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Jeffco Open Space master plan draft sets goals for preservation, stewardship

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By Sandy Barnes

After months of review and revisions, the draft of the updated master plan for Jefferson County Open Space is complete and waiting for final approval.

“We’ve created a vision,” said Amy Ito, manager of park planning and construction for Jeffco Open Space, who has worked on the plan with other staff members. Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee members also have played a key role in developing the draft as they critiqued and refined it during their monthly meetings.

The five-year plan emphasizes the importance of land acquisition and preservation and nurturing stewardship in those who use the extensive park system in the county. The health benefits of getting outdoors — especially for youngsters with “nature deficit disorder” — are also a focus of the master plan draft.

The 2013 draft is the seventh update for the master plan originally created in 1978, several years after voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund Jeffco Open Space.

Specific goals for the coming years include increasing land preserved from 52,000 acres to 53,700 acres by 2018, expanding the trail system, and developing a community involvement program. Increasing volunteer support and creating a “share-and-care program” to promote stewardship are also priorities, said Ito. To encourage use of the parks, five new maps are in the plan.

In updating the master plan, staff relied heavily on a 2011 citizen survey on park use and development, Ito said. Nearly half of the respondents said they would like to see an equal balance between land preservation and protection and outdoor recreation, she remarked.

The master plan draft is also designed to give citizens information about the open space system and its financial management. Charts and graphs in the draft present the department’s revenue sources and expenditures.

In 2014, total open space sales-tax revenues are expected generate $37.22 million, according to information in the draft.

The document also states that sales tax collected from county residents is used to maintain 41,000 acres of land owned or managed by Jeffco Open Space, which includes 28 parks, approximately 227 miles of trails, the Lookout Mountain Nature Center, Hiwan Homestead Museum, Pine Valley Ranch Park, and 3,177 acres of conservation easements on privately owned lands.

Average annual expenditures for Jeffco Open Space total $30 million, more than 50 percent of which goes toward land acquisition and bond debt payment for acquired properties. Thirty-seven percent of the budget is spent on park operations, and 5 percent on park and trail development.

Jeffco residents who would like to review the master plan draft may visit http://jeffco.us/parks/about/open-space-master-plan/. They also may e-mail comments about the plan to Thea Rock, manager of communications for Jeffco Open Space, at trock@jeffco.us through Dec. 20.

The Open Space Advisory Committee is expected to vote on the master plan at its January meeting.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.