Open Space Program

Overview

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

Open Space Commissioners Needed

Love Flagstaff's Open Spaces? The Open Space Commission has 3 vacancies. The Commission serves as an advisory body on the acquisition, management, use, restoration, enhancement, protection, and conservation of open spaces within the City of Flagstaff. Applicants must live within Flagstaff City limits. For more information and to apply, visit https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/3327/Open-Spaces-Commission. Thank you!

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. On February 15, 2022, the Flagstaff City Council adopted a resolution amending 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). The second reading of the ordinance will be March 1, 2022 at 3pm. For more information about the application and the meetings, view this informational letter.

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 quality time with loved ones at a Flagstaff's Open Space!

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

May 11, 2022 10am Picture Canyon Working Group meeting via Zoom. A community of folks who care about Picture Canyon meet monthly the second Tuesday of each month. Email sylvia.struss@flagstaffaz.gov for the link to join.

May 14, 2022 7-10am AZ Watchable Wildlife Experience FREE Bird Walk at Rogers Lake County Natural Area. For more information, visit https://www.azwatchwildlife.com/events

May 18, 2022 7-10am: Wednesday Weed Pulls are every other Wednesday May-September at Picture Canyon. Learn about invasive weeds and help keep them under control!  

May 21, 2022 10am McMillan Mesa Family Guided Hike. In celebration of national Kids to Parks Day, staff from Parks, Recreation, Open Space & Events will lead a guided hike of McMillan Mesa Natural Area. Bring your kids outside to learn about trees, wildlife, geology, the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS) and the Arizona Trail! We will meet by the buffalo at Buffalo Park. This will be an out-and-back hike, or you can do the whole 3-mile loop.

May 22, 2022 10am-1pm Picture Canyon Community Tour. Join Willow Bend Environmental Education Center for a FREE guided community tour of Picture Canyon. Tours typically last 2-3 hours and cover basic history, ecology, geology, and archaeology of Picture Canyon. Meet at Picture Canyon Trailhead, 3920 N El Paso Flagstaff Rd, Flagstaff AZ 86004. No RSVP required. More information at www.willowbendcenter.org/picture-canyon/

June 15, 2022 4-5:30pm Picture Canyon Family Tour. This is a shorter version of the community tour, which is also FREE, with activities for the kids! More information at www.willowbendcenter.org/picture-canyon/

June 18, 2022 5pm AZ Watchable Wildlife Experience FREE Wildlife Hike at Pumphouse County Natural Area in Kachina Village. Visit https://www.azwatchwildlife.com/events for more information.

September 23-October 2, 2022 Flagstaff Festival of Science. Open Spaces will host a Plein Air event--painting and drawing nature outdoors! There will be demonstrations and art supplies to try it yourself. All artists are welcome! 

Adopt a Tree!  Volunteers planted Ponderosa Pine trees on McMillan Mesa between the FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) and the new Veterans Home, to replace some of the invasive trees that were removed. Consider adopting those trees (water and feed them)! Email sylvia.struss@flagstaffaz.gov with any questions or to adopt a tree. 

Stay up to date with events by following our Facebook page or Instagram @cityofflagstaffparks

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 Robert Wallace, City of Flagstaff Open Space Program, 3200 W Rt 66, Bldg 6, 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.