Looking to Buy Open Land

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Colorado Springs is changing the way it looks at open space. Most of us usually think of large parks teaming with wildlife. But the city council has now decided open space should also come in smaller packages.

The city recently opened Promontory Park above Old Colorado City. It's a good example of the kind of neighborhood parks the city council would like to develop.

Voters approved a tenth of a cent sales tax five years ago to preserve open spaces like this. Together with lottery funds and other grants, the city spends $4 million a year preserving open places. In fact, the city has purchased more than 3,000 acres of open space since 1997. But the bulk of that land has come in the form of large parcels with wildlife in mind.

But councilwoman Sallie Clark wants to see the city purchase smaller tracts of land for neighborhood parks. "Your bigger parcels, you have to get into your car and drive somewhere. This is right in your neighborhood, being able to just walk up the street and you're there and don't have to get in your car and drive."

The city's Open Space manager says developers will provide those small parcels for neighborhood parks. Builders must dedicate five acres of open space to the city for every 130 houses they build. In fact, developers dedicate 50 to 60 acres of land in neighborhoods to the city each year. Then the Open Space Sales Tax pays for the land to be developed for neighborhood use.

But when it comes to open space, the city's eyes are bigger than it's budget and the Open Space Tax expires in 2009. So they may have to find other ways to preserve the land.