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Longmont City Council to Consider Open Space Master Plan Update

July 6, 2018
Longmont City Council to Consider Open Space Master Plan Update

Sylvia Fibich and her husband Tom Yulsman, of Niwot, have lunch under the pavilion at Roger's Grove Nature Area in Longmont on Thursday. The City Council this week will consider an update to the city's open space master plan.

If you go

What: Longmont City Council to review updated open space master plan

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Civic Center council chambers, 350 Kimbark St.

Further information: The full council agenda, including links to staff memos and other attachments related to items on the agenda, is accessible online at tinyurl.com/yc52lz9c . The draft Open Space Master Plan update can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y926gyf2 .

Longmont’s City Council on Tuesday night is to review a proposed update of the 16-year-old master plan that guides the city’s acquisition, preservation, improvement, maintenance and management of open space.

Longmont’s open space program, which includes nature areas and greenways, now consists of about 4,570 aces of land, according to the draft Open Space Master Plan.

That inventory includes properties that Longmont — in some cases, in partnerships with Boulder County and Weld County — either owns outright or where government-owned conservation easements limit development over private properties.

It includes such properties as the Jim Hamm, Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch, Izaak Walter, Golden Ponds, Rogers Grove and Lake McIntosh nature areas.

Longmont also now has about 94 miles of trails connecting or running through some of its open space areas, according to the draft plan.

In addition to natural and environmentally sensitive areas, the city manages more than 1,000 acres of farmland holdings, including city-owned properties that Longmont leases to tenants growing a variety of crops or grazing animals.

The Open Space Master Plan does not include or apply to conventional city parks, which are administered under their own parks and recreation master plan — one that Dan Wolford, the city’s land program administrator, said sometime in the future might be merged into an overall plan for Longmont’s parks, open space and trails systems.

He said one of the changes being proposed in the Open Space Master Plan update is a better definition of what types of “passive” or “low-impact” outdoor recreation should be allowed on open space.

According to the plan’s recommendations, that would be limited to activities that require “minimal development” on the open space, that provide “educational, health and well-being, restorative and pleasurable opportunities to the public,” that preserve the area’s wildlife and natural ecosystem and that are environmentally sensitive.

Passive recreation could include such “non-consumptive uses” of the open space as “wildlife observation, walking, biking, etc.,” the draft update recommends, with an “emphasis placed on preservation.”

Wolford said on Thursday that surveys conducted while the update was being prepared, along with public comments received in February and March community workshops, showed “a high level of support” for Longmont’s open space program, which is funded through a 0.2 percent voter-approved sales and use tax and has been administered under a plan that’s been in place since 2002.

City officials had decided even before conducting those surveys, however, that the time had come to reevaluate the program and the goals and policies in its 2002 Open Space and Trails Master Plan.

Assisting Longmont in that effort, which began last fall, has been GreenPlay LLC, a Louisville-based open space and recreation consulting firm that helped draft the city’s 2002 plan. Wolford said GreenPlay is being paid $75,000 for its work on this update.

According to the presentation GreenPlay and the city staff have prepared for Tuesday night’s council meeting, majorities of the people responding to the public opinion surveys conducted earlier this year “are generally quite familiar with the open space areas within the city” and “are frequent users of open space trails and nature areas in and around Longmont.”

People responding to the survey are equally likely to get to open space properties by walking or cycling to them as by taking a motor vehicle, the staff and consultants reported.

“Acquisition of open space areas is of high priority to the community,” the staff and consultants said, but when people were asked how they would distribute available funding resources, a category of “managing/maintaining current open space properties” got a higher priority than acquiring new open space properties or “developing amenities on current properties.”

The consultants and city staff wrote that the surveys showed that “the most valuable and prioritized function of open spaces in Longmont is protecting nature areas from development.”

“Preserving wildlife habitat and protecting rivers, creeks, riparian corridors and wetlands were also highly prioritized.”

Among the staff’s and consultant’s recommendations for Longmont’s open space program mentioned in their written presentation for Tuesday night:

• Acquire and manage open space lands to maintain ecosystems and environments and “allow the coexistence of wildlife and human activity on open space properties whenever possible”

• Review and enhance the city’s wildlife movement corridors, which could include riparian corridors along streams, ditches, rivers and creeks

• Include a section in the plan to address prairie dog habitat management, “as ... this is one of the largest single wildlife issues facing the city”

• Include sections addressing “species of concern for the Longmont community and ‘threatened and endangered’ species such as the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse” because “these species are known to inhabit the study area” covered by the master plan

• Continue Longmont’s overall current philosophy of not allowing dogs off-leash on open space properties, “to protect wildlife resources and to provide a dog-free trail experience,” but allowing on-leash dogs in some designated areas where that might be appropriate

• Ensure that agricultural lands preserved as open space “support economically viable farming in Longmont, preserve cultural landscapes, maintain viewsheds, provide wildlife corridors” and ”“create community buffers”

• Use “smaller-scale urban agriculture on properties within the LPA (Longmont Planning Area) to support local food production, small-scale farming operations” and “community-supported agriculture”

The city staff presented the proposed master plan update to Longmont’s Board of Environmental Affairs in May and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last month. Both panels recommended the City Council adopt the final draft of the update.

On Tuesday night, the City Council’s options include voting on adopting that current final draft, or modifying it before voting whether to approve it.

Contact Staff Writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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