Election 2021: Arapahoe County voters to decide on outdoor funds

Ballot Issue 1A proposes continuation of existing tax

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In the election that ends Nov. 2, Arapahoe County voters will be asked to continue to fund the county’s open spaces, trails and parks with the continuation of a 0.25-cent sales and use tax that is already in place.

The Open Space and Trails program was authorized by voters in 2003 and has since supported construction or renovation of 160 parks, trailheads and heritage-area projects. It has also helped to conserve 31,000 acres of open spaces.

With municipal partners, 70 miles of trails have been completed, as have improvements to trails including the Mary Carter Greenway, the High Line Canal and the Cherry Creek Trail.

So far, $257 million has been awarded from this tax to municipalities and special districts through grants and joint projects.

Proceeds from the tax can be used to conserve lands that protect water quality in rivers, lakes and streams; protect and maintain natural areas, wildlife habitats and open space; and maintain and improve neighborhood parks and trails. Funds also help to maintain and preserve historic sites; preserve working farms and ranches; and provide more active recreation opportunities.

Those in support of the ballot measure say it can help preserve open spaces, trails, parks, heritage center and streams for future generations.

In the ballot guide sent to county voters, opponents of the measure say that if the measure passes, the tax “will no longer have to be approved or authorized by the voters. ... It will never expire.” They also complain that the county’s open-space program has a $43 million unspent fund balance, “so why do they need more?”

A “yes” to 1A would extend this tax beyond its current expiration date until repealed as a voter-approved revenue change — something that those opposed to the measure call out as a red flag.

A “no” vote means the current tax would expire in 2023.

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