Open space leaders convene in Glenwood Springs |

Open space leaders convene in Glenwood Springs

Jury Jerome Post IndependentThe Colorado Open Space Alliance is meeting at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs for its 12th annual statewide conference. Socializing after the Monday sessions are, from left, Adams County Open Space program manager Shannon McDowell, Westminster open space coordinator Heather Cronenberg, Westminster open space technician Lauren Schevets, John Vickery of Denver and Rod Larsen (far right), also with the city of Westminster open space program.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Open space program managers, staffers, board members and volunteers from around Colorado are in Glenwood Springs this week to discuss issues related to the preservation and management of open space and public trails.

The 12th annual Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA) conference is taking place at the Hotel Colorado through Wednesday.

The conference includes more than 200 participants, according to Linda Strand, an Arapahoe County Open Space board member and COSA steering committee member.

“We have workshops and presentations at a different location in the state each year to provide training and networking for those involved with open space,” Strand said.

“Our membership is primarily from local and regional public open space programs, but we also tend to attract people associated with private land trusts,” she explained.

The conference opened Monday with a variety of informational sessions focused on topics ranging from open space policy issues to some of the common challenges associated with managing public trail systems.

It continues this morning with additional work sessions and a keynote address by Jessica Sargent-Michaud, director of conservation economics for The Trust for Public Land. This afternoon, conference participants head out on field trips throughout the area.

The final day of the conference on Wednesday includes a presentation by renowned Colorado nature photographer John Fielder.

“Mainly, it’s a great opportunity for people from all across the state to network and discuss the things we’ve worked to accomplish over the past year,” said John Armstrong, ranger for the Pitkin County Space and Trails program.

By having the conference in Glenwood Springs and Garfield County, which does not have an open space program, it’s also an opportunity to offer information about ways to preserve natural open space, he said.

“We hope to express the value of open space, trails and ranch protection programs, which we believe to be important in maintaining the lifestyle and quality of life in Colorado,” Armstrong said.

Many of the challenges in managing public open lands and trails locally are the same statewide and even nationally, he said.

“Dog complaints, whether it’s dogs off-leash or dog waste issues, are the one issue that really ignites passion,” he said. “It comes down to a matter of respecting other people and the natural environment.”

Other common issues include faster bicyclists on trails failing to announce themselves before passing slower users, motorized use of trails for disabled persons, and managing popular rock-climbing areas along trails.

Rob Comey, Rio Grande Trail corridor manager for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, is also attending this week’s conference.

He described the former railroad line that was purchased by valley governments in the late 1990s and converted into a public trail as “a 42-mile-long strip of open space.”

“For us, what this conference represents is an opportunity to investigate what is being done in other parts of the state to enhance open space areas,” Comey said.

Some of the information gathered from the conference could be used as RFTA works to revise the priorities in its corridor comprehensive plan. The revised plan is due out next year, he said.

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