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Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan

Westminster Hills Open Space: Please Share Your Feedback

Westminster Hills Open Space, including the popular off-leash area, is being negatively impacted by overuse. We invite you to attend a presentation and Q&A session to help us identify solutions to preserve and protect this beloved space for generations to come.

Public Meeting
Wednesday, March 6
6:30-8 p.m.
City Park Recreation Center (10455 Sheridan Blvd.)

Please help inform how we can all work together to preserve and protect Westminster Hills Open Space. Current feedback that has been submitted can be viewed below:

WHOS Community Feedback 2/15/24

There will be more opportunities to submit feedback following the next community meeting in early March. Stay tuned for details.

 

 

NEXT STEPS

The City received significant attention from the community about their expressed desire to protect and preserve Westminster Hills Open Space for our collective enjoyment. The City shares that desire with you.   

Please rest assured that we are at the very beginning of this conversation, and no decisions have been made. Over the past several years, the City has been looking for solutions that best balances the need to protect our natural open spaces and preserves the community’s ability to enjoy Westminster Hills. Simply put, Westminster Hills is being loved to death, and we are exploring strategies to protect and preserve a beloved destination for our community. Please find an overview of our current findings in the documents shared below. 

The information that Open Space staff developed in the presentation below includes one of many scenarios that are being studied, and we will come back to the community later this spring with a set of options and scenarios for feedback. After we have engaged the community, we will present to City Council in a public meeting, and the community will again have another opportunity to voice their feedback with City leadership.  

Please consider adding your feedback in the survey and we will add your email address to our email distribution list to ensure you will receive updates from the City and an invitation to the next community meeting. 

ABOUT

Welcome to the Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan website! This website has been created to keep the public up to date on the status of the Area Management Plan for Westminster Hills Open Space that is currently underway.

WHOS PUBLIC MEETING - MARCH 6

Westminster Hills Open Space, including the popular off-leash area, is being negatively impacted by overuse. We invite you to attend a presentation and Q&A session to help us identify solutions to preserve and protect this beloved space for generations to come. A public meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. at City Park Recreation Center (10455 Sheridan Blvd.).

WHOS COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE - JAN. 27

A Westminster Hills Open Space Community Open House will be held on Saturday, January 27, 2024 from 1-3 p.m. at City Park Recreation Center (10455 Sheridan Blvd.). Please join us to learn about our work to preserve and restore Westminster Hills Open Space. Drop-in anytime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

ERO ECOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT REPORT

The ERO Ecological Assessment is now available to view. View the assessment here. 

PUBLIC PRESENTATION - NOV. 14, 2023

The Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan: Current Conditions Report Presentation was held on November 14, 2023. View the presentation slides here. 

View the survey results here.

Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan Study Area

Purpose

The Area Management Plan is to ensure that Westminster Hills Open Space is being managed to meet the purposes for which the land was acquired: conserve and protect the shortgrass prairie along with the animals and plants that call it home while providing appropriate recreational opportunities. More information about the purpose of open space acquisition can be found here: Open Space Program

Over the next year, the City of Westminster will be evaluating the current condition of the Westminster Hills Open Space. This includes the status of the ecological and recreational resources, the development of a set of desired future conditions for the site and the creation of management actions to achieve that vision. There will be several opportunities for public input throughout the process, and this site will be updated regularly to provide information.

Timeline

  • MARCH 2023

  • Westminster Hills Open Space Area Management Plan Kick-Off

  • Ecological Survey Begins

  • Website Launch

  • Visitor Use Monitoring

  • APRIL 2023

    • On-Line Survey Available

    • On-Site Visitor Surveys Conducted

    • Continued Ecological Assessment

    •  Continued Visitor Use Monitoring

  • JUNE 2023

    • On-Site and Online Surveys Completed

    • Continued Ecological Assessment

    • Continued Visitor Use Monitoring

  • AUG-SEPT 2023

    • Current Conditions Assessment Data Analysis

    • Continued Ecological Assessment

  • OCT-NOV 2023

    • Current Conditions Report presented to Parks Recreation and Libraries Advisory Board

    • Visitor Survey Results Available on Website

  • DECEMBER 2023

    • Current Conditions Presentation Available on Website

    • ERO Ecological Assessment Report Available on Website

  • JANUARY 2024

    • Westminster Hills Restoration Plan Open House

  • FEBRUARY 2024

    • 2nd Public Survey Conducted

    • Westminster Hills Area Management Plan Drafted

  • MARCH 2024

    • Public Presentation of Draft Management Plan

    • Draft Management Plan posted on Website

    • Public Feedback on Draft Plan

  • APRIL 2024

    • City Council Study Session Presentation of Westminster Hills Area Management Plan

The Westminster Hills Open Space was acquired through twelve different open space purchases beginning in 1995 with the purchase of 125 acres from the Brauch Family. More land was purchased over several years including the addition of Woman Creek Reservoir Property in 2017, which is 345 acres. The Westminster Hills Open Space is now roughly 1,000 acres. This open space land was acquired using over $4.5 million from the Westminster Parks Open Space and Trails’ (POST) funds and more than $4.7 million from Natural Resources Damages and Department of Energy Funds and grants from Jefferson County and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). 

Off-Leash Dog Opportunity

In 2000, the City established a one-year pilot program for a dog off-leash area on 27 acres of the Westminster Hills Open Space land. Westminster City Council modified city code to allow the development of an off-leash dog area with the understanding provided by the City Manager that such activities cannot have a detrimental effect on the natural qualities for which the open space was originally acquired.  At the end of the year, the pilot project was deemed successful based on the high level of visitation and allowed to continue.

In 2008, the off-leash dog area was extended to the remainder of the approximately 1,000 acre Open Space. One year later, after numerous negative encounters between dogs and coyotes as well as an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague among prairie dogs, the off-leash dog area was reduced to the 400 acres it currently is today.

Visitation

Since the inception of the dog off-leash opportunity area, the popularity of the Westminster Hills Open Space has grown dramatically. In the past decade, the available parking at Westminster Hills has been expanded six times. The most recent estimates indicate more than 1,000,000 visits to the Open Space each year.

Ecological Value

The City of Westminster has prioritized the protection of natural areas by dedicating 15% of its land to open space property. Westminster Hills Open Space makes up roughly 1/3 of the City’s open space land. In 2017, the City of Westminster requested a natural resource assessment to be done on the Westminster Hills Open Space from ERO Resource Corporation. That report identifies numerous endangered and threatened species as well as critical habitat such as wetlands and the shortgrass prairie in the study area.

Westminster Hills Open Space is filled with a diversity of wildlife. The natural resource assessment performed by ERO Resource Corporation identified several important prairie species that currently reside at Westminster Hills Open Space or may in the future because of suitable habitat conditions. Those animals are:

  • Black-tailed Prairie Dog – Keystone Species
  • Bald Eagle – Keystone Species
  • Western Burrowing Owl – Threatened Species
  • Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse – Threatened Species
  • Northern Leopard Frog – Species of Concern

The Open Space also provides suitable habitat for potential wildlife species with dwindling populations. The Preble's meadow jumping mouse has not been seen at Westminster Hills Open Space, but the open space provides sufficient habitat along Woman Creek and portions of Church Ditch. This species has been a threatened species since 1998, so it is vital to conserve their preferred habitat. Northern leopard frogs are a species of concern in the state of Colorado. Even though this species has not been seen on the open space land, it is dependent on wetland habitat like areas provided within the Westminster Hills Open Space to lay their eggs and prevent the amphibian from drying out. The City of Westminster will continue to conserve the natural characteristics of the Westminster Hills Open Space to provide refuge for these crucial wildlife species.

Stay Up to Date

If you would like to stay informed on the Westminster Open Space Area Management Plan, please fill out the form below.

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