Open Space Program


View of the San Francisco Peaks from Observatory Mesa Natural Area Photo Copyright: Tom Bean PhotogrThe City of Flagstaff Open Space Program is responsible for managing over 3,000 acres of legally-designated open space properties, including Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, Observatory Mesa Natural Area, McMillan Mesa, and the Schultz Creek Trailhead. We use Open Space Stewards to accomplish much of our work.

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.

Guide to Outdoor Safety and Health

Bond Initiatives

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 July 6, 2020, the Flagstaff City Council adopted the revised Management Plan for Legally-Designated Open Space (PDF), outlining policies and projects associated with managing the natural and cultural resources on these properties, while providing educational and recreational opportunities for Flagstaff visitors. Each year, in addition to directing efforts to meet the Program's mission, Flagstaff Open Space works to achieve the goals outlined in the Legally Designated Open Space Management Plan.

In 2016, Flagstaff voted in favor of Prop 413, which restricted the use of 300 acres of City-owned property on McMillan Mesa to public open space and passive recreation. In line with Prop 413, the next step is to amend the existing zoning of the McMillan Mesa Natural Area from "Public Facilities and Rural Residential Zoning" to Public Open Space (Zoning Map Amendment application PZ-20-00063). There were two virtual meetings on December 14, 2020 and January 13, 2021, with opportunities to provide feedback and ask questions about the Zoning Map Amendment application. The deadline to submit written comments to the Flagstaff Community Forum ended on January 31, 2021. 

Year in Review ReportsHiker at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. Photo Credit: Tamara Hastie Photography

The following reports provide insight on the Program's progress and is a testament to the Flagstaff community's engagement and interest in working together to preserve and protect our natural areas.

To learn more about what the Open Space Program and our partners have been up to more recently, as well as exciting projects and community events, check out our latest e-newsletter.

Helpful Resources

We have FREE Gift Certificates! Share your time and attention with loved ones at one of Flagstaff's Open Spaces!

Are you interested in using open space properties for a research project or educational program? Submit a complete Research and Education Permit (PDF) to us via email for review!

One of our efforts is to control invasive plants on Flagstaff's Open Spaces, and we actively pursue grants to support these efforts.

Upcoming Events

Help us celebrate Arbor Day on Friday August 20th from 2-6pm on McMillan Mesa!  We will clean up branches from invasive Siberian Elm trees, and plant Ponderosa Pine and other trees between the FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) and the new Veterans Home to replace some of the invasive trees that were removed. We also need people to adopt a tree, by visiting the new trees twice per week to water them until they are established! Email with any questions or to adopt a tree. We'll meet on the FUTS trail--park at Buffalo Park and walk the McMillan Mesa Loop FUTS across Cedar Ave footbridge, then straight ahead. Hope to see you there!  For more information about the history of Arbor Day, visit the Arbor Day Foundation's website--it's usually on April 30th, but we celebrate during Monsoon season.

Wednesday Weed Pulls are every other Wednesday (August 11 & 25) 7-10am at Picture Canyon trailhead. We remove invasive weeds; bring your own gloves and shovels, or we will have extras for you. We will follow CDC Covid-19 guidelines.

We partner with AZ Watchable Wildlife Experience for in-person events this summer, including Wildlife-Friendly Backyards Aug 14, and Wildlife viewing/star gazing on Sept 18. For more information and to register, visit the AZ Watchable Wildlife website!

For 2021 Flagstaff Festival of Science, Open Spaces will host a Plein Air event--painting and drawing nature outdoors! Plein Air demonstrations will take place on Sept 17 at 4pm at Buffalo Park, Sept 18 at Science in the Park (Wheeler Park), and on Sept 25 at 10am at Picture Canyon. Artists will be invited to submit their artwork to show during First Friday Art Walk in October.

Open Spaces now accepts donations, which support volunteer events and educational events. If you'd like to donate, please make a check payable to City of Flagstaff-Open Spaces, and mail it to City of Flagstaff Sustainability Program, 211 W Aspen Ave, Flagstaff AZ 86001. Thank you!

Email Robert Wallace, the City's Open Space Specialist, or call 928-213-2154, if you are interested in organizing a volunteer event for your group, or for any questions about the Open Space program. Stay up to date with events by following our Facebook page or on Instagram @cityofflagstaffparks