Douglas County Division of Open Space and Natural Resources seeks to enhance the quality of life for residents by protecting wildlife habitat, natural resources, historic sites, scenic views and Douglas County’s rural heritage while providing a wide range of compatible outdoor recreation and educational opportunities.
The Douglas County Open Space Program was created in 1994 with the passage of a sixth-of-a-cent sales and use tax. Douglas County has purchased land at today’s prices, however much of the program’s revenue stream is committed to bond payments. Future land acquisition will require additional funding sources.
Douglas County seeks to protect open space by accomplishing a variety of conservation objectives including:
- Preservation of important wildlife habitat and movement corridors.
- Perpetuation of the County’s rural landscape and agricultural heritage.
- Creation of community buffers.
- Protection of scenic views, historic properties and archaeological resources.
- Enhancement of passive recreational opportunities.
- To maximize the impact of limited funding and to enhance the effectiveness of the program, the Douglas County Open Space program focuses on acquisition efforts in four priority areas throughout the County including: the Chatfield Basin, High Plateau, Cherry Creek Corridor and south I-25 Conservation Corridor.
The Vision for Open Space for Douglas County, Colorado, a plan completed in 2012, identifies lands with high conservation values from the above list, as well as water resources, iconic landscape features, high quality vegetation, and creating a network of preserved open space. The visionary plan will serve only as a guide for Douglas County to work with willing landowners.
Since the creation of the Open Space Sales and Use Tax in 1994, Douglas County has focused considerable effort on land acquisition – protecting 48,741 acres of open space land in the County. Staff focus is on developing and implementing management plans for these properties, including Columbine, Glendale, Greenland, Sharptail Ridge, Spruce Mountain, Dawson Butte, Spruce Meadows, and Hidden Mesa. The Division will continue to expand public access and passive recreational trails on open space land where it is appropriate.
In addition, Douglas County Open Space and Natural Resources will continue to manage natural resources through active restoration of natural habitats, noxious weed control and revegetation efforts, establishing trails that minimize impacts to native plant and wildlife communities, conducting historical renovations where possible, and providing conservation education and recreational benefits to residents.
Education, Outreach and Special Events
Educational programs are important tools for land management and public awareness of Douglas County’s protected properties. Education through interpretive programs and guided hikes teach respect for natural resources and land stewardship, while allowing people to develop a sense of ownership and community service.
- Educational programs – Several properties serve as ‘classrooms’ for environmental education and historical interpretation. For example, Prairie Canyon Ranch is managed as a working cattle ranch to preserve historic values and protect wildlife habitat, while it also provides unique educational opportunities for students of any age. Topics of study could include plant and animal ecology, Colorado history, agriculture, aquatic studies, geology and geography.
- Outreach – Staff and volunteers may be available to present special programs or displays for events, or provide an overview and history of the Division to various organizations.
- Special Events – Events such as horse rides, guided hikes, celebrations, or educational demonstrations can be hosted at one of the open space properties.