Boulder Ballot Issue 2H: Protect Boulder’s Open Space Legacy
Daily Camera | October 19th, 2019
It is hard to find a Boulder resident or visitor who doesn’t treasure our magnificent open space. It is also hard to find a Boulder resident who thinks we should cut the city’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) budget. But that is what will happen if we do not adopt Measure 2H.
Open Space Needs Funds – 2H Stops an Additional Cut. Under current law (without 2H), City of Boulder open space faces a severe funding cut. In 2013, voters adopted measures that redirected open space taxes to other city needs starting in 2019.
• Prior to any cuts, in 2018, the open space sales tax was 88 cents per $100 spent. It had been at this level for 15 years.
• In 2019, the open space sales tax dropped to 77 cents per $100 spent, and in 2020, unless 2H is adopted, it will drop to 62 cents per $100 spent–that’s a 30 percent drop in sales tax revenue for open space between 2018 to 2020.
• Open space funding cuts will total $10 million per year if we don’t take action now.
Measure 2H will add back about $5.3 million per year, or a little more than half of the cut, by keeping the open space tax at 77 cents per $100. So, if 2H is adopted, open space funding will still be cut, but a lot less.
And the sales tax rate won’t increase. It will simply stay the same as it is now.
This funding will help the open space program address critical needs. Maintenance costs have grown immensely. Our city open space covers over 45,000 acres, an area three times larger than the city itself. Visitation has doubled since 1996. In 2017, there were 6.25 million visits to city open space–more than the number of visits to Rocky Mountain National Park on about one-sixth the land area. Because of this heavy use, trails degrade, and there’s a significant backlog in trail maintenance.
Climate change is driving costs such as flood recovery and wildfire mitigation. According to the 2019 OSMP Master Plan survey of Boulder Valley residents, 79 percent of respondents felt ecosystem health and resilience should be one of the most important themes to guide OSMP management in the future. Boulder is significantly hotter and drier than it was 50 years. This makes it harder for native species to survive, increases the risk of wildfire and related environmental disasters, and adds to the expense of managing OSMP lands.
While maintenance is now a bigger focus, preserving and restoring important habitat blocks and corridors is a priority for the open space program. There are still some key pieces of property that the program hopes to acquire as part of that vision.
Finally, Measure 2H will also help preserve Long’s Gardens, the city’s last working community farm. The first year of tax revenue will be used for a conservation easement to ensure this farm in the heart of the city is never subdivided or developed and remains a place where children and adults can get their hands into soil, dig iris, laugh at goat kids, enjoy locally-produced food, and learn first-hand how to grow what they eat. A conservation easement will also ensure that the bike and walking paths through the property, including a key portion of the north-south “Broadway Boogie” bike corridor, remain accessible to the public forever.
There is broad support for 2H. City Council unanimously referred 2H to the voters. The members of City Council discussed and debated the measure. It would have been irresponsible not to. However, City Council’s unanimous support for the measure reflects their final decision on the issue. Fourteen of the fifteen candidates currently running for City Council support 2H. The measure is supported by political organizations across Boulder’s political spectrum, including Open Boulder, PLAN-Boulder County, the Sierra Club, and Together4Boulder. We are not aware of any organized opposition to the measure, although a couple of organizations and one candidate report being “neutral”.
The Sunday October 13 article on Ballot Measure 2H, “Open space vs. other needs,” as well as the Camera’s Voter Guide, seems intent on creating controversy where there is none. Bizarrely, both pieces also fail to directly address the city’s real need for open space funding.
Boulder leaders are actively debating many real controversies and challenges. Let’s not create a controversy when there isn’t one. Instead, let’s celebrate the environmental stewardship that city residents share. Vote YES on 2H to preserve and protect Boulder’s open space.
Open Space YES 2019
Meanwhile the Boulder Daily Camera has recently come out in favor of 2H in an editorial.