Open Space Protection

Acquisitions of Open Space

Open Space and Trails acquires lands to protect the scenic beauty, natural habitat, backcountry character and recreational opportunities of Summit County. Properties acquired by Summit County as open space are managed to protect their natural resource values while allowing for sustainable access and use. To date, nearly 18,000 acres of open space have been protected through land acquisitions, conservation easement donations, access easements, and in partnerships with other agencies. Since 1995, Open Space and Trails has made roughly 400 property acquisitions and worked with over hundreds of landowners to preserve their properties as a legacy for present and future generations.

View a complete list of open space acquisitions (pdf) the Open Space and Trails Department has completed since 1985.


Open space acquisitions are funded through a fraction of property tax mill levies approved by Summit County voters in 1993, 1999, 2003, 2008, and 2019 known as the Summit County Open Space Fund. The Summit County Open Space Protection Plan - the original guiding document for the program - was approved in late 1996. Today,  the Open Space and Trails Master Plan guides the County's acquisition priorities. 

The program has leveraged its funds at a 3:1 ratio with contributions from Great Outdoors Colorado, partnerships with towns and donations from private landowners. In other words, every $1 of open space funding has protected $3 worth of land. Landowners are paid fair market value for their properties, ensuring efficient use of public funds and fair compensation to property owners.

Flower - CopyOpen Space Protection Selection Criteria

Open Space and Trails is dedicated to utilizing creative protection techniques to preserve and protect the county’s significant and threatened open spaces. The program focuses on lands that most contribute to the county’s quality of life and rural mountain character, including those with the following characteristics, in no particular order:

  • Access: Lands that provide trailheads or public access to recreation areas on National Forest and other significant properties.
  • Agricultural / Cultural: Lands that contribute significantly to Summit County’s past, including agricultural lands with irrigated meadows or open cropland, ranching areas, and historic sites. The historic, cultural, or social significance of these types of properties should contribute to the community’s identity and well being.
  • Buffers: Natural and undeveloped lands which separate and buffer the impacts of development, define the boundaries of urbanized areas,
  • osc prevent urban sprawl and strip development, and contribute to the rural mountain quality of the local landscape.
  • Extensions: Land adjacent to publicly held property which meets open space criteria guidelines and which can combine with other open space properties to enlarge and / or connect existing open space parcels.
  • Recreational: Lands with significant recreational value, particularly non-motorized passive uses not requiring intensive maintenance or management.
  • Unique Lands: Lands possessing unique values such as outstanding (but not necessarily generally visible) scenic quality, rare flora, riparian quality, wetlands, critical wildlife habitat, fragile alpine areas, or unusual geologic, or topographical formations.
  • View Corridors: Lands with high aesthetic appeal and variety within major viewsheds, whose lands are generally visible, apparent, and appreciated by residents and visitors and through preservation will maintain the rural mountain appearance of Summit County.

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 Acquisition Resources

Featured Properties

For inquiries and information about acquisitions, contact:

Jessica Forsyth, Open Space & Trails
970-668-4061, [email protected]