TOPS is a City sales tax program that has played a vital role in the protection and preservation of City trails, open spaces and parks since it was first approved by Colorado Springs voters in April 1997. In 2003, voters extended the 0.10% tax (1 penny on a $10 purchase) through 2025.
The dedicated sales tax generates approximately $9.5 million annually. These funds, further leveraged through grants and the generosity of private donors, support the following.
- Conserve land threatened by development
- Protect wildlife habitat
- Reduce the risk of wildfires
- Maintain our regional parks and open spaces
- Conserve land that protects water quality
- Protect our quality of life
Why is TOPS important?
Without the TOPS program some of the most beloved parks, trails and open spaces in Colorado Springs would not exist. Stratton Open Space was the first property acquired by TOPS. This was followed by land purchased to expand Blodgett Open Space and then Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Before being purchased by TOPS, all three properties were pegged for local development. The commercial vision for Red Rock Canyon, for instance, was a private golf course and townhomes.
TOPS rangers implement a variety of projects to benefit the community. This work includes things like regular cleanups, educational and safety programming, trail improvement efforts, noxious weed removal and natural resource management, like migratory bird surveys and other wildlife monitoring.
The reason many employers, entrepreneurs and visitors have decided to base themselves in Colorado Springs is in large part due to the excellent quality of life, opportunities for recreation, and natural beauty of the Pikes Peak region. The boost that open space and trails provides contributes more than $300 million to the local economy each year.
What has TOPS achieved?
Since TOPS was first approved by voters in 1997, 7,169 acres of open space has been acquired, 66 parks have been built or improved, and more than 50 miles of trail have been constructed with TOPS funding. The Colorado Springs Parks Master Plan, which was finalized in 2014, helps determine where land is purchased and preserved and where trails and parks are constructed.
“Now, more than ever before, we are witnessing how important parks and outdoor recreation are for our mental and physical health and well-being. It is more important than ever to provide and maintain opportunities for children and all residents to safely get outside and enjoy the natural splendor Colorado Springs has to offer.” - Karen Palus, Parks Director
Here are some examples of how TOPS funding, combined with strategic leveraging of additional private and nonprofit funding, has impacted our community:
- Historic paleontological preservation at Corral Bluffs.
- Making key connections toward the final vision of Legacy Loop, a vital recreation and transportation corridor.
- A transformed neighborhood park in the southeast is underway at Panorama Park, the largest neighborhood park renovation in city history.
- Identifying a recreation trend and listening and working with community members to expand pickleball opportunities in our public spaces.
- Before Red Rock Canyon Open Space was purchased by the City in 2003, the previous owners had plans to turn the closed quarry into a resort community with a convention center, high-rise towers, commercial centers and golf course.
- The northeast had been waiting for a community park for more than two decades before John Venezia Community Park was opened in 2017.
Coming up in 2022
The TOPS working committee approved the following spending in 2022:
- Trail capital improvements: acquisition, design and construction activities on the Cottonwood Creek, Chamberlain, La Foret, Rock Island, Sand Creek and Sinton trails ($1.6 million)
- Parks operating and capital improvements: Panorama Park construction, Julie Penrose Fountain cleaning, and a new water tap at Greenways at Sand Creek Park ($1.8 million)
- Open Space capital improvements: open space wayfinding signage and building demolition on a newly acquired parcel at Corral Bluffs and Jimmy Camp Creek open spaces ($500,000)
- Open Space stewardship and operating expenses: education, rangers, and land and resource management ($1.51 million)
- Approximately $3.4 million was earmarked for open space purchases in 2022, plus $936,277 for administration and maintenance
TOPS Milestones in 2020-2021
- Jimmy Camp Creek/Corral Bluffs connector
- Pikeview Quarry buffer property
- Black Canyon Quarry
- Panorama Park improvements begin
- Patty Jewett Junction playground
- Open Space wayfinding plan and implementation
- Parks Infrastructure Analysis and Study
- Cottonwood Creek Trail segment
- Improvements to Mount Cutler, Upper Mesa, Creekside and Chamberlain connector Trails in North Cheyenne Cañon Park
Maintenance and stewardship
- Stewardship education and community outreach through interpretive programs, traveling trunks and school field trips
- Pursuing Leave No Trace Gold Standard site designation
Who oversees TOPS?
Administered by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, TOPS has additional oversight from the TOPS Working Committee, comprised of city residents who monitor the TOPS budget and proposed purchases and projects to help ensure TOPS dollars are spent wisely. The working committee, which meets monthly, makes purchase recommendations to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board before final approval by city council.
How can property be preserved by TOPS?
If you know of a possible open space property that TOPS should consider, download an application for the property to be considered by the TOPS Working Committee. Requests may be submitted by a property owner or representative, a municipality, a public or private entity, or private citizen. Please email the completed request to the committee.