Breckenridge Open Space & Trails seeks community input on master plan
Breckenridge Open Space & Trails is updating its master plan, and it’s engaging with the community for feedback through every step of the process.
The master plan will summarize the current Open Space & Trails program, consider current and future challenges, outline tools and define a 10-year vision for land protection and management. Open Space & Trails Manager Anne Lowe said the master plan would also provide a decision making framework for the department moving forward.
Lowe said there’s been a shift in Open Space & Trails’ focus over the last few years, with a renewed emphasis on stewardship and maintaining the town’s land amid increased visitation. She said that shift is something that needs to be reflected in the updated plan.
“We’re grappling with a lot of issues these days, from trail congestion to trying to acquire land where (it’s) being gobbled up at a pretty fast rate around here,” Lowe said.
Lowe said the program has primarily been community driven since its inception. Throughout the past few weeks, the town has worked with focus groups to discuss various topics around the master plan, and on Thursday, Oct. 7, it held its first open house to get more community feedback.
At the open house, tables were set up in the Breckenridge Recreation Center with different maps and topics of discussion, including land protection, connectivity and congestion, inclusivity and accessibility, land management and sustainability, and awareness and communication. Lowe said these topics have continued to come up as key concerns from the community.
In addition to the open house, the town is also conducting a survey for local residents on the Breckenridge Open Space & Trails website, BreckOST.com, asking what they would like to see prioritized in the new master plan. The department has also created a podcast diving into the past, present and future of the town’s open space and trails and continues to engage with folks on the trails for more feedback.
“We’re so thrilled to include so much public engagement as part of this master plan process,” Lowe said. “Getting an opportunity to see people in person and interact and have these different workstations is amazing, especially coming out of COVID where we just haven’t had a lot of face-to-face with people.”
The town currently has two separate master plans for open space and trails. Lowe said both served their purpose in the past, but they are a bit outdated at this point because they haven’t been updated in several years. This will be the first effort to combine the two plans into one document.
Lowe said the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission is the town’s most valuable conduit to the community, ensuring the work the program is doing aligns with community values.
Duke Barlow, chair of the Open Space Advisory Commission, said now is a good time to overhaul the program’s plans because it previously focused on acquiring land to build an extensive trail network. He said while this is still important, the plan’s focus needs to shift toward preservation and managing bigger crowds on the land the town does have.
“Open space is so central to everybody’s existence here,” Barlow said. “It’s why some people live here. … It’s a big part of all of our lives and this is designing the future of it.”
Resident Weston Ernst said his family makes frequent use of Breckenridge’s trails, and he feels it is important for community members to share their perspectives on the master planning processes for Breckenridge and Summit County.
“It’s important for us to hear both what the county and the open space planning process is and to be able to provide some input,” Ernst said.
Lowe said the town will host another public open house after they further refine and start building a plan. She said the town is following a similar timeline to Summit County, which is also working to update its own open space and trails plan, predicting a final plan will be ready for approval by the Open Space Advisory Commission and Town Council by March. Christine Zenel, Summit County Open Space & Trails resource specialist, was also at the open house to answer questions about the county’s master plan process.
“They’re our best partner quite honestly,” Lowe said of the county. “We’re in this together always. … If we can coordinate and find common ground, shared values and good alignment for the Upper Blue, I think we’ll be in terrific shape.”
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