Continued from Part 1.
Question 4: What is the name of your neighborhood, and what is the most pressing issue for the residents in your neighborhood?
I live in (old) Keewaydin, although the broader neighborhood includes Frasier Meadows. For the past few years the key issue has been Burke Park and Thunderbird Lake, particularly the concern about keeping the lake viable and attractive. Thanks to really excellent work by a collaboration of Parks, the Horizon School, and a CU design class - and really terrific public outreach that attracted very wide interest from the neighborhood - there is an excellent plan to not just maintain the lake but also to improve the often neglected park (especially the school district portion), integrate the school and city properties, create an educational facility that serves both the school and the neighborhood, and enhance the great environmental assets of the lake and surrounding wetlands.
I live in North Boulder in the North Wonderland Community (NWC). Our most pressing issue will be recovery from the catastrophic flooding of Four Mile Creek. Connectivity, redevelopment of the west side of Broadway north of Violet, and walkability were evaluated as part of the North Boulder Subcommunity Plan process. Rebuilding the area damaged by flooding will probably now lead to quicker realization of the NBSP's goals and objectives. Crestview Elementary School and the neighborhoods east of Broadway, south of Rosewood, and north of Quince all the way to 28th Street (south of Violet and north of Kalmia) have been devastated by the 4-Mile Creek flood. During the reconstruction process, the entire 4-Mile Creek floodway needs to be re-engineered and flood mitigation best management practices that have been languishing, pending completion of downstream modifications, need to be installed now. There is no longer any reason for delay.
Whittier. The pressing issue here is the preservation of street trees against drought and traffic calming to keep motorists from running down pedestrians in crosswalks. There is also considerable interest in banning smoking in public places, including sidewalks.
Here in Pawnee Meadow, as in many other neighborhoods, flood mitigation is a current topic. Other topics of interest include municipalization and Eco Passes.
I live in the Silver Lake Orchard neighborhood. The most pressing problems are associated with increasing levels of traffic though the neighborhood, and the replacement of modest homes with very large homes, which changes the nature of the neighborhood. The neighborhood is served by Silver Lake Ditch irrigation, with lateral ditches to distribute the water. Some residents fail to understand the significance and benefits of the lateral canals which transport the irrigation water to the users.
I live on 29th Street, but I believe my neighborhood is formally known as Asphalt Acres. Our neighborhood issue is our city's issue: we need more housing, more office space and more walkability. People are rightly getting frustrated with the excessive development pressure that's changing the face of our historic downtown. This pressure has been artificially manufactured by City Council's one-fails-all planning policies. It's time to address our housing and office shortages by identifying an area of town that can provide maximum density with minimal impact. Asphalt Acres is just such a place. I propose that, in addition to encouraging general development along the 28th and 30th Street corridors, we also extend the Transit Center zoning to allow for a 165' foot height limit. Preferably rebranded as the Tech Center, this would quickly become a new hub for affordable, environmental, and vibrant Boulder living.
My neighborhood is Old North Boulder. It is a very walkable and bikeable neighborhood - close to shops, downtown, with good nearby parks, community gardens and a great, culturally-diverse neighborhood school - Columbine Elementary. One problem that we are beginning to see is that as more neighborhood families have begun returning to Columbine Elementary (instead of open-enrolling out), our class sizes are beginning to balloon. It is good to have more cultural balance at our school, but with many low-income and second language learners, small class sizes and low teacher-student ratio are preferable.
I live on University Hill. Nuisance parties, fireworks, and trash disrupt quality of life for residents on the Hill and create safety issues and wildlife problems (such as encouraging bears to regularly dine on trash, often resulting in extermination of the bears). The Hill needs improved street lighting. Over occupancy changes the character of the neighborhood through, among other things, driving up the price of the house (based on the revenue of selling multiple rooms) such that the house becomes more valuable as an investment property and is priced too high for a single family home. Essentially, we are using our single family homes (of which we have a shortage) and changing our neighborhoods in order to assist the University's housing needs.
Manhattan circle neighborhood. The most pressing issue is the need for more mixed-use development.
I live right on the border of the Whittier and Panorama neighborhoods, though I interact with Whittier more frequently due to its density of housing and connection with downtown. I am not certain there is a single issue that is the largest concern for residents. The diversity of housing types in Whittier is a testament to how in-fill development can be handled without significant neighborhood impacts. If anything, improved ADU and OAU policy could enable more low and middle income housing here. In some areas of Whittier, car parking overflow from business districts remains an issue. Traffic speeds have been improved on Pine, Spruce, Mapleton, and 20th, but enforcement, especially around school zones, remains a concern. There is also a very strong sentiment that Whittier Elementary must be kept open, and the City should strongly lobby the school board t! o achieve this outcome.
I live in the "Old North Boulder Neighborhood" on Alpine Avenue. Our most pressing issues are traffic noise, speeding and parking issues that occur due to the activity at Community Plaza. However, this is a quandary because the activity at Community Plaza is exactly what makes living in this neighborhood so great. The traffic calming measures that have been taken have only created obstacles that most people test their driving skills with by swerving speedily around them.
Question 5: What do you see as the greatest threats and opportunities for the future of Open Space?
While many would see increased usage as a "threat," and indeed that can come with increased impacts, I think that our management plans can limit those impacts while at the same time educating people about the importance of environmental protection. Now, I'm not naïve; this will be an ongoing issue and at some point we may very well need to limit usage in some ways, and almost certainly ensure that people stay in appropriate places. Long-term I suspect the main threat is how climate change, drought, and fire will impact ecosystems and habitat. We have an opportunity to complete the vision and trail system, better manage people by ensuring they stay on (rerouted as necessary) trails and leave the large HCAs and sensitive areas protected, collaborate regionally to protect much larger and connected ecosystems, and fully implement adaptive management techniques.
Protecting Boulder's OSMP lands from the teeming masses who love them is expensive. Ongoing maintenance and operational expenses are substantial enough that mandatory non-resident parking fees, even if they could be enforced and collected economically, pale by comparison. Our "wilderness" interface is a resource protection nightmare, a behavioral challenge, and an educational opportunity. Colorado's ski industry has learned to harden the first couple of miles of trails leading from the top of their chairlifts. The industry has installed interactive educational exhibits, so that summer visitors won't inadvertently, irrevocably harm the fragile alpine ecosystems they've often traveled thousands of miles to see. Boulder must do the same. User fees should flow directly to OSMP operational expenses. Everyone should pay them (including residents), but they should be voluntary, with recommended contribution levels and annual passes. Collections will be adequate. If they're not, we can look at other options
The greatest threat: the sheer number of people that are using Open Space. The greatest opportunity is the completion of regional trails. However, the very completion of regional trails, while it gives Boulder residents greater access to adjacent lands, also opens up direct pathways for users from surrounding cities to increase the numbers of people on Boulder Open Space even more.
Over the short term, the greatest threats to Open Space mirror the greatest opportunities: making it available to the greatest number and variety of users without degrading the environment through overuse or misuse. Over the long term, the greatest threats are likely to be financial, related to economic downturn or shrinking tax base possibilities.
The greatest threats are: 1. Inadequate funding for the Open Space vision for acquiring and managing land around Boulder 2. Over-intensive use of Open Space lands for recreation. 3. Violation of Open Space Charter regarding the use of Open Space lands for impermissible/unacceptable uses (e.g. for competitive, limited-access events, non-passive recreation, etc) Opportunities include: 1. Encouragement of local agriculture on Open Space to promote new environmentally desirable practices, including organic, non-GMO, alternative crops and cropping, diminished use of chemicals and fertilizers, etc. 2. Cooperation with other local governments to designate and conserve open space for mutual benefit
It may sound counterintuitive, but the greatest threat to Open Space is municipalization. If you'll bear with me, I'll explain. Municipalization will be a multi-hundred million dollar bet on the continued preeminence of grid-based distribution. In the event that any disruptive technology significantly alters the nature of the energy industry prior to the retirement of our bond obligations (which could extend all the way through 2050), we will be facing bankruptcy. This is not a vague or distant threat. We are currently sitting at the brink of an end-to-end energy revolution. There are promising production, distribution, storage, and consumption innovations set to come to market in the next 5-10 years. The wide-scale adoption of any one of these technologies is quite likely and would be quite devastating to our proposed business model. This significantly jeopardizes the City of Boulder's largest dispensable asset: our vast Open Space holdings.
Opportunities - if Ballot Issue 2C passes this November, it appears we will have funding to complete our Acquisition Plan - buy mineral rights, promote more agriculture on appropriate open space, complete regional trails, acquire more property and create more habitat for various species, limit potential development in Boulder County, and incorporate some urban agriculture, such as a conservation easement on Longs Garden. Threats - one is overuse by the public. As more people from across the Front Range come to enjoy our beautiful Open Space, we must devise ways of limiting use so we don't "love our open space to death". Solutions could include charging access fees to out of towners through use of "Day Use Fee" boxes and parking fees in popular locations. Another great threat to open space land is fracking. Hopefully Ballot Issue 2H will pass to protect Open Space from fracking for another 4.5 years.
If Open Space rules are overly restrictive, there will be a loss of public support for Open Space. If they are overly permissive, our Open Space can be harmed. Regular use of Open Space by non-Boulder residents places an additional burden on Open Space. Use fees for non-Boulder residents and promoting the success of our Open Space program will encourage other communities in Colorado and elsewhere to protect their Open Space. Regional connections also are an important opportunity for the Open Space program.
Greatful Fred Smith
The greatest threat is defunding Open Space. The greatest opportunity is to have a treasure for future generations.
One potentially grave threat is oil and gas development on Open Space lands which the City does not own mineral rights for. Drilling moratoria at the City and County level give some relief to this threat, and every effort should be made by the City to acquire any mineral rights it does not hold on current open space property. Future acquisitions should also involve buying the mineral rights of new properties. Other ongoing threats include noxious weed incursions, increasingly intense wildfire behavior, user conflicts, increasing use, and rising land prices which could jeopardize land acquisition plans. Opportunities include ongoing completion of the land acquisition plan, funding of operations through user fees for non-Boulder residents, and continuing improvement of user conflict management.
The greatest threat to open space is people -- many, many people. The city is trying really hard to manage the increasing number of users from all around the metro area, and to the extent that people stay on trails, the use is somewhat manageable. One opportunity is to use the number of users to raise the awareness and educate folks of the importance of intact ecosystems and that we still have examples of plant and animal communities here that have been pretty much wiped out elsewhere along the front range. Along with the public's appreciation for recreating on open space, we also have an opportunity to instill in people the importance of working for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future, and that in doing so we will leave many opportunities for our children and grand children to appreciate and understand the importance of the natural world.