What is Tops?

Trails, Open Space, and Parks (TOPS) helps to preserve trails, open spaces, and parks through a 0.1% sales tax by the City of Colorado Springs. This funding goes directly to the acquisition, development, and preservation of the natural land that our community cherishes and enjoys so much. TOPS was passed by Colorado Springs voters in 1997 and renewed in 2003. Many other Colorado cities have followed our lead and established a TOPS program of their own to encourage, foster, and promote the partnership between the public and private sector.

 

TOPS funds are managed by the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department, with oversight from the TOPS Working Committee. This committee is made up entirely of Colorado Springs citizens, who are appointed to monitor the budget, purchases, and projects. They make sure that TOPS dollars are spent the way voters intend!

CITY PARKS AND OPEN SPACE TAX
Colorado Springs $55 million for parks, recreation and cultural services 0.1%
Denver $153 million for parks, recreation and open spaces, will receive $75 million more 0.25%
Fort Collins $253 million for parks and recreation 0.25%
Boulder $28 million for open spaces and mountain parks, $29 million for parks and recreation 0.62%

For every $10 of sales tax collected in Colorado Springs, one cent goes towards TOPS. Despite the clear economic and social benefits that come from our trails, open spaces, and parks, Colorado Springs has one of the lowest TOPS taxes in the Front Range region, bringing in only $9 million in revenue per year.

The Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) is spearheading the campaign to make sure that TOPS is renewed and increased by voters in Colorado Springs. Our city’s parks are so loved and valued, and TOSC is encouraging voters to increase TOPS funding from 0.1% to 0.2%.

It only takes pennies to preserve our parks!

Our outdoor spaces are important, and small change makes big gains. We are asking residents consider this one cent increase (which will only cost the average household an additional $14 per year) to maintain our trails, parks, and open spaces. TOSC is working hard to put this initiative on the ballot in November of 2021. We hope you will stand with us and vote to support funding for trails, open spaces, and parks.

What does tops do?

Over the past 24 years, Colorado Springs’ TOPS funding has been used to preserve over 6,200 acres of open space in the Pikes Peak region. 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 Colorado Springs Parks Master Plan is used as a guide for land purchases and helps determine where trails and parks will be constructed. But, anyone – individual members of the public, property owners, organizations, TOPS Working Committee members, the Parks and Recreation Department and other agencies – can apply for TOPS funding. All requests must be submitted using the TOPS Application.

Applications are studied and reviewed by the Parks and Recreation staff, and then recommendations are provided to the TOPS Working Committee; if supported by the Committee it will be presented for approval to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and final approval by the City Council.

A portion of Ute Valley Park was purchased with TOPS funding.

The value of trails, Open space, and parks

The founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, believed in cultivating healthy communities with ample green space, urban forests, and natural scenery. In 2017, The Trust for Public Land measured the economic value and fiscal impacts of parks and land conservation in Colorado Springs. The study illustrates that parks, trails, open spaces, and facilities are key economic drivers that contribute millions in economic benefits every year. Outdoor recreation contributes to the high quality of life, which plays an important role in attracting business and employees to the city. The benefits of parks and open space include: enhanced property value, stormwater infiltration, air pollution removal, tourism, recreational use, and a healthy community which saves on health care costs.  

 

The recreational opportunities available in the Pikes Peak region enhance the reputation of Colorado Springs as a world-class destination, attracting roughly 20 million people interested in outdoor and sports–related activities to visit every year. These visitors spend $135 million annually in the local economy and generate $6.36 million in local taxes.

What tops has already done

Without TOPS, some of our community’s best parks, favorite trails, and pristine open spaces would not exist. Stratton Open Space was one of the first properties to be preserved, followed by Blodgett and Red Rock Canyon Open Space. All three were targets for local development.

 

The commercial vision for Red Rock Canyon was a private golf course with high rise hotels and luxury townhouses. Instead, the City used TOPS money to purchase the 789 acres of land and preserved it as a recreational open space.

 

TOPS has had a significant impact on our community – thousands of acres of open space, dozens of parks, miles of trails – it’s hard to imagine life in Colorado Springs without the amazing outdoor amenities TOPS has helped to create and protect.

What Red Rock Canyon might have become.

America the Beautiful Park
Austin Bluffs Open Space
Bear Creek Trail
Blodgett Peak Open Space
Bluestem Prairie Open Space
Buckskin Charlie Park
Chamberlain Trail
Coleman Park
Corral Bluffs Open Space
Cottonwood Creek Trail
Deerfield Hills Community Center
Dr. Frank Houck Park
El Pomar Youth Sports Complex
Eugene McCleary Park
Frank Castello Park
Foothills Trail
Garden of the Gods Park
Gold Camp Park
Gossage Youth Sports Complex
High Chaparral Open Space
High Meadows Park

Horace Shelby Park
Homestead Trail
Iron Mountain
Jack Templeton Park
James Smith Sr. Park
John Stone Park
John Venezia Park
Judge Lunt Park
Kathleen Marriage Park
Ken Jordan Park
La Foret Trail
Laura Gilpin Park
Marshall Sprague Park
Memorial Park
Manitou Incline
Midland Trail
North Cheyenne Canyon
Pikes Peak Greenway
Pikeview Reservoir
Powers Trail
Prairie Grass Park

Pring Ranch Park
Red Rock Canyon Open Space
Rock Island Trail
Rockrimmon Trail
Roy Benavidez Park
Sand Creek Trail
Shooks Run Trail
Sinton Trail
Skyline Trail
Snowy River Park
Soaring Eagles Park
Springs Ranch Park
Stratton Open Space
Stetson Park
Stetson Trail
Union Meadows Open Space
Ute Valley Park
West Creek Park
Wildflower Park
Wilson Ranch Park
Woodmen Trail

 

With your support, Colorado Springs can continue to develop as a prime city for outdoor recreation, both as a major destination for outdoor enthusiasts and a beautiful city of happy, healthy residents. Small change can lead to big gains for each and every Colorado Springs resident. By investing an extra penny per each ten dollar purchase, we ensure that children will have access to safe parks, runners and cyclists have well-maintained trails and pieces of our natural heritage will be preserved for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our TOPS tax was passed in 1997. We pay one penny on every $10 spent in Colorado Springs. It has not increased in 24 years and is the lowest tax of its kind along the Front Range. Costs are higher today than they were in 1997. Preserving land costs more, materials to build trails and parks cost more. It’s time for TOPS to increase too.

The November TOPS initiative increases the tax from 0.1% to 0.2% and extends the tax for 20 years.

The average household will pay an additional $1.17 per month. $14 per Year.
(Source: Trust for Public Land analysis)

The last park master plan identified community priorities:

  • “Taking care of what we have” – more dollars for trail and park maintenance.
  • 15 neighborhood and community parks were promised to residents and
    waiting to be built.
  • Candidate Open Space was identified on the north, east, south and west
    side of COS. When those acres go up for sale, TOPS will have the ability to
    buy them.
  • The TOPS increase will provide funding to help complete the Chamberlain
    Trail, Sand Creek Trail, Rock Island Trail, Cottonwood Creek Trail and Legacy
    Loop and improve miles of crumbling asphalt trail identified in the Jacob’s
    Study. (The 2020 Jacob’s Study inventoried park infrastructure, -trails, playgrounds,
    restrooms etc- gave each asset a rating (excellent to poor) and quantified the cost
    to improve the assets.)

The ballot language is very similar. This TOPS will provide more flexibility and allow TOPS funds to be used for all city trails and open spaces. TOPS was changed back in 2013 to broaden the parks category. This does the same. The percentages have been changed to reflect current and anticipated needs: 5% for administration (now 3%), 25% for maintenance (now 6%). The remaining funds will be divided: 40% -parks (now 20%), 30% – trails(now 20%) and 30% open space(now 60%.)

Because we are doubling the tax, the open space category will be roughly equivalent to what it is now. Also, COS has relationships with Land Trust organizations who will pay purchase/preserve the land and allow the city to pay them back. Finally, with a 20-year sunset, the city is able to buy the land now and pay it back over time as we did with Red Rock Open Space.

Yes. The open space category will receive 30% of the remaining TOPS budget. The TOPS Working Committee, Parks Advisory Board and COS City Council  have all pledged support for land acquisition as the primary function of the open space category. And acquisition dollars can accumulate from year to year to accommodate large purchases. funds be used for acquiring additional open space.

Our parks, trails and open space contribute to our quality of life and bring tourists, new businesses and residents to our community. As we grow we will need more miles of trails, more playgrounds/sports fields and parks and more acres of open space to support our active lifestyle.
150 years ago General William Palmer created this community and contributed
hundreds of acres for parks that became Palmer, Monument Valley, North Cheyenne Canon, Acacia and others. He valued pathways, public green space and trees. It’s now our turn to build on his legacy for the generations who will follow us.

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