Boulder Public Lands Coalition - Q&A
1. Survey after survey has shown that people who get out into nature have a stronger desire to save the environment. Fostering this love of nature means finding ways to excite people with different backgrounds who may not simply want to slowly hike through our open spaces. But, we know that more users means more impact. Where do you draw the line in terms of increased access for groups who may want to enjoy our open spaces in different ways like picnic areas, biking trails, fishing, etc? Can we increase and improve the recreation opportunities on Boulder’s open space and also save our more-wild places like designated wilderness areas?
There is no need to “draw the line.” Excellent visitor infrastructure is in agreement with conservation values. Our trailheads can be a place to educate everyone about the ethics and behaviors needed for all of us to enjoy our public open spaces. We often speak of diversity, yet any accomodation of more diverse populations is often met with fierce opposition. It is key to our Open Space system that we involve multi-ethnic and multi-generational people or we will eventually lose support for any expansions or improvements.
I am in favor of expanding opportunities for wildlife viewing with simple bird blinds etc. Habitat can be improved, not degraded, by boardwalks and other structures that allow access for the disabled and keep people off sensitive shorelines. We can and should increase recreation opportunities, especially those that create trail connections to other open spaces. Boulder is full of fit people biking, hiking, and running. The more opportunity they have to go farther from the trailhead the greater dispersal of visitors will be. If we create well designed trails that take people where they want to go we will have less off-trail usage and better conservation outcomes.
2. The North Sky Trail, a vital multi-use connector trail between Boulder City and open space areas to the north, was approved after lengthy discussion during the North Trail Study Area process but has been stalled for nearly five years. If elected to council, how would you un-stick this process and complete the trail within your first term?
Good governance involves acting on our community approved plans. We have processed this question MORE than enough. It is time for the most well funded (with dedicated funds no less) department in the city to implement the NTSA plan. If this takes political will from council—so be it. I will be happy to provide that political will, if elected.
We seem to have very long processes and short memories, when convenient. I was a full participant in the West Trail Study area as a member of the Community Collaborative Group (WTSA CCG). The mountain biking community scored a big zero for any expansion of access in the West TSA. However staff and opponents of any expansion would assure us that your time will come in the North TSA. Only after a hard fought battle did we in fact gain one connector trail, the North Sky Trail. It is time—right now— to implement the plan and specifically the North Sky Trail.
3. What is your position related to acquisition versus maintenance of our current OSMP land stock? On what grounds should we acquire new properties?
My position is that we are mostly done with acquisitions and we must turn more of our budget and staff towards badly needed maintenance on the properties that we have now.
New acquisitions must offer real benefit to the community, they should meet most or all of these criteria:
Be adjacent to an existing OSMP property.
Offer a connection between existing properties or a trail connection.
Have excellent recreational, educational, or carbon sequestration opportunities.
Be historically significant with opportunities for community education and engagement.
Too many of our recent acquisitions have been disparate parcels in the east county with little or no recreational opportunity and no plans for public access—ever. In addition, the department has been extremely slow in developing access plans for purchases over the last decade or two because the department has had no desire to allow access that they would need to manage.
Finally, it was a travesty to force the OSMP department to take on the Hogan-Pancost property. This is a property that OSMP had no desire to acquire but the department was forced to buy it from the city general fund to make it permanently unavailable for housing.
4. How would you address increased visitation of OSMP?
Allow it, manage it, and provide the needed maintenance required by it.
Starting at the trailhead, we need better and more consistent education about trail etiquette, the problems with going near-trail but not on-trail, i.e. mud avoidance, and how to be a great visitor whether you are a runner, hiker, dog guardian, or a biker. We need to revamp our TH paid parking program. This charges out of town visitors for parking in a few locations. It is unenforced, antiquated, and in need of an overhaul in light of our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Moving past the trailhead we need more maintenance right now. Much of our trail system has been neglected. We still have extensive flood damage from 2013 that has not been repaired. I have visited many other states and countries that have extensive trail systems located in wet environments. We need to take a lesson in trail routing and hardening to avoid the widening and erosion that many point to when they say we are beyond capacity. In fact we can learn a lot from Boulder County. BC has demonstrated how to build trails through wet and muddy areas.
Finally we need more OSMP staff out from behind their desk and in field either working on trails and infrastructure or being an unarmed presence on the trail, doing education and enforcement.
5. What role does recreation play in a healthy society? How would you support that in future policy?
Recreation is also re-creation. We re-create ourselves when we get outside and interact with nature in whatever way works best for each of us. Outdoor recreation is essential to any healthy society. We are especially lacking in encouraging our youth to recreate outdoors. Most grade schoolers spend seven minutes a day outdoors.
Our OSMP system needs to be welcoming to families and encouraging of youth to become avid outdoors people. It is only through this that we will have a chance of saving our world.
I would support engagement via what I have described above and in addition take a lesson from the Thorne Nature Institute. They have much to teach us about engagening kids and communities of color.
6. Where do you see yourself on the conservation vs. recreation spectrum with regards to Open Space? Specifically, as a council member would you likely vote against an OSMP-recommended new trail or other recreation facility because of conservation or environmental concerns, or would you support it if the research showed that those concerns were insignificant or could be mitigated?
If you must put me on the spectrum, I would fall into the latter category. However I think the question creates a false dichotomy that says it is a recreation vs. conservation world; it is not. Good visitor education, infrastructure, and trail maintenance are the result of better, not worse, conservation values.
7. Do you feel that hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, equestrians, and other trail users can all have a positive experience on a shared multi-use trail in OSMP?
Yes. During my time on the WTSA CCG I advocated for a multi-use trail from the Table Mesa area south to the Marshall Mesa / Dowdy Draw areas. This trail connection would have allowed people from town to ride to their ride. By doing so we would have fewer auto trips and fewer parking problems and we would be further along toward our GHG reduction goals.
I used the Wonderland Lake/Foothills trail as an example of how this coexistence can work and work well. This trail is well used by hikers, bikers, runners, and dog walkers. Because of no bike and no dog trails branching off from it, everybody gets some benefit and everybody shares in the main trail.
Let’s build on this a success model.
8. Several multi-use regional trails have been proposed over the years (including the Front Range Trail, the Boulder-to-Erie Union Pacific Rail-Trail conversion, and others) but the connectivity stalls when there is a need to include OSMP land in the process. Would you support these regional trails, and why or why not?
Yes. We need long trails that connect to other trails because that is what our residents want and it will increase conservation values as we disperse many trail users farther away from trailheads.
9. One of BATCO’s initiatives is the Trail Around Boulder, a 34 mile multi-use trail encircling the City of Boulder, which would allow access to, and appreciation of, Boulder’s amazing geographic setting. It would connect neighborhoods and would offer transportation alternatives to the car, encourage a healthy lifestyle, attract visitors to Boulder, and make trails fun again. It would link existing trails, 80% of which are already in place, and would require only about 7 miles of new trails all of which could be carefully designed to avoid sensitive habitats. Yet the City of Boulder (OSMP) has resisted all attempts to complete the Trail Around Boulder. Would you support this trail, and why or why not?
Yes I would support this trail and a trail that would go from the north border of the county to the southern border of the county as well as a trail across the continental divide. We can magnify and amplify the benefits to our residents by connecting trails that exist with connections that allow for long distance off street travel on multi-use trails. (See all of the answers above for the WHY answer.)
10. Recent articles in the local media have spotlighted communication issues within several City departments, including Planning, Public Works, and Transportation. A consulting firm hired by the City found that arduous, slow, and unpredictable decision making, a lack of discipline in implementing procedures, and lack of support from Council, resulted in staff dissatisfaction. The same problems plague Open Space and Mountain Parks but the issue is much larger than staff dissatisfaction. Many members of the public have contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time, expertise, and effort to OSMP management -- only to experience similar frustration with Council overriding sensitive negotiations in seemingly arbitrary votes that promote a different preconceived agenda. As a Council member, how would you improve relations between the City and the public?
For me the best answer to this is a reminder that on every issue there will be residents that are dissatisfied. We forget that there were opponents to starting the open space system, creating the downtown mall, allowing NCAR, etc… This dissatisfaction is not a reason to never act; it is a reason to elect leaders. We live in a representative democracy and our councils were elected by the people to represent them so that they feel they don’t need to be at every council meeting or engage in every issue.. Every issue will have proponents and opponents. This is not a reason to make the process longer, harder on staff, or harder on the public. We need to use our newly adopted public engagement process that we have agreed upon, gather facts and data, and then decide. If needed, we need to be willing to course correct. Our decisions will be less difficult if we robustly practice our engagement process and then act upon the goals and values that result.
The other key to good governance and good relations between staff and council is to practice the making of policy and law rather than governance by ad-hoc decisions.
11. Do you feel that recreation is adequately represented on the current OSBT?
No. The current OSBT make-up is far from balanced. It is a simple reflection of the current councils political stance (anti-recreation). The latest appointment, replacing Andria Bilich with Hal Hallstein, was a simple and blatant stacking of OSBT with recreation opponents.
In addition the appointment of Dave Kuntz was antithetical to the idea of a citizens’ board. By giving a 20 year plus department Open Space department manger a seat on OSBT the current council majority knows that this gives him an outsized voice on the board.