by Zoë Shark
On Friday, January 19, over 250 people celebrated the importance of natural areas to our community and honored natural areas volunteers. The event celebrated those who had the vision to conserve natural areas, and everybody who has had a role in supporting them including City Council members, city leadership, board members, ballot measure initiators, voters who supported natural areas sales taxes five times since 1992, staff––past and present––lots of volunteers, and so many others.
- In October 1992, Fort Collins City Council adopted the Natural Areas Policy Plan. It directed the City to identify and evaluate natural lands for potential preservation and conservation.
- Then, one month later, City of Fort Collins citizens voted to tax themselves one quarter of a cent on every dollar to be set aside and used for land conservation to protect wild places, wildlife, and provide places for humans to interact with nature.
- On January 1, 1993, that sales tax went into effect and the Natural Areas Department was “born.”
- Over the last quarter of a century, more than 43,000 acres of land has been conserved by the City of Fort Collins. Since 1992, 98 additional miles of trails have been constructed, providing opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Today, the Natural Areas Department manages 50 natural areas.
- The staff of three dedicated individuals in 1992 has now grown to 32 permanent employees and about 30 seasonal staff, as well as a large cadre of very active volunteers––more than 1,500! Volunteers have been crucial to the success of Natural Areas, thus, it was so apt that the event celebrated both volunteers and the quarter century anniversary.
- The number of visitors to the natural areas is astounding: In 2006, it was estimated to be more than 3 million per year! And we know that number has climbed with the increase in population.
- Natural Areas are also well loved––the satisfaction rate is very high: 95-97% as evidenced in surveys from 2011 and 2016.
The community has a lot to be proud from the last 25 years of natural areas, and we will continue to accomplish great things together in the next 25 years and beyond.