Colorado Springs City Council unanimously voted at its Jan. 10 meeting to refer to the voters a measure that would extend the city’s Trails Open Spaces and Parks sales tax for 20 years. The 25-year-old program, which has been responsible for purchasing popular open spaces such as Red Rock Canyon and Stratton — and most recently Fishers Canyon on the east face of Cheyenne Mountain — is due to expire in 2025. Passage of the measure in April would extend the program to 2045.
The action by Council follows unanimous recommendations by both the city’s TOPS Working Committee and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board to place the item on the April 2023 ballot. The measure would not increase the current tax (1 cent for every 10 dollars spent), but would incorporate two changes to the current TOPS program by allowing TOPS-generated funds to be used on any trail and open space owned by the city, and stipulating that 75 percent of the money allocated to the Open Space category be set aside for land acquisition only.
The measure requires one more public hearing before it can be placed on the ballot. That hearing will take place at the next Council meeting on Jan. 24.
The full text of the proposed ballot language:
WITHOUT IMPOSING ANY NEW TAX OR INCREASING THE RATE OF ANY EXISTING TAX, SHALL THE EXISTING 0.1% (ONE TENTH OF A CENT) CITY SALES AND USE TAX FOR TRAILS, OPEN SPACE AND PARKS (TOPS) BE EXTENDED FROM ITS CURRENT EXPIRATION OF DECEMBER 31, 2025 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2045, WITH THE SAME USES FOR OPEN SPACE ACQUISITION AND STEWARDSHIP, AND TRAILS AND PARKS ACQUISITION AND MAINTENANCE, THE ABOVE CONSTITUTING NO CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM EXCEPT ALLOWING FUNDS DEDICATED TO MAINTENANCE OF TRAILS AND OPEN SPACES TO BE USED REGARDLESS OF HOW THE TRAIL OR OPEN SPACE WAS ACQUIRED, AND IN THE OPEN SPACE CATEGORY A MINIMUM OF SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT (75%) OF FUNDS BE SPENT ON ACQUISITION OF OPEN SPACE, AS A CONTINUATION OF A VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE AND EXCEPTION TO ANY CONSTITUTIONAL, STATUTORY, AND CHARTER REVENUE AND SPENDING LIMITATIONS THAT MAY OTHERWISE APPLY?
Disclosure: Bob Falcone is a member and current chairperson of the TOPS Working Committee.
The Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance has launched the “Outdoors Pikes Peak Initiative,” the Pikes Peak region’s arm of the “Colorado Outdoor Partnership,” which seeks to join recreational users, nonprofits, public land managers, commercial interests and others with the goal of determining the specific conservation and recreational needs of their local communities.
To meet that goal, the OPPI will be hosting a series of “Listening Sessions” in El Paso, Teller and Fremont counties from Jan. 23 to 28. Facilitators at the sessions will gather participants’ “thoughts, ideas, aspirations and concerns” and share them with local land managers. The sessions will be done both in person and virtually, and are open to everyone. For dates, times and locations, see the flyer below.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 16, and in addition to being a national holiday, it is also a day when entry fees to all National Park Service sites, such as nearby Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park, are waived for the day. Other fees may apply.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.