Over the past year as the new director for Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS), it has been my great pleasure to learn more and more about the many different facets of our operations. During my brief tenure I have come to appreciate how BCPOS has grown into a robust organization with capabilities and accomplishments that we should all be proud of. For example, just yesterday (as of the writing of this article) I joined our Boulder County staff, complimented by dozens of staff from neighboring jurisdictions, conducting a successful prescribed burn at the Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain to restore ecological function and reduce the likelihood of uncontrolled fires that might threaten neighboring homes and farmlands. While many open space programs can acquire parcels of land in order to protect resources, few can match our investments and capacity to manage these lands and resources for biodiversity, ecological function, agricultural productivity, and cultural heritage.
This investment and capacity is made possible by the dedication and passion of our staff who care deeply about the mission of BCPOS; the generosity of our volunteers and partners who help multiply our capacity for accomplishment by investing their time and resources; and the sustained commitment of the community through repeated approval of sales-tax initiatives that have provided the means to acquire and manage lands across the county. The analogy of a three-legged stool is an apt one here. Without one of these sources of support, BCPOS simply could not be the effective organization it is today.
This past year has been a challenging one in several respects. Professionally, our department grappled with a couple of difficult and controversial issues like the transition away from genetically-engineered crops on public open space lands and the introduction of hunting as a management tool on Rabbit Mountain to disperse a rapidly increasing elk herd. Despite the at-times acrimonious public debate, our staff provided the best in public service by continuing to listen attentively and carefully to the input from all stakeholders in order to craft and hone our recommendations into workable policies and plans to address these resource issues.
Personally, our department suffered a tremendous loss with the tragic death of a long-time friend and colleague, Faulkner Merdes, an employee in our noxious weed management program. In the days and months that followed, our staff not only supported one another, but also Faulkner’s family. The compassion that we showed each other and the Merdes family underscored the fact that BCPOS is not just an organization of mission-oriented professionals, but also a family. Our loss has also helped the department refocus its attention on safety throughout the organization. We are making a concerted effort to examine how we can prevent accidents in the future, as well as learn from past accidents, small and large.
In the coming years, we will continue to tackle difficult and sometimes controversial challenges, like how we can mitigate and adapt to climate change across the breadth of our wild and managed landscapes, what sustainable agriculture can and should look like across the diversity of agricultural lands and tenant producers we partner with, and how we manage the increased recreational demands on our trails and landscapes to provide access while protecting sensitive resources. I’m very happy to be a part of BCPOS and look forward to working with our staff, volunteers, partners, and community to continue our progress and tackle the challenges ahead. So much has been accomplished in the past 40 years. Yet so much remains to be accomplished. It is truly a privilege to be a part of this community’s commitment to protecting and stewarding the agricultural, cultural, and natural resources of Boulder County.