I am asked why Douglas County has so many excellent open spaces.
Douglas County has 14 open spaces. Their program was started in 1994 and protects 63,000 acres. If you can find time to drive south and check some of them out, you will be impressed.
There are several answers to that question. The county just voted to extend their open space tax for 15 years. At .17% it’s almost double our city TOPS tax, so they have more revenue for protecting more acres, excellent signage, adequate bathrooms and staff with enforcement powers. Such funding makes good public spaces great. Much like our county, Douglas County has volunteers who help out as trail ambassadors and for work projects.
A group of extremely passionate residents worked tirelessly to get their open space tax extended. I recently had a chance to chat with a couple of them. They were still astounded by their success. They’d hoped the extension would pass by 67%. It passed by 88%!
Remember, this is Douglas County with conservative tendencies that mirror El Paso County. We are reminded that valuing parks, trails and open spaces is shared by liberals and conservatives, especially in Colorado. Before the election, Douglas County surveyed its residents and found out just how profoundly they valued their public spaces. The election outcome was not a big surprise.
There were a few moments when proponents held their collective breaths. Douglas County commissioners had to be convinced to place the extension on the ballot despite the positive survey. Advocates made sure scores of supporters attended the meeting ready to speak when the decision was made — an example of grassroots advocacy at its best. These individuals invested hundreds of hours in meetings, on street corners, at festivals, sporting events, delivering yard signs and a myriad of other tasks assuring their success. They didn’t do it for any other reason but that they love their trails and open spaces and want them to continue to be outstanding for generations to come.
Susan Davies is executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. Send questions and comments to [email protected].