TOPS (Trails, Open Space and Parks) is a city program first passed by voters in April of 1997. It is administered by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department of Colorado Springs with oversight from the TOPS Working Committee. The Working Committee is made up of appointed city residents that monitor the TOPS budget, proposed purchases and projects and make sure TOPS dollars are spent as voters intended. The TOPS .01% sales tax provides funding for the acquisition, development and preservation of trails, open space and parks. More information on the TOPS program, including how residents can apply for TOPS funding to purchase open space is available at the city’s TOPS web page.
Colorado Springs’ TOPS program has preserved over 6200 acres of open space in the Pikes Peak region over the past 20 years. It has built more than 32 parks and constructed close to 50 miles of urban trails. The TOPS sales tax generates approximately $9 million annually and is leveraged through grants and private funds. The 2014 Colorado Springs Parks Master Plan helps determine where land is to be purchased and preserved and where trails and parks are to be constructed.
The TOPS program is essentially a three-step decision-making process: study and recommendation from parks staff in partnership with the TOPS Working Committee, approval by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and final approval by the City Council. Applications for TOPS funding may be submitted by individual members of the public, property owners, organizations, TOPS Working Committee members, the Parks and Recreation Department and other agencies. All requests must be submitted using the TOPS Application. Applications are reviewed by the Parks and Recreation staff and then provided to the TOPS Working Committee.
Without the TOPS program some of our most favorite parks, trails and open spaces would not exist. Stratton Open Space was one of the first preserved properties eventually followed by Blodgett and Red Rock Canyon Open Space. All three were targets for local development. The commercial vision for Red Rock Canyon was for a private golf course and townhouses. Voters instead approved an extension of the TOPS program in 2003 through 2025 providing funds for the purchase of the 789 acres that is now Red Rock Canyon Open Space and eventually the property used to create Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Below you will find a list of parks, trails and open spaces purchased and constructed using TOPS dollars.