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Open Spaces Program
To many Flagstaff area residents, open space is the defining feature of Flagstaff’s character and attraction. Open space defines the region’s quality of life, protects the region’s ecological health, supports existing and future economic development, and preserves historic and cultural resources.

In 2004, Flagstaff voters approved two bond initiatives to fund open space acquisition efforts. These funds were leveraged with Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter grant funds to purchase nearly 2,700 acres of protected open space at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve and Observatory Mesa Natural Area. These areas are managed to provide recreational and educational opportunities.

On June 6, 2017, the Flagstaff City Council adopted a Management Plan for Legally-Designated Open Space Properties, which outlines policies and projects associated with managing the natural and cultural resources on these properties while providing educational and recreational opportunities for Flagstaff visitors.

To learn more about what the City, Coconino County, and other organizations are doing for open space in our community, check out our annual newsletter.

If you have questions about Observatory Mesa Natural Area, Picture 
Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, or the City's Open Space Program in general, please contact Betsy Emery, the City's Open Spaces Specialist

To learn more about what the Open Space Program and our partners have been up to, as well as exciting projects and community events, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter

Upcoming Events:
The Open Space Program has solidified the calendar of summer volunteer events. This year, we are focusing on removing invasive weeds and fencing from the riparian area within Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. Meet us at 9am at the Picture Canyon Trailhead off of El Paso Flagstaff Road on any of the dates listed below to volunteer. Check out our Facebook page for more information. 

  • Saturday, June 24th
  • Saturday, July 22nd
  • Saturday, August 12th

Contact Betsy Emery, the City's Open Space Specialist, if you are interested in organizing a volunteer event for your group. 
Flagstaff Open Spaces
View of the San Francisco Peaks from Observatory Mesa Natural Area. 
Photo copyright: Tom Bean

Tamara Hastie 681_LosRes.jpg
Hiker at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve.
Photo Credit: Tamara Hastie Photography

Picture Canyon 

With funding from the 2004 voter-approved open space bond and a 2012 Growing Smarter grant, the City of Flagstaff successfully acquired 478 acres at Picture Canyon for preservation. For more information, visit www.flagstaff.az.gov/picturecanyon

Observatory Mesa
In 2004, Flagstaff voters approved a $5.5 million bond to acquire State Trust lands on Observatory Mesa as open space. The City was able to utilize Arizona State Parks Growing Smarter Grant funds in conjunction with the voter-approved bond to acquire 2,250 acres of land on Observatory Mesa in 2013. As critical wildlife habitat, a popular recreation corridor, and protection from light pollution for our dark skies, Observatory Mesa is a natural and cultural amenity for northern Arizona. The acquisition of Observatory Mesa provides a natural place for members of the Flagstaff community to learn about ecology, geology, and astronomy, while participating in outdoor recreation. To view a large map of Observatory Mesa Natural Area, please click here. If you are interested in learning more about the conservation attributes of Observatory Mesa, please read the Observatory Mesa facts handout.