Rabbit Mountain Open Space Management Plan

We are working on an update to the Rabbit Mountain Open Space Management Plan, which was last adopted in 1984.

Project Update

Due to the impacts of the September 2013 floods and subsequent changes in department priorities and work plans, the Rabbit Mountain Open Space Management Plan update will take longer to prepare than originally anticipated. It is currently projected that the draft plan will be ready for public review in 2015.

In addition, due to the extent of damage throughout the county to existing trails, waterways, and lands, it is likely that any proposed changes at Rabbit Mountain will not be implemented immediately following the adoption of the management plan, but will be completed as resources become available.

Management Plan

The updated management plan will:

  • Document the current resources within Rabbit Mountain Open Space, including the important cultural, natural, recreational, and agricultural resources
  • Seek new opportunities and discover what we do not know about the planning area
  • Provide for the long-term stewardship of the land and visitor uses through the creation of good goals and objectives, which are innovative, flexible, and meet the interests of stakeholders

Initial public comments were collected until September 10, 2013. The purpose of the initial public comment period was to gather the public's interests, ideas, and concerns early in the planning process about the future management of Rabbit Mountain (Planning Area Maps shows which areas are included).

We are now reviewing all of the public comments that were received during the comment period. The goal of the review is to look for any issues, ideas, or concerns that have not otherwise been identified and to identify themes that emerge from the public comments.

Documents & Maps

Background

The 4,793-acre Rabbit Mountain planning area includes 21 properties purchased by Boulder County between 1983 and 2010. In addition, the county has the option to purchase the approximately 760-acre Dowe Flats-CEMEX property, which is currently being mined. Although the county does not currently manage this property, it will be included in the management plan as a potential future addition to the Rabbit Mountain planning area.

Over the past several months, the planning team have conducted internal scoping, including identifying potential opportunities and constraints, crafting a draft vision statement, and reviewing available data and information for the management plan. The planning team is a multi-disciplinary group of Parks & Open Space staff that exists to prepare the updated management plan for the Rabbit Mountain Open Space planning area.

The planning team's goal is to create a working document that shows and respects the values and interests of all stakeholders within Boulder County; is balanced, flexible, and innovative in its approach; and has been thoroughly analyzed through a good and transparent process, thus limiting current and future conflict and providing for the preservation and management of the area's important natural, cultural, recreational, and agricultural resources.

Significant Resources

Rabbit Mountain planning area is well known for its many unique and important resources. These include:

Natural Resources

  • Rabbit Mountain is one of the highest rated, ecologically diverse, native-dominated open space properties in Boulder County
  • Rabbit Mountain consists of primarily native grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands
  • The area has been ranked as "Outstanding Biodiversity Significance (B1)" by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, one of only three areas in the county with a B1 ranking
  • A number of rare and unique plant and wildlife species and plant associations occur throughout the planning area
  • Rabbit Mountain has the following Boulder County Comprehensive Plan designations:
    • Critical Wildlife Habitat(Rabbit Mountain)
    • Significant Natural Communities (Foothills Ponderosa Pine Scrub Woodland (Cercocarpus))
    • Rare Plant Areas (Bell's twinpod (Physaria bellii))
    • Natural Landmark (Indian Mountain)
    • Natural Area (Rabbit Mountain)
    • Environmental Conservation Area (Rabbit Mountain)

Note: The Environmental Resource Element (ERE) of the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan is currently being updated. Data and designations from revised ERE will be included in the final management plan update.

Cultural Resources

  • Rabbit Mountain Open Space has long been known for containing a high density of archaeological sites, most likely due to its abundance of natural resources, and later Euro-American sites, which are associated with ranching and irrigation.
  • Designated as an "Archeological Sensitive Area" within the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan and adjacent to "Travel Routes" along St. Vrain Creek

Recreational Resources

  • Rabbit Mountain Open Space has high visitor satisfaction and was rated 8.6 on a scale of 1 (low rating) to 10 (high rating) in the 2010 Parks & Open Space 5-Year Visitor Study
  • Provides 5.6 miles of multiple use trails including the Eagle Wind Trail, Little Thompson Overlook Trail, and the Indian Mesa Trail
  • Developed trailhead provides parking (including horse trailer parking), picnic tables, restroom, kiosk, picnic shelter, grill, and trash/recycling receptacles
  • Utilized by a variety of open space visitors (2010)
    • 61% hikers
    • 15% bikers
    • 12% runners
    • 10% dog walkers
    • 1% horseback riders
    • 1% picnickers
  • Had an estimate of slightly more than 44,000 visitors in 2012
  • Rabbit Mountain has been identified in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan as a potential connection or destination in a future regional trail system

Agricultural & Irrigation Resources

  • Irrigated pasture land and rangeland occurs along the periphery of the planning area
  • Four main ditches cross the southern end of the planning area
  • Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's St. Vrain Supply Canal (non-county land) bi-sects the planning area

Next Steps

Over the next year or more, we will work through any management issues that have been identified, review various management alternatives, and prepare the draft management plan update with the potential for additional public and stakeholder involvement as necessary.

We anticipate a draft will be available for public review sometime in 2015. At that time, the public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the draft plan. Following this public review, the draft plan will be presented to the Parks and Open Space Advisory Board for a recommendation for approval and then to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

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Contacts

Parks & Open Space
Ernst Strenge
303-678-6269
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