U.S. 36, Open Space and South Boulder Creek

June 6, 2008
Mayor Ruzzin and members of the Boulder City Council
Frank Bruno, Boulder City Manager

Re: U.S. 36, Open Space, and South Boulder Creek

Dear all:

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Chris Brown Photography

As we move ahead with the U.S. 36 project, Boulder is faced with choices that bear not only on how we meet our transportation needs now and in the future but also how those transportation needs are integrated with other important community values and interests. Thus the City has chosen to support continuing the BRT lane beyond Cherryvale to Table Mesa and having a flyover connection to the Park and Ride. It has chosen to support having bike lanes along the U.S. 36 corridor between Table Mesa and Cherryvale. These choices were made to accomplish city transportation objectives.

One important effect of these decisions is to substantially increase the land area that will be lost to enable accomplishment of these transportation objectives. The actual number of acres (much of it open space land) that will be converted to transportation use varies according to the alternatives but will likely be in the range of 45, with roughly half of that open space.

Moreover, these lands (open space and other lands) include the South Boulder Creek corridor in an area rich with wetlands (perhaps 15 acres will be lost). They include designated critical habitat for the threatened Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse (about 15 acres will be lost) and the threatened Ute Ladies-Tresses (perhaps 40 acres will be lost). They include Burrowing Owl and Prairie Dog habitat. They include lands located within the State’s South Boulder Creek Natural Area and the Colorado Tallgrass Prairie Natural Area. The US 36 crossing already chokes off the South Boulder Creek corridor, directly blocking much of its floodplain and severely narrowing the area through which the creek may pass.

OSMP staff successfully demonstrated to the Federal Highway Administration that City of Boulder open space lands qualify as so-called “4(f)” lands (the first time FHWA has recognized city open space lands as coming within that status). By federal law, 4(f) lands may only be used for a federally-funded transportation project if there is no reasonable alternative and if harm to the lands is minimized.

Friends of Boulder Open Space strongly supports the city’s proposal for a comprehensive mitigation strategy that would actually enhance the South Boulder Creek corridor as it passes through city open space. We propose development of a watershed restoration process with all interested parties involved that would return the creek and its floodplain to a healthier, more functional state. We cannot replace what will be lost by building on these high value, 4(f) open space lands, but we can offset these losses through significant improvements to the creek and its adjacent lands.

We will be following up this letter with discussions with you and with other interested parties.

Sincerely,

Larry MacDonnell

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Chris Brown Photography