grigs Road.  The remainder of the property’s trails are reserved for use by residents of Highlands Ranch.

For more information contact the HRCA at 303.791.8958.