The value of creating Open Space has both intrinsic and economic impacts.

The character of the Upper Arkansas River Valley in Lake County is largely shaped by its uncluttered landscapes and unobstructed views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including Colorado’s two highest peaks, Mount Elbert and Mount Massive.

When the historic ranches that now make up the core of the Lake County Open Space first came up for sale on the open market, the local concern was that they would be divided up into a scattering of low-density residential units, irretrievably altering the scenic landscapes that make the Valley unique and impacting wildlife winter range and seasonal movement. A LCOSI sponsored community survey in 1998 indicated that 91% of the respondents supported acquisition of the ranches for their preservation as parks and open space.

Securing open space is also supported by analysis of economic consequences of low-density residential development in rural areas, that revealed that outright purchase of open space can be less costly to taxpayers than allowing low-density development. A University of Colorado, Department of Geography review of 47 studies of the costs of development showed that, “on average, low density residential property lost an average of 17 cents for each dollar of tax revenue collected, while open space provided an average surplus of 69 cents”, because low density, sprawling development is so costly to serve. (Haggerty, 2000)

The Open Space Initiative also recognized the importance of securing and storing an adequate water supply to the health and vitality of the community and worked with the City of Aurora to secure a portion of the water from the sale of the Hayden Ranch for Lake County’s use. 

LCOSI planned and secured approximately $1.35 million in grant funding and in-kind match for construction of the Hayden Meadows Reservoir and Recreation Area. The Reservoir not only provides 50-acre feet of water storage capacity to help meet future needs but provides the focal point of the 63-acre Hayden Meadows Recreation Area, which LCOSI donated to Lake County in the year 2001. 

In combination with opening public fishing access to almost 10 miles of the Arkansas River that was previously in private ownership, the Hayden Meadows Recreation Area has added to the County’s recreation portfolio and tourism draw.

LCOSI and its partners have also precipitated and participated in projects such as the Sustainable Trail Design Guidelines for the High Lonesome Trail, the remediation of contaminated fluvial tailings and irrigated meadows in the floodplain of the Arkansas River, the use of rotational grazing to enhance wildlife winter range and maintain an agricultural presence, and the Union Creek Pilot Project to explore and monitor new bio-engineering techniques for stream bank protection. All of these projects share the common goal of supporting the sustainability of Lake County’s land and water resources and building the communities portfolio of amenities that help diversify its economy and provide a competitive edge. 


LCOSI Vision:
Protection and stewardship of land and water resources for open space, wildlife, historic preservation, sustainable growth, education, and outdoor recreation.

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