Boulder County Parks & Open Space released a proposed management plan for the East Boulder Creek Site. Once the plan is adopted through a final set of public meetings, it will guide management actions at the site.
East Boulder Creek Site Management Plan
Prairie Run Open Space
Proposed Management Plan
The plan will guide the management of the section of the Boulder Creek Valley at the confluence of Coal Creek. The plan was crafted after receiving extensive public feedback during the first phases of the planning process. The plan embodies the department’s dual mission of conservation values and people priorities.
Prairie Run Open Space
As decided by the public and volunteers, the area will be known as Prairie Run Open Space when it opens to the public.
Reflecting the conservation and stewardship component, the plan includes:
- Protection of wildlife habitat.
- Continuation of sustainable agriculture.
- Restoration of wetlands and stream corridors associated with Boulder Creek and Coal Creek.
Addressing the community requests for recreation, the plan proposes a variety of recreational opportunities while also respecting the important natural features of the site. The public facilities will include:
- Water access.
- An accessible trail to Boulder Creek.
- Two trailheads with restrooms and parking lots.
- Over five miles of trails that will facilitate connections to the existing network in Erie including the Coal Creek Regional Trail and the future Boulder to Erie Regional Trail.
Design and permitting work for implementing the plan are expected to begin next year.
The goal is to have some of the site open to the public in 2025 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Boulder County Parks & Open Space. The rest of the site will open between 2028–2030 to allow time for appropriate federal, state, and local permitting and construction
Public Feedback Received
Boulder County appreciates the community members who provided comments to the three community surveys and at the public engagement events. Staff used that input to develop the plan. Management actions that directly reflect community input are indicated in the plan.
Community Survey #3
Public comment on the draft plan was accepted from Oct. 11-29, 2023. There were 229 responses to the final survey. While not summarized into a formal report like previous survey efforts, the feedback provided by the public is shared in Appendix B starting on page 105. This feedback was taken into account when developing the report delivered to the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee and the Boulder County Commissioners.
Community Survey #2
The second community survey was open from May 25 through July 31. The objective of the survey was to define the public’s priorities for conservation and community access, and collect any feedback on the future of the site.
The survey received 446 online responses to the survey and 543 individual responses from in-person events.
Survey participants indicated a high level of support for closing certain areas to protect critical wildlife habitat and agricultural operations. 60% of respondents strongly agreed with the potential closures.
When asked for additional comments related to the closure of the site, respondents who agreed with the closures identified conservation of the riparian area and the native wildlife as their primary concerns.
Respondents who felt negatively about the closures commented that the loss of public access to natural areas was not desirable. Respondents who felt neutral about the closures expressed that they would like to receive more information and that agricultural closures and conservation closures are separate issues.
When asked about outdoor experiences, the desired recreational activities identified by respondents included hiking, appreciating wildlife, walking, biking, and water activities.
Community Survey #1
The first survey was open from Nov. 17, 2022 through Feb. 28, 2023. The objective of the survey was to define the public’s priorities for conservation and community access and collect any feedback on the future of the site.
The survey received 1,041 responses.
Survey participants said their top conservation values for the site are:
- Conserving wildlife habitat.
- Protecting land from development.
- Preserving ponds and flowing water.
- Protecting native trees, wildflowers, and grasses.
Conserving Wildlife Habitat
The site contains valuable wildlife habitat for bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, herons, coyotes, white-tailed deer, beavers, and more. We are proposing that some of the most sensitive areas be closed to visitors to protect wildlife.
Protecting Land From Development
The site was purchased with open space tax dollars. Thanks to your support, this land will not be developed into residential or commercial properties. We do not plan on developing campgrounds or allowing camping.
Preserving Ponds & Flowing Water
The site has 5 miles of the East Boulder Creek and Coal Creek tributaries. The creeks meet at a confluence in the northeastern part of the site. The ponds and wetlands are largely relics of mining activity that took place on the property and have increased habitat potential with additional restoration. We are planning to restore wetlands and an additional 3/4 miles of East Boulder Creek (learn more about the restoration work that has already taken place).
Protecting Native Trees, Wildflowers & Grasses
Pockets of native trees, wildflowers, and grasses remain on the site and there is potential to restore native grasslands. Staff will work to increase native plant communities on the site for the benefit of habitat and agricultural production.
Survey participants said the top outdoor experience/community access priorities they would seek out are:
- The opportunity for exercise.
- Finding respite and quiet reflection.
- Easy access to water.
- Let kids explore.
Opportunity For Exercise
We are planning several miles of soft-surface trail and will allow hiking, biking, dog walking, and horseback riding. Connections to the Town of Erie trails and the future Boulder-to-Erie Trail are also being planned.
Respite/Quite Reflection, Access to Water & Let Kids Explore
We are considering several different infrastructure ideas so you can enjoy these opportunities.
Survey participants suggested the park be named for a natural feature found on the site or by Indigenous and Native American history. Some were in favor of keeping the current name — Boulder Creek/East Boulder Creek. Since natural features were the top theme, and this also honors indigenous history, the park will likely be named for a natural feature.
Survey participants also advocated for tribal involvement in land management and future planning. We have several collaborative initiatives with indigenous communities. The Board of County Commissioners is the leader for government – to – government engagement efforts and Parks supports these conversations.
Survey participants raised concerns about private property access, traffic considerations, and hazardous materials like contaminated water sources. We will not encroach on private property, and all existing easements will be honored. Regulatory signage will be in place to direct visitors to public areas and fencing built where appropriate to protect private property. Traffic to the site will be managed primarily off Kenosha Rd. and 109th St. from Hwy 287. Parking lots will be adequately sized for anticipated visitation and offer trailer parking. We are currently researching gates for parking areas to prevent visitors from parking after hours. The area will be patrolled by rangers and supported by nearby emergency service agencies as needed. Staff will conduct water quality testing this summer to understand the feasibility of watercraft in ponds.
The site shares a border with Weld County at East County Line Road, and is also bounded by State Highway 52 on the north, US 287 generally on the west, and Jasper and Kenosha Roads on the south.
The Town of Erie lies just to the south, Niwot several miles to the northwest, and Longmont about five miles to the north.
This 1,377-acre site is composed of five individual open space properties that contain a dozen ponds and five miles of perennial stream along Boulder Creek and Coal Creek.
About East Boulder Creek Site
This portion of the Boulder Valley has been an important part of the region for its streamside riparian habitats, its irrigated farmlands, and its aggregate resources. While extractive industries have impacted the site, the agricultural community, including the tenants of these county open space parcels, continues to steward this rural landscape. The area has been, and remains, a site for oil and gas operations. The county finished the reclamation of the last and most recent gravel operation and will continue to revegetate the site.
Due to the extent of past aggregate mining, the site continues to provide ongoing opportunities for restoration. In the latest example, the county partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully restore a one-mile segment of the Boulder Creek floodplain east of US 287 several years ago, broadening the channel in order to build resilience into the landscape and to offer a larger riparian habitat footprint. Learn more about the restoration project.
The site also supports existing significant wildlife habitats and wetlands. Due to its relatively level topography and position on the western Great Plains, this site offers expansive views of the Front Range mountains and the Indian Peaks area. This site presents a variety of passive recreation options and a continued opportunity to restore this place for both the natural and human community.