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. In April 2023, Colorado Springs citizens voted yes on Resolution No. 03-23 to extend the TOPS sales and use tax with no increase to the tax until 2043.
“We thank the voters of Colorado Springs. Because of you, parks, trails and open space in Colorado Springs will be conserved for another 20 years! I would also like to recognize Colorado Springs Mayor's Office who personally led the effort to renew the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) dedicated sales tax, and the Colorado Springs City Council that voted unanimously for the measure to be placed on the April 4 ballot.” – Britt Haley, Director of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
The dedicated sales tax generates approximately $12 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, over 7,500 acres of open space has been acquired, 67 parks have been built or improved, and more than 53 miles of trail have been constructed with TOPS funding. The Park System Master Plan, which was finalized in 2014, helps determine where land is purchased and preserved and where trails and parks are constructed.
“When we reflect on what makes the City of Colorado Springs memorable and distinctive, it is no surprise that the properties that were conserved or enhanced by the TOPS program are mentioned first.” - Britt Haley, 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 Open Space.
- Making key connections toward the final vision of Legacy Loop Trail, a vital recreation and transportation corridor.
- The largest neighborhood park renovation in city history, Panorama Park opened in southeast Colorado Springs in 2022.
- 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 2023
Trails project list
- Chamberlain Trail
- Greenways at Sand Creek Park Bridge
- Legacy Loop – South Railroad bridge replacement
Parks project list
- Boulder Park landscaping
- Grey Hawk Master Plan
- Memorial Park Irrigation – West Prospect Lake
- Oak Meadows Park playground replacement
Open Space project list
- Black Canyon Open Space and Snyder Quarry Reclamation
- Blodgett and Pikeview Open Space Master and Management Plan
- Corral Bluffs Open Space cultural study
TOPS Milestones in 2021-2022
- Fishers Canyon Open Space
- Pikeview Frontage (Blodgett Open Space) Phase 2 was closed on in early 2021
- Complete renovation of Panorama Park playground
- Open Space wayfinding plan and implementation
- Patty Jewett Junction Playground
- Pikes Peak Greenway
- Daniels Pass (Sweetwater Trail, Bruin Trail, Mt. Muscoco Trail)
- Ute Valley Regional Trail
- Austin Bluffs Open Space – Master plan trail implementation
- Lion Trail – Red Rock Canyon Open Space
- Greenlee Trail Improvements – Red Rock Canyon Open Space
- Stratton Open Space Trail System Improvements
Maintenance and stewardship
- Stewardship education and community outreach through interpretive programs, traveling trunks and school field trips
- Received Leave No Trace Gold Standard site designation for 16 City of Colorado Springs properties
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.