Mule Gulch Open Space
In July 2017, the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of the County’s 939-acre Mule Gulch Open Space. The property is located approximately 6 miles southwest of Byers in the eastern part of Arapahoe County and lies within the West Bijou Creek drainage area.
The Mule Gulch property was identified by Arapahoe County Open Spaces as a priority for acquisition in part due to its adjacency to other open space and conserved lands. With the addition of Mule Gulch Open Space, more than 16,500 acres have been protected in the West Bijou Creek area through the efforts of a number of conservation organizations. This protected area includes another Arapahoe County-owned property, the 2,820-acre Bijou Basin Open Space,as well as several private conservation easements totaling more than 2,700 acres and the Savory Institute’s West Bijou Site which consists of more than 10,000 acres and has been designated a National Natural Landmark.
Erik Glen, Executive Director of Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust,describes the importance of this landscape-scale conservation effort and the Mule Gulch property’s substantial conservation values: “The eastern plains region of Colorado contains one of the nation’s largest single remaining expanses of native prairie. Prairies represent rich and fertile landscapes that provide food, fiber, and energy, as well as valued resources including erosion control, nutrient cycling, water purification and recharge,and wildlife habitat. Conservation of the Mule Gulch Open Space adds to a growing core of native prairie forever preserved. Moreover, the proximity and connectivity of this property to previously conserved properties on the Front Range provides a unique conservation opportunity and is a huge win for the success of conserving the native prairies that define our eastern plains.”
In addition to the natural values inherent to native prairie, Mule Gulch Open Space provides sweeping views of West Bijou Creek and the Front Range and offers exciting opportunities for public access and recreation. While the property is not currently open to the public, it will eventually be made available for recreational uses such as hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, birding, and picnicking.
While a natural resource inventory and planning for the site are completed, the Mule Gulch Open Space will remain in agricultural use. The property has historically supported cropland and much of the acreage is currently rotated for wheat production, with planting occurring on different portions of the property in alternating years. Arapahoe County currently leases four other properties for agriculture, including the adjacent Bijou Basin Open Space, and is proud to preserve the area’s agricultural heritage by keeping rural lands in ranching and crop production.
The County finalized its purchase of the Mule Gulch Open Space property in October 2017, in support of a long-term collaborative conservation effort in the West Bijou Creek area. According to Justin Spring, Colorado Director for Land Protection at The Trust for Public Land, “Mule Gulch adds to the significant conservation work that has been completed over the past two decades by The Trust for Public Land, Arapahoe County Open Spaces, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Colorado Open Lands, Great Outdoors Colorado, and many other partners.”