ENDORSEMENT: Regional open space program is a vital bargain. Vote ‘yes’ on Question 1A extension

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Unidentified women ride their bikes on June 5 on the High Line Canal near East 2nd Avenue and Abilene Street in Aurora. (Heather A. Longway/ The Aurora Sentinel)

With an election ballot this year asking complicated questions about a long list of issues and candidates, one question is easy, and the answer is clear.

Ballot Question 1A asks residents living in Arapahoe County to make permanent the region’s affordable sales tax dedicated to acquiring and maintaining open space.

The Sentinel recommends voters respond with a ringing “yes.”

Aurora and numerous communities are struggling with issues of growth, density and infill, dangerously stuffing into every acre the very perk that has for generations made the Front Range such an enviable place to live: the outdoors.

Wisely, Aurora and other local governments almost 20 years ago realized that critical undeveloped spaces were rapidly being paved over or built on. The over-development of the region presents not only a lifestyle and aesthetics quandary, it presents very real problems with drainage, potable water and the ecosystem.

It became obvious in 2003, that if regional governments didn’t set aside cash for land acquisitions, that housing and commercial developers would buy and build out everything, leaving little but postage-stamp sized “parks” to make good on the region’s underwhelming development requirements.

Aurora, and every city within Arapahoe County, as well as vast tracts of unincorporated land, have benefited greatly by the open space program.

Aurora alone has been able to buy and maintain $116 million in parks and open space trails and preserves since the program began collecting taxes 18 years ago. Even the tiny burg of Dear Trail, in the county’s farthest eastern reaches, has collected a quarter-million dollars for town parks projects.

All told, the county has been able to spend $360 million across the county on places that offer something for every type of parks or trails patron. Even those who don’t partake benefit from the environmental mitigation open space makes to offset suburban sprawl.

And the cost for this? The region’s open space program is a bargain at adding only 25 cents to every $100 in retail purchases.

The program and modest tax was a great idea in 2003, and voters agreed when they approved it the first time and then renewed it in 2011.

Set to expire next year, voters would be wise to make the tax and programs a permanent part of the region’s public services. Vote “yes” on ballot question 1A on all ballots in Arapahoe County. 

 

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