Over the past few weeks, the Arapahoe County commissioners have been visiting with their respective districts about the Open Space Sales and Use Tax, a one-quarter of one cent tax that has been responsible for funding the County’s Open Spaces program and projects since voters first approved it in 2003.
The commissioners were joined by Open Spaces Director Shannon Carter and other local officials for a series of virtual and in-person events explaining what the tax has accomplished and how the reauthorization process works. “It was a great opportunity to talk with residents about the program and hear the positive impact our open spaces have on quality of life within Arapahoe County—especially during the pandemic,” Carter said. These quarterly Board of County Commissioners’ Conversations events reach hundreds of residents with County information on a regular basis; recordings of them are available on the County’s YouTube channel.
Arapahoe County’s Open Spaces are among our most treasured assets. From parks to trails to waterways, these amenities enhance the quality of life throughout the County. The Open Spaces program builds and maintains trails, enhances neighborhood and regional parks, and preserves natural and heritage areas. As a direct result of the revenue stream from the tax, the program now owns and maintains 15 parks and open spaces across the County, spanning more than 5,000 acres, four trailheads, and more than 20 miles of trails.
The open spaces tax has generated more than $359 million since 2004, 71 percent of these funds have been given back to our cities, towns, and special districts in the form of grants, direct share back and joint projects. The tax also helps advance the County’s Open Spaces Master Plan, which serves as a blueprint for the program’s future, identifying opportunities to conserve and enhance natural lands, wildlife habitats and water resources, address gaps in the County’s outdoor recreation network, and set priorities for educational programming and the stewardship of existing resources.
With the current tax set to expire in 2023, Arapahoe County has been undertaking a reauthorization process to assess when to reauthorize the tax and what—if any—changes should be made to the program. These quarterly events were another opportunity to get resident input on the program. Based on the input received, the Board will decide August 10 whether to extend the open spaces tax program by referring a measure to voters. Learn more information about the reauthorization process.